June 09, 2011

Not Going To Make A Weiner Pun, Not Going To Make A Weiner Pun...

From BBC News: Anthony Weiner scandal: Democrats call for ethics probe

Poor, poor Anthony Weiner.

No, really: I'm on his side, here. He's just the victim of plain bad luck for gaining public office in the pre-sexting era. Had he known about the ridiculously easy, anonymous, irresistible opportunities to indulge his libido that would emerge within a decade of his election, maybe he would have thought twice about it.

Does that sound glib? Facetious? It's not meant to. Weiner's far from the only guy to send dirty pictures of himself over the internet, after all, and I'm not just talking about Brett Favre and that other congressman from a few months ago. Haven't you seen the news these days? Teens are doing it, too. College students are doing it. And I'm sure a whole bunch of other people Weiner/Lee/Favre's age are doing it, men and women alike. (Women, in point of fact, are making dirty movies — and no, celebrity sex tapes are of course not meant for public consumption, but then, neither were Weiner's pictures.)

And yes, okay, Weiner is married, and yes, okay, our public officials should know better. At least, that's the standard line. But honestly, Clinton did much worse, and he still got re-elected, salvaged his marriage, and is generally seen as a stand-up, charitable guy these days. Talk about mixed messages!

In any case, it seems evident to me that sending dirty pictures of yourself over the internet is, for better or for worse, just part of everyday life these days, and it would be more productive, instead of exploding in moral panic every time we're confronted with evidence that people actually LIKE doing this, to have a frank discussion about how we ought to adjust our values in response.

I'm not saying that all of what Weiner did is okay: sending unsolicited and unwanted dirty pictures of yourself in the predatory manner that Weiner occasionally seems to have done still feels wrong to me.

But — and this is doubtless my sociology degree talking — when the same thing happens THIS MANY TIMES in the course of a year or two, I tend to think that moral and sexual corruption among otherwise unrelated public figures is a less convincing explanation than a society that just can't get its head out of its ass about what it's really like. People enjoy sex, we provide thousands of different ways to indulge sexual urges, and then we get annoyed whenever someone doesn't stick to the one, highly circumscribed way of doing so that we inherited from a bunch of religious Victorians? How is that reasonable?

So, yes: poor Anthony Weiner. Yes, he pursued women too aggressively, and for that he should be punished. But otherwise his only crime is being a person who has a high sex drive and is also passionate enough about his values that he wanted to run for office and actually do something to change the world. What a dick, right?

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