Readers speak out about the Jack Ryan controversy: Hey, kinky politico sex is fine -- as long as you don't try to tell us what we can and can't do in bed.

Published June 30, 2004 4:55PM (EDT)

[Read "The Rise and Fall of Jack Ryan," by Lily Burana.]

As much as I usually enjoy the spectacle of Republicans eating their young, I wish Jack Ryan had chosen to stick it out. The voters are not so stupid; the so-called sex scandal would not have cost him any votes in the long run.

Ryan quit because of media hoopla and pressure from party heavyweights. But he won a hard-fought primary, he had enough money, and he was a credible candidate. I'd much rather he had been beaten fair and square on the basis of his ideas and leadership.

If he had stayed in the race until the tempest in a teapot blew itself out, he could have struck a blow for common sense and decency.

-- Michael Glass

The author misses the point of the issue with Jack Ryan's behavior. It's not the sex -- it was the claim that revealing his behavior would harm his son. In fact, it was his exploitation of his 9-year-old son as the excuse for not releasing his divorce records that showed his true character, or lack thereof. What courageous leader relies on a child for protection?

-- A. Wedner

Ms. Burana's article, while absolutely correct about warped attitudes toward sexuality, misses a very important point. Jack Ryan was a Republican. And in Illinois, the Republican Party hates anything that won't "play in Peoria."

Ryan denied to several people, including his own campaign workers, that there were sexual things in his divorce papers that could hurt him. Had he mentioned his kinky behavior earlier, Republicans might have put a different spin on it (somehow blaming his ex-wife, sex addiction, poor moral judgment, etc.). But the nationwide reaction to Ryan's news made Republicans panic, fearing their core supporters would not back him. And Ryan's lies about "trying to protect his son" didn't help, either.

Ms. Burana fails to mention that the difference between Democrats and Republicans on sexuality is that Democrats are more tolerant. Bill Clinton was often forgiven by his faithful supporters who separated the politician from his escapades. Apparently, Republicans don't believe their faithful could ever do the same.

-- Steve Scholz

Lily Burana misses the obvious in her screed against the prudes who excoriate politicos for their active sex lives. It's not about their dalliances or tastes for less than usual sexual preferences, it's about lying about them. Remember the Republican mantra against Clinton: "It's not about the sex; it's about the lying." It's also about hypocrisy. Looking at Jack Ryan's Web site, it's clear that he is a knee-jerk, tax-cutting, gun-loving, family-values-promoting Republican who called his ex-wife's allegations "ridiculous," which implies that she's lying, and "smut," which implies that he finds this kind of sexual practice an affront to his own finely honed sense of mainstream virtue. Problem is, it turns out that Jeri was telling the truth. And instead of embracing the Republican value of personal responsibility -- which seems to apply only to others -- Mr. Ryan engages first in denial and then scapegoating. Unfortunately for him, he has been exposed as a liar and a hypocrite. If he wants to continue in politics, I suggest he change parties and become a Libertarian. In the meantime, he should step down and quit his bellyaching.

-- Lawrence Tonsick

If a politician wants to swing from chandeliers with circus midgets I couldn't care less, but what does torque my jaw is Jack "Tears Are a Turn-Off" Ryan's apparent callousness toward his wife. And I cannot imagine that anyone who could treat a wife so callously would be much good serving his district.

-- Rosamond Fogg

Lily Burana certainly gets at one aspect of the issue of a politician's private sex life: It would be wonderful to preserve a sphere of privacy for politicians. Most Democrats (Bill Clinton perhaps being the prime example) would appreciate that.

However, Jack Ryan is part of a party that has made the control of the private sex lives of women, homosexual men and anyone having nonprocreative sex a constant and often devastating political battleground. Ryan himself states baldly that he opposes "same-sex marriages, civil unions and registries" and then has the nerve to state that "Homosexuals ... should not be entitled to special rights based on their sexual behavior."

Lily Burana thinks Jack Ryan should get some privacy (especially in the context of his marriage). I'm gay, and you know what? I think the same thing. However, as long as he espouses one standard for himself and another for me, I have no sympathy whatsoever. I can't wait for Barack Obama, a respecter of privacy, to be the next senator from Illinois and to join us here in Washington!

-- William D. McColl

I disagree with Lily Burana when she claims that Jack Ryan's sexual behavior doesn't reflect on the content of his character. Sex is the place where our lust for power is most, uh, naked. Not for philosophical reasons, but simply for the sheer pleasure of it, and as such, it will always be a potent means of learning about someone's ethical makeup. Maybe public sex is "blasé" for a "sexpert" (would that we could all be as hip as Ms. Burana), but for a politician, perhaps we should consider it to be more serious. First off, he's a Republican, and most Republicans tend to enjoy criticizing or all-out attacking others for their sexual proclivities. Last I checked, preaching the joys of public sex was not part of the Republican agenda, so hypocrisy becomes a factor.

-- T.G. Fleming

By Salon Staff

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