Don’t let his abs fool you: Rep. Aaron Schock is no friend of the gays. Schock first gained Internet notoriety lounging poolside by flashing his six-pack in front of a buxom bathing beauty. After making the rounds at the straight-acting men’s magazines — like Details and GQ — Schock made his way into today’s New York Times Style section. In the article, writer Ashley Parker comments on another photo of Schock that elicited supposedly unwanted attention because of how, ahem, dapper he looked. Schock paired a neon turquoise belt with form-fitting white jeans, making him look more appropriate for a day trip to Fire Island than a politico’s picnic. Gay staffers, obviously tickled purple, sent the picture around to one another, and Parker felt this warranted Schock entrance into the Gay Hall of Fame.
Please. Schock’s politics are so trenchantly homophobic that no amount of muscle definition can blind us to this fact. The real story here is how the fixation on his body has been a boon for him. The poolside photo of Schock seemed to boost his career rather than hinder it, just as Scott Brown’s photo as the Cosmo centerfold gave him sex appeal during his Senate campaign. We’ve seen, too, how our commander in chief’s chiseled torso only reified our sense of him as a powerful leader. Men in power have always been considered sexy, and their displays of masculinity are welcomed so much so that they are sometimes even staged — remember Putin fishing? Women who enter male-dominated spheres, however, have to negotiate a delicate balance between displays of femininity and strength. Remember the hoopla over Hillary Clinton’s barely there cleavage? Nothing gets in the way of our faith in political strength like lady parts.
It makes sense then that the controversial photo is not the one of a shirtless Schock alongside a bikini-clad babe, but rather the one where he wears a gingham purple shirt and turquoise belt. The former makes him seem tough like a high school quarterback, whereas the latter makes him look like Johnny Weir goes to Washington. He says he now knows that what he wore wasn’t “sporty” enough — that sounds an awful lot like code for “heterosexual.”