Is This The Most Sexist Debate Question Ever?

In what I can only assume is an attempt to “humanize” the candidates, debate moderator Liz Benjamin asked New York Senate candidates Kirsten Gillibrand (D) and Wendy Long (R) if they’ve ever read the erotica-lite 50 Shades of Grey. Apparently New Yorkers need to know this.

To Benjamin’s defense, she doesn’t look pleased to be asking the question, and according to Policy Mic, the question was one in a series of “lightning round” questions not designed for the candidates to spend much time answering. But still the question was asked, and not during a sit-down on The View, but during a candidates debate designed to educate voters on the candidate’s positions and plans for office.

Can you imagine Jim Lehrer asking such a question during the presidential debate? Sen. Gillibrand has built an impressive record in the Senate fighting for equal pay, family leave and pushing back against reproductive rights restrictions. Her competition is a hard-right conservative who insists Republican assaults on women and the middle-class are simply figments of a deluded liberal imagination. There couldn’t be a starker contrast between the two candidates and, as such, there is plenty for the two to debate.

And even if the organizers wanted a moment to inject a little levity, there are plenty of ways to do so without asking two women candidates if they enjoy a little fetish-escapism on the side.

What if either candidate had said yes, then what? The question is not just tacky and inappropriate during a policy debate, it undercuts any success women have had generally in breaking through into leadership ranks in this country. Admitting to reading it would expose Gillibrand to slut-shaming by the right while Long’s admission would likely be used as further proof the war on women is a fiction.

Of course, if this country was anything other than still totally flipped out by the idea of female sexual empowerment then such a question wouldn’t even come up — the titaliation factor would be non-existent. Instead, thanks to the patriarchy, not only does it come up, but it does so in one of the most awkward and inappropriate manners conceivable.


Related Stories:

Sen. Gillibrand Renews Call For Paycheck Fairness Act

Sens. Gillibrand and Boxer Launch Women’s Rights Campaign [Video]

Senate Women Challenge GOP On Birth Control [Video]


Photo from gaelx via flickr.


janet T.
janet t.4 years ago

Asking questions like this and attacking women in the way that they do is just their tactic to keep women out of politics. Republicans fear women in politics because they are usually democrats and they hate all democrats. They don't even want women to vote in all actuality, and probably would take away the vote if they could. Theocracy, plutocracy and autocracy is what they stand for lately.

Kamryn M.
Kay M.4 years ago

good grief.

Anna Undebeck
Anna Undebeck4 years ago


Marg Wood
Marg W.4 years ago

Ignorant question!

John S.
Past Member 4 years ago

I wouldn't know what the question implied.

mitchell dawes
mitchell dawes4 years ago


Suzanne L.

In what way is it interesting for us to know whether they've read these books, painted their toenails, or wear red underwear. The political and economic issues are what's important and the rest belongs to their personal life.

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown4 years ago

Midge - Loved your "Dominatrix Barbie" comment!

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown4 years ago

Midge - Loved your "Dominatrix Barbie" comment!

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown4 years ago

B Mutiny - Take another green star out of petty cash, my treat!