Sexy Feast: Palace Kitchen Presents a Burger and a Decision About Sexual Politics

A recent late night alone in downtown Seattle meant a long-overdue visit to Palace Kitchen. I scanned the menu quickly, but basically glazed over most of the words, as I was there for one thing only: the Palace burger royale.

The patty, a half-pound of hand-ground chuck, is topped with choice of cheese if you request it. Lettuce, pickles, and red onion slices sit to the side, along with little cups of ketchup and mayonnaise. The plate is piled with a world of French fries. My main beef is with the bun, a Dahlia Lounge onion bun (oh, the perils of being part of a gourmet burger) that’s too bready; I prefer a smaller, squishier bun that provides a better meat-to-bread ratio. And while the patty was a little too dense, it was nicely charred and packed good flavor.

So what does Palace Kitchen’s Palace burger royale teach us about sex?

It’s all about the American way.

Palace Kitchen is part of Tom Douglas’ dynasty. This is a man who does things right. Add a Coke to that Palace burger royale, and you’ve got the all-American meal.

Meanwhile, as you’ve likely seen, Douglas is touting America’s civic responsibility to vote. He’s in current television ads, and you’ll likely stumble across him on page 11 of the King County Official Local Voters’ Pamphlet telling you to follow directions to vote correctly. “It pays to be informed!” is how the page ends.

Five days out from Election Day, it pays to be informed as we make an all-important choice about the future of the American way when it comes to sex.

Marlene Dietrich once said “American’s don’t have sex…they have sex problems.” With our high rates of teen pregnancy, abortion, STIs, and sexual assault, Dietrich’s words are truer than ever–and that doesn’t even get into sexual dysfunction. Part of the problem is that we lack quality sex education in the schools, and we have an inability to talk openly about sex.

In fact, as the Republican Party is demonstrating, many people have an inability to talk intelligently about sex. Take the issue of rape, for example. Representative Todd Akin, running for senator of Missouri, said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.” More recently, Richard Mourdock, a Tea Partier running for senator of Indiana, stated that pregnancies resulting from rape are “something that God intended to happen.” And locally, congressional candidate John Koster said that “…on the rape thing, it’s like, how does putting more violence onto a woman’s body and taking the life of an innocent child that’s a consequence of this crime, how does that make it better?”

Yeah, rape is just a “thing.” In response to concerns about these types of comments, conservative commentator George Will called the war on women a “distraction,” while former House Speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich simply said “get over it.”

In its war on women and war on sex, the GOP–the party of the transvaginal ultrasound–wants to reduce access to abortion and contraceptives, prevent same-sex marriage, and promote religiously influenced, abstinence-only education. Asked about Planned Parenthood, Mitt Romney said, “We’re going to get rid of that.” Running mate Paul Ryan, who says “I’m as pro-life as a person gets,” has sponsored extreme “personhood legislation.” This presidential ticket, if elected, will likely choose at least two of the next Supreme Court justices, leaving a legacy of court conservatism that will turn the clock back on sexual rights.

While touring the college circuit from 2001 to 2008, I was tempted to call my lecture “Bush, Dick, and the Politics of Pleasure.” If the presidential election turns out poorly, I just might have to name it “Romney, Ryan, and the Return to Repression.”

Hopefully that won’t happen. You can help. Be an informed voter. Instead of moving backward, let’s go forward. After all, that’s the American way.

First published in Seattle Weekly’s Voracious on November 1, 2012.

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