Earlier this week I wondered what Mike Huckabee’s use of the “ick factor” in describing gay relationships and his subsequent clarification that he was merely using a reference developed by a gay academic, said about Huckabee and his particular aversion to gay people. Today, that academic Martha Nussbaum responded to Huckabee and helped clarify the whole thing:
The view I develop, on the basis of recent psychological research, is that projective disgust has its origin in a discomfort with one’s own body and its messier animal aspects, including sexuality, and that, in a defense mechanism, disgust is then projected outward onto vulnerable groups who are characterized as hyperphysical and hypersexual. In this way, the uncomfortable people displace their discomfort onto others, who are then targeted for various forms of social discrimination.
Thus the people to whom the term “projective disgust” applies are the insecure and emotionally stunted people who campaign against equal rights for gays and lesbians, not gays and lesbians themselves. Mr. Huckabee has gotten bad information about my work and has completely turned its meaning upside down, imputing to me a position (that gays and lesbians are disgusting) that I criticize as childish and morally deficient.
He owes me a public apology.
Maybe this helps explain some of his motivation, but more importantly, it deconstructs the notion that Huckabee’s opposition to gay rights rests in some rational theoretical or biblical disagreement. Many Christian Evangelicals, and Huckabee in particular, are very good at wrapping their ‘ick factor’ reactions in religious text to obscure the homophobia and add some extra legitimacy to their argument.
But moments like this unravel all that rationalization and remind us that Huckabee’s anti-gay views really have no place in a 21st century democratic policy debate.