My former roommate, who was also my maid of honor and has consumed more of my turkey soup than anyone but my husband, left a comment on my prior post on the reaction to Weiner’s “sex scandal” that I think is worth addressing at length (in no small part because she asks me to, and I hate to say no to Shari). So here is the meat of her comment and my reactions.
But there’s a few things Not connected (at least, in my own head yet) to prudery that Still make me want him to step down.
One thing worth noting here is the prudery under discussion isn’t necessarily the prudery of an individual. One effect of the overall background prudery in effect has been to narrow the options and ideas that even come to mind when we think about these issues.
Poor impulse control.
We don’t actually know this. Evidence of a mistake is not always evidence of poor planning. He may have thought this through, decided it made sense for his situation, and still bungled the execution.
Utter lack of concern (or was it freaking AWARENESS of concern) for what his family would go through ‘if he was caught’.
Again, we don’t know this. People who take on “alternative” sexual and relationship arrangements are well aware that there is risk involved. That’s why there’s a closet. That’s why these things are conducted in private. But that doesn’t mean that the risk hasn’t been weighed and found to be more than balanced by the ability to be true to one’s own desires. Let’s face it. If that ability were a trivial thing, human history would be hugely different.
Whether right or wrong – and if prudery is being used as a cultural straightjacket, we can all probably assume Wrong! – he knows that politicians are under intense scrutiny, as they represent other people.
Actually, this is new. I recommend reading Marcotte’s piece on Alternet on this for some recent historical perspective. If you need more examples, consider that Norm Coleman’s mistress was considered non-news for both his Senate campaigns (as, sadly, was his reputation for sexual assault). FDR, JFK, and LBJ’s affairs (to stick to the monogrammed presidents) are matters of history, known but irrelevant during their tenures. You can say times were different then, but that doesn’t explain why Bush the Elder’s mistress was considered only a matter of gossip. To go back further, Cleveland’s possible illegitimate child (actual paternity unknown) was acknowledged in his run for the presidency but not a deciding factor.
Private matters used to be considered private unless they were evidence of hypocrisy and often even then. This is new.
And they are held to high standards. Or, at least, I hold them to high standards – especially of judgement.
Well, except we don’t hold our politicians to high standards. If we did, we’d get serious about the Citizens United ruling so that corporations have a tougher time buying them. We’d do something so people weren’t always talking about voting for the lesser of two evils. We’d hold them accountable for their campaign promises instead of expecting them to be broken.
Holding politicians to high standards only for private decisions that have no impact on our lives is a clear signal of prudery to me. And while any individual may not fit that description, the fact that a consensual dick pic is news and Justice Thomas’s hidden conflicts of interest aren’t stinks of that background prudery.
I’m guessing he thought he could manage any fallout if this ever became public. We see how well That turned out.
Given the historical treatment of extramarital sex in politicians, I’m not sure that was a bad assumption going in. It doesn’t seem to have taken him very long, though, to figure out that nothing but the full truth was going to suffice in this situation.
That amazing level of arrogance in his initial denials screams of his desire for celebrity, without responsibility.
I’m all for lying my face off if someone decides that my private business is their public business. Well, actually, I’m not, but that’s mostly because I’m a skewer-with-detailed-truth kind of gal. Still, I completely support it in others. Serving one’s country is not the same thing as giving the American population a free pass into one’s bedroom (or wherever else one wants to flirt or fuck). It’s a pity it didn’t work.
And that kind of judgement in his personal life makes me question his judgement on national issues.
Here Weiner has a record. Twelve years of national record, six years in New York before that. And that record is excellent, particularly on the topics of women’s health (sexual and otherwise) and sexual freedoms. I have no reason to doubt his record because he screwed up using Twitter.
The point at which compulsive behaviour threatens your job – and this qualifies, I think, you need to put it in check.
What’s compulsive? Why compulsive? The fact that you and most of the people you know would need something as strong as a compulsion to behave that way means that this is behavior you find wrong for you. That’s fine, but it’s not a universal. Someone who doesn’t consider this behavior immoral or otherwise wrong doesn’t need to be compulsive to do something natural to them.
Would I be as disgusted if this guy weren’t married? Not quite, because the whole point of marriage is to forsake all others (not discussing polygamy here.), and if you want to do gross tweets, don’t friggin’ get married because your spouse will be understandably pissed. Poor judgement.
Actually, the purpose of marriage is to build a life together and to have that life recognized by your friends, family, and society. Beyond that, it varies. I know a number of people in very strong marriages (some of the strongest I know, but not all, so no use guessing) who never promised monogamy or who decided that monogamy was either not necessary or actively harmful to their marriages.
And really, we don’t ever forsake all others. Marriages happen within a community. We have friends who meet some of our emotional needs so our partners don’t carry them all. We have people around us who share values and interests that our partners don’t. We have flirtations, the vast majority of them without any intent to go beyond flirting. We maintain lots of degrees of intimacy with people other than our partners.
Some people simply find that allowing sexual and romantic relationships with people other than their partners is, for them, a reasonable step in the same direction. They’re nothing like pissed. The people who don’t aren’t necessarily prudes, but deciding that all marriages have to be composed of the same boundaries and arrangements that yours are is a form of prudery.
Also, I’ve seen the picture that was tweeted. It’s not gross. It doesn’t make me want to jump the guy or anything, but I can kind of understand why he wanted someone else to see it.
Single people sexting (especially with that last name)
are opening themselves up to blackmail – poor judgement if they are in the public eye.
There is only a risk of blackmail if there is secrecy. There is more likely to be secrecy in an atmosphere of prudery. If you’re willing to do what Weiner did, to confess when the press decides this is the most pressing political issue of the day, you can’t be blackmailed.
So, no. While I’m deeply concerned at the judgment of the press in this situation, Weiner’s judgment, particularly as a legislator, bothers me not one bit.