10 things you didn't know about Rick Santorum...

...but might like to know in the wake of his Iowa surge.

Rick Santorum, Republican presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania senator, may be relatively unknown but he almost beat GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney in yesterday's Iowa caucus, trailing Romney by a mere eight votes. Let's be clear: Santorum won't be the Republican nominee come November. But he will now be the subject of countless media profiles, debates and discussions - as well as a bunch of vicious, attack ads from the Romney machine in New Hampshire.

So, here are ten things you might not know about Richard John "Rick" Santorum but might like to know:

1) Santorum, the most belligerent of the ultra-hawkish GOP presidential candidates, has said that if he's elected president, he would order the bombing of Iran's nuclear facilities unless they were opened up to international arms inspectors and then dismantled.

2) Santorum is a friend and ally of U2 front man and anti-poverty campaigner, Bono, who told the New York Times in 2006: "I would suggest that Rick Santorum has a kind of Tourette's disease; he will always say the most unpopular thing. But on our issues, he has been a defender of the most vulnerable."

3) Santorum, an evangelical Catholic, supports a blanket ban on abortion without exceptions for rape or incest, and has compared homosexual relationships to "man on child, man on dog" relations.

4) The afore-mentioned comments by Santorum resulted in a notorious Google-bombing of the then US senator in 2003. (Caution: only click on the previous links if you have, ahem, a strong constitution...)

5) Santorum could be considered an Islamophobe: he has called for the profiling of Muslims and told Bates College students in March 2010 that Islam is stuck in the seventh century and beyond reform or modernisation.

6) As a young lawyer, prior to being elected to Congress, he represented the World Wrestling Federation, arguing that professional wrestling should be exempt from the regulations on anabolic steroids because it wasn't a real sport.

7) Santorum has advocated bigger and faster cuts to government spending than most of his right-wing rivals for the Republican nomination: $5 trillion of cuts in federal spending in the space of just five years. (Yet, curiously, he has still been labelled as a "big government conservative" by Telegraph blogger James Delingpole.)

8) When his baby Gabriel died at childbirth, Santorum and his wife spent the night in a hospital bed with the body and then took it home where, joined by their other children, they prayed over it, cuddled with it and welcomed the baby into the family.

9) Santorum believes that "there is no such thing as global warming"; it is "junk science". He supports a policy of "drill everywhere" for oil and gas.

10) Santorum wasn't always so opposed to current rival Mitt Romney; in February 2008, prior to the last presidential election, he said: "If you're a conservative, there really is only one place to go right now...I would even argue farther than that. If you're a Republican, if you're a Republican in the broadest sense, there is only one place to go right now and that's Mitt Romney."

Given the result in Iowa, we can only assume now that Republican primary voters in 2012 will heed Santorum's 2008 advice and pick Romney.

 

 

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

Photo: Getty
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Ann Summers can’t claim to empower women when it is teaming up with Pornhub

This is not about mutual sexual fulfilment, it is about eroticising women’s pain. 

I can’t understand why erotic retailers like Ann Summers have persisted into the twenty-first century. The store claims to be “sexy, daring, provocative and naughty”, and somewhat predictably positions itself as empowering for women. As a feminist of the unfashionable type, I can’t help but be suspicious of any form of sexual liberation that can be bought or sold.

And yet, I’d never really thought of Ann Summers as being particularly threatening to the rights of women, more just a faintly depressing reflection of heteronormativity. This changed when I saw they’d teamed-up with Pornhub. The website is reputedly the largest purveyor of online pornography in the world. Pornhub guidelines state that content flagged as  “illegal, unlawful, harassing, harmful, offensive” will be removed. Nonetheless, the site still contains simulated incest and rape with some of the more easily published film titles including “Exploited Teen Asia” (236 million views) and “How to sexually harass your secretary properly” (10.5 million views.)  With campaigns such as #metoo and #timesup are sweeping social media, it seems bizarre that a high street brand would not consider Pornhub merchandise as toxic.

Society is still bound by taboos: our hyper-sexual society glossy magazines like Teen Vogue offer girls tips on receiving anal sex, while advice on pleasuring women is notably rare. As an unabashed wanker, I find it baffling that in the year that largely female audiences queued to watch Fifty Shades Darker, a survey revealed that 20 per cent of U.S. women have never masturbated. It is an odd truth that in our apparently open society, any criticism of pornography or sexual practices is shut down as illiberal. 

Guardian-reading men who wring their hands about Fair Trade coffee will passionately defend the right to view women being abused on film. Conservative men who make claims about morals and marriage are aroused by images that in any other setting would be considered abuse. Pornography is not only misogynistic, but the tropes and language are often also racist. In what other context would racist slurs and scenarios be acceptable?

I have no doubt that some reading this will be burning to point out that feminist pornography exists. In name of course it does, but then again, Theresa May calls herself a feminist when it suits. Whether you believe feminist pornography is either possible or desirable, it is worth remembering that what is marketed as such comprises a tiny portion of the market. This won’t make me popular, but it is worth remembering feminism is not about celebrating every choice a woman makes – it is about analysing the social context in which choices are made. Furthermore, that some women also watch porn is evidence of how patriarchy shapes our desire, not that pornography is woman-friendly.  

Ann Summers parts the net curtains of nation’s suburban bedrooms and offers a glimpse into our peccadillos and preferences. That a mainstream high street retailer blithely offers guidance on hair-pulling, whipping and clamps, as well as a full range of Pornhub branded products is disturbing. This is not about women’s empowerment or mutual sexual fulfilment, it is about eroticising women’s pain. 

We are living in a world saturated with images of women and girls suffering; to pretend that there is no connection between pornography and the four-in-ten teenage girls who say they have been coerced into sex acts is naive in the extreme. For too long the state claimed that violence in the home was a domestic matter. Women and girls are now facing an epidemic of sexual violence behind bedroom doors and it is not a private matter. We need to ask ourselves which matters more: the sexual rights of men or the human rights of women?