Amanda Marcotte in The Daily Beast (NBC/Getty):
In the three decades since the scandal erupted, some things have changed and some haven’t. You still have plenty of people who want to shame young women for failing to meet the paradoxical demand to be sexy and not sexual, but there’s a growing chorus of people who see through that hypocrisy and have stopped punishing women for being, well, human beings who enjoy sex.
Beauty pageants, of course, are ground zero for the hypocritical demands on women to flaunt their bodies without actually acknowledging the existence of sex. The whole point of being a pageant queen is to trot around in your bikini to be ogled at while feigning sexual naiveté. But, of course, women—even young women—are actually sexual beings, as much as society denies that. Williams is hardly the only beauty queen who has been the subject of a scandal because she was caught dropping the “what is this sex you speak of?” act and found to be—gasp!—interested in actually enjoying her youth.
In 2006, Miss Nevada Katie Rees, got a bunch of exploitative attention for “sexy” pictures of her showing off her breasts and underwear and kissing other women, an offense for which she lost her crown. A few years later, Miss California Carrie Prejean endured having a few semi-nude photos leaked. She was able to keep her crown, but only after Donald Trump did a big, pompous show of how magnanimous he was being by saying, “We have determined that the pictures taken were fine.” That it’s a subject that needs to be “determined” at all is ridiculous, suggesting that being in pageants still comes at the price of having outsiders—outsiders like Donald Trump—feel entitled to sit in judgment of your sexual behavior.
Women who want to go into politics find themselves under similar pressure to conceal that they have bodies under their clothes or that they know what sex is all about. Witness what happened to Krystal Ball, a young Democrat who wanted to run for Congress in 2010. A pair of conservative bloggers decided to shame her by running pictures they obtained from a party she attended many years prior, where she was seen posing for prank photos with a dildo.