“Ick Factor” Vs. “Projective Disgust”, Huckabee Vs. Nussbaum On The Source Of Aversion To Homosexuality

In the New Yorker, Mike Huckabee recently used the phrase “ick factor” in describing responses to homosexuality and when attacked for it, claimed he was taking it from the LGBT movement and from the work of philosopher Martha Nussbaum. Huckabee’s self-defense comes from his website:

The reaction over a reported quote from my most recent interview with the New Yorker has gained a lot of attention on the blogs and Internet.

Let me set the record straight.

My exact quote was this:

“I do believe that God created male and female and intended for marriage to be the relationship of the two opposite sexes. Male and female are biologically compatible to have a relationship. We can get into the ‘ick factor,’ but the fact is two men in a relationship, two women in a relationship, biologically, that doesn’t work the same.”

Never once did I say ‘icky’, as many blogs and less than credible news organizations have reported.

My use of the phrase ‘ick factor’ was as the established notion from within the Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Transgender (GLBT) community. It was not an indication of personal aversion, but rather a reference to an established phrase used mostly from same-sex marriage advocates and militants – not one I created.

Former colleague of then Professor Obama from the University of Chicago’s Law School, Dr. Martha Nussbaum, has often made reference to the ‘ick factor’ in her professional writings and is credited with applying the phrase to the GLBT community.

This phrase is not new. This phrase is not mine.

More over, the phrase ‘ick factor’ was widely used as early as the late 1990’s and was just the subject of an entire article written on April 12 of this year – by Joseph Erbentraut – and he even put ‘Ick Factor’ in the title.

I stand by my statement, and the misrepresentations of those who seek to dishonestly distort my views expose their duplicity and hypocrisy.

One of two things is going on here –

1. Either . . . many of these groups are feigning “offense” so they
can raise money to attack me and damage the conservative candidates I support.

2. Or . . . many of these groups didn’t do any research on the
term’s origin and usage just chose to attack without the facts.

Regardless – both of the motivations for the attacks on me are deplorable and indefensible.

Nussbaum has replied to Politico:

In a statement posted on Politico, former Governer Mike Huckabee imputes the phrase “ick factor” to me, and says that I use it to characterize the lesbian and gay community. He is quoted as saying, “Former colleague of then Professor Obama from the University of Chicago’s Law School, Dr. Martha Nussbaum, has often made reference to the ‘ick factor’ in her professional writings and is credited with applying the phrase to the GLBT community.”

In fact, I have never used the phrase “ick factor” in any of my three books dealing with the emotion of disgust, or in any articles. I use the term “projective disgust” to characterize the disgust that many people feel when they imagine gay sex acts. What does that term mean, and to whom does it apply? The view I develop, on the basis of recent psychological research, is that projective disgust has its origin in a discomfort with one’s own body and its messier animal aspects, including sexuality, and that, in a defense mechanism, disgust is then projected outward onto vulnerable groups who are characterized as hyperphysical and hypersexual. In this way, the uncomfortable people displace their discomfort onto others, who are then targeted for various forms of social discrimination.

Thus the people to whom the term “projective disgust” applies are the insecure and emotionally stunted people who campaign against equal rights for gays and lesbians, not gays and lesbians themselves.

Mr. Huckabee has gotten bad information about my work and has completely turned its meaning upside down, imputing to me a position (that gays and lesbians are disgusting) that I criticize as childish and morally deficient.

He owes me a public apology.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.