Duck Dynasty and the Twisted Ironies of Our Current Sexual Politics

Well, our Duck Dynasty friends have found themselves in the news again. The show has been something of an inexplicable (to me, at least) pop culture phenomenon. Not since Jeff Foxworthy’s “you might be a redneck” routines has redneck culture  been so prominent and acceptable and marketable.

But this time Duck Dynasty finds itself on the receiving end of a media backlash that one could predict with just a little exposure to our current cultural climate on sexuality. The now infamous GQ interview with Mr. Phil Robertson has caused something of a furor surrounding the surprisingly popular Duck Dynasty show.

Watching from the distance of a Caribbean island, which is not to be confused with watching from an impartial distance, several ironies surface for me.

1. It’s ironic that a “vulgar” rejection of certain sexual acts cannot co-exist with visual and verbal sexual vulgarity itself.

2. It’s ironic that “vile” remarks are rejected while the vile acts they describe are celebrated.

3. It’s ironic that an end to the censorship of certain sex acts should be accompanied by the use of censorship.

4. It’s ironic that one’s job can be taken away because of their view of human sexuality while sexual orientation is protected against job descrimination.

5. It’s ironic that young girls can parade themselves as hyper-sexualized beings on major awards shows and older men be vilified for graphically expressing their sexual interest.

6. It’s ironic that “wisdom” on the side of normative sexual ethics requires the use of rhetorical restraint while “tolerance” of deviant sexual ethics includes acceptance of rhetorical abandonment, recklessness and provocation.

Whatever one thinks of Mr. Robertson’s comments in GQ magazine, Americans should all agree that he has a First Amendment right to make them. And, frankly, in a public debate characterized by a lot of raw, unrestrained demonstration, we seriously need to reflect on the terms of engagement in this debate. As you may  know, I think Mr. Robertson spoke what a lot of people think and feel but are not accustomed to expressing–for good or ill. His visceral reaction is the reaction of most who stop to think about the actions in question. That he should be beaten up for it is expected. That many should stand by quietly while he is… is sad. Soon they’ll come around for us, too. Which raises the big question of whether or not, at the risk of being rejected, every American citizen will insist on the kind of public debate that makes room for every opinion–whether or not we agree. We don’t have to confer legitimacy on every opinion or even engage everyone who speaks to an issue. But we should make sure that the freedom to speak freely is protected and honored.