Monday, we were introduced to presidential erotica, which imagines such bawdy counterfactuals as Alexander Hamilton and James Madison sharing a morning quickie before the Constitutional Convention. Today we answer the question: But why? A new book, Sex and the Founding Fathers: The American Quest for a Relatable Past, argues that we have always told stories — historical, bullshit-historical, or pure fantasy — about the sex lives of presidents and that they are mostly a reflection of our own sexual moment. “If these stories don’t resonate with contemporary readers, then the Founders will lose their relevance,” author Thomas Foster told the Daily Beast. “And if they’re not relatable, then it doesn’t connect us to the past, and it doesn’t connect us to the nation.”
The rise of feminism, for example, meant recasting John and Abigail Adams’s marriage as a powerful union of hardworking equals; the aging of America’s population stoked interest in Benjamin Franklin’s septuagenarian sexual adventures. Meanwhile, Foster argues, the millennial obsession with Thomas Jefferson’s romantic love for his slave Sally Hemings (as opposed to the abuse of power therein), represented a national desire to whitewash our racist history with feel-good multiculturalism. The current LGBT rights movement, then, probably explains our fixation on the mushy letters Alexander Hamilton wrote to his bros, not to mention Hamilton’s status as the gay stud of presidential slash.
All of which should be good news for Bill Clinton. Only a few more centuries until his extramarital affair is rewritten as a pioneering moment in America’s burgeoning polyamory movement.