The XX Factor

Why A Racist, Porn-Inflected Slur Started Haunting GOP Politics

Donald Trump in Scotland in 2012. He has since returned to America to keep it safe from cuckservatives.

Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Oh dear. The New York Times is covering the “cuckservative” phenomenon, which must have been a hard editorial decision—it’s impossible to talk about this while maintaining the paper’s famous sense of decorum. “The phrase has caught on among a segment of disaffected Republicans, some of whom hold white nationalist ideologies and who feel many of the party’s presidential candidates are not conservative enough,” explains writer Alan Rappeport. 

In other words, it’s a new and uglier way to call someone a “RINO.” But where does it come from?

“Cuckservative is an amalgamation of the word cuckold — the husband of an adulterous woman — and conservative,” Rappeport explains. “The implication is that mainstream Republicans, like jilted husbands, are facing humiliation and have lost sight of their futures.”

That’s one way to put it. Another way to put it: The term is drawn from a popular form of pornography in which men get off on the fantasy of a woman humiliating her man by cheating on him. A lot of it is what you might delicately call “racial,” wherein the white male viewer eroticizes the humiliation of having your wife cheat on you with a black man. (Vice, bless them, has an entertaining review of one cuckold porn imagining former Los Angeles Clippers owner and noted racist Donald Sterling in such a scenario. This surprisingly sober-minded discussion on Reddit is also in understanding the phenomenon.)

As Rappeport notes, cuckservative tends to be flung around by some of the more racist elements of the Republican party, something easy enough to confirm via Twitter search, whereby you can watch a lot of hollering about immigration and exhibiting some weird defensiveness about white male virility. All of which makes sense, even if it’s stomach-churning sense. Racist ideology has always been about asserting the “purity” of white people—particularly white women—against the supposedly corrupting influence of non-white people. Racist cuckold porn pushes two big buttons for the far right: a sense of ownership over women’s bodies and a fear of black men. It’s gross but not particularly surprise to see them eroticize their ugly paranoias. 

So cuckservative boils down to this: white supremacists insinuating that white male politicians are emasculated if they fail to take a sufficiently racist hard line against immigration and race-mixing. 

The larger story here is one of the far-right fringe gaining a foothold in mainstream Republican politics. Fringe anti-abortion types have managed to get their vendetta against Planned Parenthood mainstreamed, and now the scary racists are making the same move, using Donald Trump as their wedge: His jibber-jabber about Mexican immigrants and rape plays off their favorite obsession. 

It also suggests that social media will continue to present a problem for Republicans, as it gives right- wing fringes the opportunity to bypass the gatekeepers and keep pumping out their conspiracy theories and psychosexual obsessions into public view. This creates a double bind: It embarrasses the party, but it also increases pressure on them to move further right to avoid accusations of softness and treachery. The fringe isn’t a majority, but there are enough of them——and they are finding unity online—that they can’t just be ignored until they go away.