Big swinging dicks chase Bishop” read The Australian‘s Breaking News teaser this morning. How could anyone resist clicking on that? It immediately conjured an image of giant penises pendulously pursuing a clergyman down the street, the sort of scene belonging in a late-era Python movie.

The said Bishop of course was Julie Bishop, not a man of the cloth, but in any event, we now welcome a new acronym to political reporting: BSD.

For those thinking this is all about politicians boasting about a very different sort of swing in their marginals than is usually the case, the term BSD has a heritage. It emerged on Wall St in the 1980s, mainly via Michael Lewis’s Liar’s Poker, as a term for the very best earners in the firm, the guys who generated billions from the biggest deals. Such men naturally were styled as possessing truly brobdingnagian members, even if such equipment might be of rather limited use in concluding billion-dollar bank deals. BSD acquired rather more cache than the family-friendly “Masters of the Universe”, which entered the lingua franca, or perhaps lingua wanca, slightly earlier in the decade.

That a group of Opposition politicians, many of them in decidedly low-profile shadow ministries, might consider themselves BSDs is amusing enough; that they constitute such a wildly eclectic bunch as that outlined in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday was even funnier. Christopher Pyne was naturally in there: he’s the go-to man for every Liberal conspiracy theory of any kind, true or false (apparently yet another shit sheet is now being circulated about the oft-smeared Pyne; hopefully it has better stuff than the sort of thing some enemies of Tony Abbott were trying to interest Crikey in some months back).

There were other moderates alleged to be BSDs as well, like Queenslander Steve Ciobo and Victorian Greg Hunt. With Hunt you’d need to subject to CIA-style interrogation before he’d bag a colleague to the press. And there’s the not-especially moderate Western Australian senator Matthias Cormann, who was named in the original BSD article by Glenn Milne, much to his publicly-expressed fury. Talk about politics making strange, um, bedfellows.

All very tawdry and obviously politically counter-productive for the Liberals. I mean, couldn’t they put their in-fighting on hold for five damn minutes to let the Government’s boat people difficulties take centre-stage?

But aren’t the sexual politics amazing? Even if the whole BSD thing is an invention, what was going through the mind of the anonymous MP who started it all off? After all, what is more compelling than the blatant metaphor of a female politician being “hunted” by penises? How much closer to pack r-pe imagery can you get in political discourse? I thought, perhaps stupidly, we’d moved on from that sort of crassness in politics. I’d been fooled by the rise and rise of Julia Gillard into thinking gender didn’t matter, or mattered far less than it used to.

Add to the mix Christopher Pyne, who cops constant innuendo from all sides — including from Gillard — about his sexuality and we’re cooking up a potent mix of sex, politics and stereotypes.

This is not to suggest Bishop should garner sympathy or be judged differently or is somehow the victim. She’d be the last to suggest she should stand or fall on anything other than her own performance and she’s tough enough to deal with her internal enemies in a fair fight. But the mindset revealed by such a phrase is telling. And you’d be foolish to think it’s confined to the blokes on one side of politics.

Peter Fray

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