Best of Broadsheet 2009

Part 2: Sex, lies and scandal -- from Rihanna to Letterman, there was plenty!


Broadsheet Staff
December 25, 2009 7:01PM (UTC)

It's the second day of Broadsheet's link-giving holiday, which means another shiny ... blog post for you to read. Yesterday we served up our best missives of the year on the topics of reproductive rights and motherhood. Now, we present to you our favorites on sex, lies and scandal — and, this year, there was plenty to choose from on that front.

"She's So Beautiful and Nice. How Do You Hit Her?" by Judy Berman: You might ask, What the hell does being pretty have to do with being hittable? At least that's what we wondered when folks started invoking domestic-violence stereotypes in reaction to Chris Brown's assault on Rihanna.

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"Why I'm Starting to Feel for Miss California," by Mary Elizabeth Williams: Carrie Prejean may represent "the goody goody, the beauty queen, the topless model, the 'dumb bitch,' the would-be porn star" — but the public hatred for her says more about us than it does about her. We're the ones still clinging "to the nearly impossible-to-uphold standards we set for our beauty monarchy — sexy but not too sexy, pure but not prudish, outspoken but only if we agree with the opinion." Granted, this story was written before she truly refused to go away.

"Elizabeth Edwards' Walk of Pain," by Rebecca Traister: Why did a brilliant woman subject herself to a tortured media tour following the revelation of her husband's infidelity? She seemed on a mission to regain her dignity. As Traister so eloquently puts it:

One way to do that, of course, is to be the person who says everything that everyone else might be saying behind your back, so that they don't think you're clueless or weak. Another is to develop your own account of what happened, including the vulnerabilities that you are able to turn into strengths by expressing them with grace and beauty. Another is to trash that bitch who banged your husband in front of the whole world, with Oprah on your side.

"Craigslist Xes Out Sex Ads," by Tracy Clark-Flory: In May, Craigslist announced it was shuttering its infamous "erotic services" section and replacing it with an "adult" area, where ads would cost $10 and be rigidly screened for illegal services. Broadsheet spoke with prostitutes who made a guess as to where sex workers would turn next: the streets. But, shortly thereafter, it became clear that Craigslist's supposed turnabout really only "amounted to a dimming of the flashing lights and a renaming of its virtual red light district" — all in response to a crusading state attorney general.

"The Thorn Birds of South Carolina," by Amy Benfer: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's e-mail exchanges with his mistress, "Maria," were "part morality play, part bodice-ripper" and 100 percent riveting. They also reveal Sanford as "a guy struggling to reconcile his duties as a husband and father with being 'impossibly,' 'hopelessly' in love with another woman." Ah, the timeless appeal of star-crossed sex scandals.

"Reminder: Roman Polanski Raped a Child," by Kate Harding: After the world-renowned director was finally arrested in Switzerland, you wouldn't think those five words — "Roman Polanski raped a child" — needed to be said. However, Broadsheet's Kate Harding was one of the first to say what truly mattered, and in doing so she helped change the national conversation:

Let's keep in mind that Roman Polanski gave a 13-year-old girl a Quaalude and champagne, then raped her, before we start discussing whether the victim looked older than her 13 years, or that she now says she'd rather not see him prosecuted because she can't stand the media attention. Before we discuss how awesome his movies are or what the now-deceased judge did wrong at his trial, let's take a moment to recall that according to the victim's grand jury testimony, Roman Polanski instructed her to get into a jacuzzi naked, refused to take her home when she begged to go, began kissing her even though she said no and asked him to stop; performed cunnilingus on her as she said no and asked him to stop; put his penis in her vagina as she said no and asked him to stop; asked if he could penetrate her anally, to which she replied, "No," then went ahead and did it anyway, until he had an orgasm.

"Cheering for Letterman's Confession," by Mary Elizabeth Williams: The "Late Show" host seemed to have learned a thing or two about how to properly handle a sex scandal from the mistakes of his philandering predecessors: "There were no Mark Sanford-style tears. No John Edwards-esque denials. No John Ensign-y contrite admissions that it was 'absolutely the worst thing I've done in my life.' No shame or blame. Just some straight-up, self-deprecating honesty." In a year of sex, lies and scandals, how refreshing is that?

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