Diving Into the Subconscious of the “Cuomosexual”

What are we to make of the “Cuomosexual” phenomenon—of the incontrovertible fact that, only a 12 months in the past, a lot of blue-state America was lusting after Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has since been accused of sexual harassment by no less than eleven ladies? The erotic curiosity was documented in a Jezebel article—“Help, I Think I’m in Love with Andrew Cuomo???”—written throughout the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, as President Trump was telling the nation’s governors to search out their very own respirators and ventilators, and an anxious metropolis was discovering solace in Cuomo’s each day press briefings. The time period “Cuomosexual” was popularized in a tune known as “Andy,” by the comic Randy Rainbow, set to the tune of “Sandy,” from the musical “Grease”: “Oh Andy, baby / you’re so strong and rational / from now on I / identify / as Cuomosexual.” (Rainbow’s video has been seen greater than two million instances on YouTube.)

The Governor introduced himself as an alternative choice to Trump, and New Yorkers embraced the comparability, swooning over Cuomo’s Queens accent and his tough-guy schtick. (“Forget bodyguards,” he mentioned, of Trump. “He’d better have an army if he thinks he’s going to walk down the street in New York.”) We basked in his awkward shows of affection (wanting right into a digital camera and telling New Yorkers, “I miss you. I love you. I’m thinking about you”), smiled at his onscreen banter together with his brother Chris Cuomo, the muscle-bound CNN anchor, and giggled at his dad jokes about serving spaghetti and meatballs to his grownup daughters and a boyfriend. Celebrities corresponding to Ellen DeGeneres and Trevor Noah introduced their Cuomosexuality. The New York vogue model Lingua Franca produced a four-hundred-dollar sweater with “cuomosexual” embroidered on the entrance, whereas different venders slapped the slogan on cocktails, underwear, and child tees.

That all looks like a very long time in the past. In December, Lindsey Boylan, a former state financial growth official, accused Cuomo of sexually harassing her over a interval of a number of years; a number of of the Governor’s ex-aides adopted swimsuit. Earlier this week, New York’s legal professional normal, Letitia James, released the findings of a five-month-long inquiry into Cuomo’s conduct. The hundred-and-sixty-five-page report paints a portrait of a person who casually degrades the ladies round him, commenting on their garments, hair, and sexual attractiveness, and doling out humiliating nicknames like “Sponge,” “Mingle Mammas,” and “Daisy Duke,” encouraging others to affix in. He torments a feminine state trooper assigned to his safety element, and at one level “jokes” to Boylan, “If I was the dog, I’d mount you, too.” The report additionally contains allegations of forcible kissing, groping, and undesirable touching, all of which Cuomo has denied. “I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” he mentioned, in response. “That is just not who I am.” Since the report’s launch, nearly all of Cuomo’s political allies have deserted him, and President Biden has known as for his resignation. It’s wanting more and more possible that he’ll turn into the first New York governor in a century to get impeached.

Conservatives have been fast to have fun Cuomo’s reputational implosion. Others are actually scolding the self-proclaimed Cuomosexuals. A Twitter consumer named p.e. moskowitz wrote, “if u bought a cuomosexual mug or sticker like what did you do with it? is it sitting in the back of your closet and every time you see it you feel deep shame? did you go out at 3am and throw it into a river so that no one would see u?” The Washington Post ran an op-ed titled “The ‘Cuomosexual’ Phenomenon Was Disgraceful: We’re Politicians’ Bosses, Not Their Fans.” Some Cuomosexuals have responded with contrition. “I regret ever saying I was a Cuomosexual,” one man tweeted. Randy Rainbow deleted his tweet with the “Andy” video. For many of us, studying the A.G.’s report, and listening to the Governor’s cynical denials, spurs a sort of embarrassed readability, just like the feeling one experiences after operating into an previous ex. How might now we have witnessed these similar qualities—in Cuomo’s case, the narcissism, the bullying, the hackneyed paternalism—and located them enticing?

In search of a solution, I contacted Virginia Goldner, a psychoanalyst who has written about sexual harassment (see: “Pleasure Can Hurt: The Erotic Politics of Sexual Coercion,” revealed final 12 months, in a difficulty of Psychoanalytic Dialogues). Goldner, a medical professor at N.Y.U., co-founded a tutorial journal known as Studies in Gender and Sexuality, and seems on the Showtime sequence “Couples Therapy.” She had some reassuring phrases for any Cuomosexuals who’re in a disgrace spiral proper now. The Governor was as much as one thing in these press conferences. “He was radiating an erotized masculinity that has within it hostility and a little tenderness,” she mentioned. “That combination of soft and hard—mostly hard, but also soft—is what so many women crave in some way,” she mentioned. She known as it the “retrosexual part of us”—the half that was raised with the picture of a “big, square” daddy/lover determine, even when we’ve by no means truly had one. She famous that quite a bit of homosexual males reply to the fantasy, too: “That’s a figure that could easily be hot to a man.”

Goldner went on to untangle some of the extra baffling conduct in the A.G.’s report. Why would an eligible bachelor, who might presumably date any lady he needed, select to kiss, grope, and flirt with workplace underlings in opposition to their will? Why would a talented politician danger all of it to stroke the abdomen of a state trooper, or to make lewd feedback (“Gentle but accurate, I’ve heard that before”) to a physician who was giving him a COVID swab? Was he truly attempting to seduce these ladies? Probably not, Goldner mentioned. “Sexual harassment is not so much about sexual satisfaction. That’s not necessarily its goal.” Instead, it’s a sort of “sadomasochistic flirtation.” The harasser enjoys creating sexual pressure in the office, however what he actually likes is the psychological torment. The harassed subordinates are pressured to reside in a state of worry and confusion, questioning if at the moment will likely be the day the boss crosses the line once more. “They’re likely always thinking about him, worrying about him, and it’s ruining their lives,” Goldner mentioned. “On the other hand, he might have no memory of these incidents. He gets an impulse, he tortures somebody—startles them, shames them, whatever sadistic game he’s playing that day—and then he goes back to running the state.” She quoted Henry Kissinger, noting that energy is an aphrodisiac. That’s true, but it surely’s actually “the sensation of power relative to powerlessness,” she mentioned—energy over another person.

That’s Goldner’s take, anyhow. Cuomo’s personal clarification is that his conduct was harmless; he grew up in a family the place kissing and touching had been the norm. “I actually learned it from my mother and from my father,” he mentioned, earlier this week. “It is meant to convey warmth, nothing more.” But Goldner steered that the A.G.’s report reveals a disturbing sample: “Someone that sadistic, who wanted to make everyone shake in their boots, men as well as women . . . He must have been in some way wanting other people to suffer because of some internal trouble.” She quoted a line from her essay: the sexual harasser is “repetitively turning the dreaded risk of becoming a defeated bottom into the edgy high of being a top.” She went on, “He must have had some sense of defeated bottomness”; in any other case, he wouldn’t have harassed individuals so compulsively.

So the Cuomosexual is lifeless, and with it, the fantasy that the Governor conjured on tv: the powerful and tender protector, the daddy/lover/head of state who will save us from each COVID-19 and Donald Trump. What will take its place? Goldner wasn’t certain, however she wasn’t thrilled that the phrase “Cuomophobia” has began to look on Twitter. “That character, the character Cuomo played on television, was a lie, but that retro masculinity has a lot to admire,” she mentioned. We shouldn’t bury our Cuomosexuality. We ought to look at it. “We can still love those dimensions of masculinity, and ask ourselves, What are they? And how do they get corrupted?”

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