We now live in a brave new world where the past – or the night before – catches up with you fast.
Take the best name in politics – Krystal Ball
, a Democrat who is running for Congress in Virginia. She's in hot water, but she might be emerging as the new face on the feminist front.
Last week, photos of Ball
, 28, were found on Facebook and posted by conservative bloggers. They showed Ball in a creative Santa outfit at a post-college Halloween house party. Tsk, tsk. In one, she wore a spaghetti-strap tank top, a skirt and a Santa hat while holding a sex toy. In another, she led her ex-husband in reindeer gear around by a leash. He wore a sex toy on his nose. Her costume could hardly be described as scanty. But her critics blasted her anyway.
Ball responded strongly on Monday
. She called the attacks "sexist." Then went further with refreshing honesty" "I don't believe these pictures were posted with a desire to just embarrass me; they wanted me to feel like a whore."
She added that when a candidate has a name like hers and is a twenty-something running for Congress, "well, you get the picture. Stripper. Porn star. I've heard them all," she said.
Kudos, Krystal Ball.
Ball is now in the same situation as Delaware Republican Christine O'Donnell. Her past came back to haunt her when a years-old clip from Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect" television show surfaced in which she said that she had dabbled in witchcraft as a teenager
and had a picnic on a satanic altar, and that she'd done her share of dating. O'Donnell recently had to defend her racy past and said in a New York Times interview: "I by no means was a slut
," she said. "But by no means did I have the moral code I have now."
Sluts, whores – what a campaign season. By the way, welcome to 21st Century politics, where minor indiscretions like smoking but not inhaling illegal drugs is as archaic as riding a horse and buggy to a presidential inauguration.
Now, wanna-be politicians must start worrying about their political future in middle school even before they might even be aware they want to run for office someday. Consider a Facebook status update a 20-something friend of mine posted recently that said she was "thinking back on all of the embarrassing or dumb things she's done in her life and laughing." In a few years, this woman who has no desire to be a politician might decide she wants to run for office. Her opponent could use that as a launching pad for opposition research. What embarrassing things has she done that could undermine her political future?
Is Karen Owen, the Duke University college student who created a mock Powerpoint presentation about "horizontal academics," doomed as a politician? Duke University officials have gone into "damage control" because of Owen's take on 13 men and their sexual prowess. Owen had only sent her sex rankings to a few friends in an e-mail, but it soon went viral and the campus spun in a sex frenzy.
Duke officials said, "We've been reaching out to those affected by this incident and will continue to support them." Must those who were involved in sexual relations be supported? Do college officials scan Facebook pages at all? Most college-age students write very frequently about what they did last night and occasionally in graphic details. If they can't take the virtual heat, stay out of the bedroom.
Owen, who apologized and said she never meant to hurt anyone with the thesis, now has been contacted by publishers for a book deal. She's also had to hire a lawyer. But that's fame. If she chose to run for office in North Carolina, she would likely have 100 percent name recognition, thanks to the world of viral e-mails.
Technology and mobile phone applications are here to stay. Politicians have to use Twitter and Facebook to get out their message and win. (Example: Obama Campaign 2008). Politicians who want to stay relevant have found that they can tweet and post a Facebook update to their millions of fans and get more attention than if they are booked on a political talk show. Sarah Palin is the reigning queen of political social media.
But politicians are cautious. They have social media advisers. Teenagers, 20-somethings and every other Facebook addict of any age do not. They will spill the most intimate details of their lives for the world to read and comment on. They break up, confess sins, and post revealing and goofy or racy pictures on sites. With apps like Foursquare, they even let the world – and potential burglars – know where they are and when they are away from their home.
The current whore-and-slut political drama serves as a predictor – a crystal ball, if you will, for politics and sex in the ever-more-tech-happy future. Last year, Woman Up editor Bonnie Goldstein wrote about Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown and his naked spread in Cosmopolitan Magazine while he was in his beefy 20s. He received very little fall-out from that revelation. Maybe it had less to do with what he did but where he did it: in a print magazine and not cyberspace. It seemed so, well, antique. Who poses for centerfolds anymore? How 20th Century.
For Ball, O'Donnell and even Owen, to an extent, this current rumpus is sexist to its core. What all of this boils down to? Women – gasp! – have sex. They have multiple partners. They actually have orgasms. They may not be married while engaging in sex. They dress up in skimpy Halloween costumes and take sexy pictures. They may have actually talked about all of it – on a Web site, blog or text message.
Future political office holders -- male and female -- will have to confront their texts from last night, virtual break-ups and Twitter page snapshots when they run for office. It's up to brazen trailblazers Ball and O'Donnell – think of them as politics' current Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart from the musical "Chicago" – to take on this challenge with moxie. Their success or failure will have a big impact on how young politicians slay technology's trip-wires.