Perrotta on Palin: Introducing the ‘Sexy Puritan’

palin092608 Perrotta on Palin: Introducing the Sexy PuritanSlate has an essay by Election and Little Children author Tom Perrotta on the Republican vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, in which he writes, "Caribou hunting aside, Sarah Palin represents the state-of-the-art version of a particular type of woman—let’s call her the Sexy Puritan—that’s become a familiar and potent figure in the culture war in recent years."

Mr. Perrotta continues:

Sexy Puritans engage in the culture war on two levels—not simply by advocating conservative positions on hot-button social issues but by embodying nonthreatening mainstream standards of female beauty and behavior at the same time. The net result is a paradox, a bit of cognitive dissonance very useful to the cultural right: You get a little thrill along with your traditional values, a wink along with the wagging finger. Somehow, you don’t feel quite as much like a prig as you expected to.

The author places Governor Palin in a pantheon of "sexy puritans" that includes Anita Bryant and The View‘s Elisabeth Hasselbeck and says the combination of sex appeal and support for abstinence represents "a sophisticated strategy of co-optation at work here—not so different from the one employed by Christian rock bands that look and sound almost exactly like their secular counterparts." Off the top of Media Mob’s head, others that might qualify include Jessica Simpson circa Newlyweds, Adriana Lima, Dawn Eden, Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter (who’s been strangely quiet this election cycle).

In March, The New York Times Magazine‘s Randall Patterson introduced readers to some younger versions of this new archetype in a piece called "Students of Virginity."

Earlier this year, Slate’s brother site, SlateV, used the movie version of Mr. Perrotta’s Election to compare Hillary Clinton to Reese Witherspoon’s monomaniacal student body presidential candidate Tracy Flick.