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John Hickenlooper’s writings about his sexual history are the embodiment of male privilege

It’s hard to imagine a woman candidate doing the same.

Former Colorado Governor And Democratic Presidential Candidate John Hickenlooper Holds Campaign Kick-Off Rally In Denver
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks to supporters at a rally to kick off his presidential campaign outside the Colorado Capital on March 7, 2019, in Denver.
Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

John Hickenlooper, the former Colorado governor now running for president, really delved into his sex life as part of an autobiographical book he published in 2016. As spotlighted by the Washington Examiner, his book, The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics, goes into great detail about Hickenlooper’s encounters with various women.

The anecdotes, which detail sexual experiences he’s had with women since his teens, are not only painfully detailed and awkward, they also highlight — in stark relief — just how differently male candidates are able to present themselves compared to women. That Hickenlooper is able to describe every recollection of his sexual past in his book, which he published while he was governor, speaks to just how much latitude men have in the ways they can talk about themselves, even as they hold and seek high-profile political offices.

In its piece, the Examiner frames Hickenlooper’s sex anecdotes as a punchline of sorts, classifying them as the wacky ramblings of a seemingly esoteric candidate. It’s hard to imagine any woman candidate ever recounting her own sexual history in this same, very public way — or if she did, having it treated with the same degree of relative nonchalance that Hickenlooper’s is.

Hickenlooper’s campaign acknowledged this imbalance when asked for comment about the content of his book. “The governor definitely published an untraditional political autobiography,” spokesperson Lauren Hitt told Vox. “But you’re right, there are absolutely double standards when it comes to male and female candidates.”

Hickenlooper is also not the only male candidate who’s received scrutiny for past writings on sex: Sen. Bernie Sanders had also previously been called out for a column he wrote about sex and gender roles, something his campaign told USA Today was a “dumb attempt at dark satire.”