For New York tabloids Anthony Weiner is a gift that keeps on giving. Happily for them, his digital paramour, Sydney Leathers is helping out. She has already starred in her own porn video and is promoting herself as a sex therapist of sorts.
Writing in The New Yorker Hendrik Hertzberg explains that Weiner is being pilloried, not for what he did, but for what he didn’t do.
Chief among them is what the protagonist of the tale [Anthony Weiner] did not, as far as we know, do. He did not commit adultery. He did not break up a marriage, his own or anyone else’s. He did not employ the services of a prostitute. He did not stalk. He did not misuse public funds. He did not grope or talk dirty to subordinates or anyone else (unlike San Diego’s late-entry challenger in the mayoral-scandal race, Bob Filner, who stands accused of sexual harassment by nine women). He did not hang out in pickup bars or strip clubs, looking for action. He did not interact with any person of any age or gender without that person’s consent and coöperation. He did not have inappropriate physical contact—or any physical contact—with any person. He and his partners in sin have never even been in the same room at the same time.
We might quibble here and note that, for many people, Weiner’s activities do constitute adultery, and that, if his marriage is not over, it should be.
I suspect that Hertzberg is trying to say, most elegantly, that there is something pathetic about Weiner’s suffering all that grief while not even getting to touch his beloved Sydney Weathers.
His kingdom and his political future for… an image on an iPhone.
Had Weiner met up with the curvaceous Ms. Leathers for a steamy afternoon tryst in a love motel in Ohio, people would not think him completely ridiculous. Admittedly, Weiner and Ms. Leathers were practicing the safest of safe sex, but still he has made himself look like a complete fool. And not even a fool for love.
The ratio of political devastation to sexual impropriety is as high as it is because Weiner’s shenanigans have been so irresistibly risible—so ridiculous, in the literal sense of inviting derision and mockery. If his initial denials had not been so preposterous, and if he had done something more serious (in both senses), such as having an affair, he might not have had to resign from Congress, as he did when the first wave of “sexting” revelations engulfed him, two years ago.
Is this how the sexual revolution ends, not with a bang but a whimper?
From the Playboy Penthouse we have descended to a married man, alone in his basement, masturbating to the image of a woman he has never met. Come to think of it, it looks as though it has all come full circle.
While the Weiner story seems fraught with an adolescent innocence, in one sense it surpasses the sexual peccadillos and downright deviant behavior of other politicians.
As opposed to Weiner, all of the other deviant politicians maintained a modicum of discretion. They did not advertise their faithlessness. They did not make a video record of their antics. Not one of them reached Weiner's level of pure shamelessness.
Not one of the politician cheaters exposed himself to a camera, knowing that the image of his distended organ would be caught in cyberspace, searchable forever.
When we hear about some politician’s sexual activities we try, as quickly as possible, to put the images out of mind. Yet, there is effectively no escaping the Weiner scandal. At any moment one of your favorite websites might regale you with a picture of Anthony the Flasher’s private part.
Weiner’s problem is not what he did or did not do; it’s the symbolism of what he did.
At a time when internet porn is ubiquitous and where teenagers routinely send imagines of their genitals over their cell phones, it would seem that noting is taboo any more, that nothing is covered up, that nothing is hidden.
One forgets that the image of the erect male sexual organ is the last frontier in exhibitionism. It’s what distinguishes hard from soft core pornography. Images of naked women grace the world’s museums. Images of erect penises do not.
Sadly, discretion seems to be dead among the young. If they do not know it now they will eventually discover that they will pay a high price for participating in what seems to be a harmless cultural trend.
Now, the trend has been rendered slightly more acceptable by the fact that a grown man, a husband and father, finds sexting to be an amusing adult diversion. It is worse when his wife is willing to stand by him, exposed organ, exposed virtual lover and all.
Of course, pornographic images appeal to the male brain far more than they do to the female brain. Sydney Leathers notwithstanding, many women will tell you that they do not find anything erotic about the image of Anthony Weiner’s phallic appendage.
In fact, a man’s exposure of his erect organ to a stranger constitutes a threat. Surely, it is not a friendly gesture.
Weiner’s willingness to create an indelible visual record of his actions make him both contemptuous and contemptible. Weiner holds the electorate is such complete contempt that he was willing to risk exposure of his adolescent sexual dalliance to the public.
As I said, Weiner’s problem is not the act, but the symbolism. A man who exposes his sex in public is demonstrating that he has no self-respect and no dignity. Weiner is telling us, unambiguously, that he refuses to sacrifice his private pleasure to the public good. Even Elliot Spitzer tried to hide his actions.
Weiner’s candidacy is more arrogant than most. It is more about him than about the city. He is not running because he wants to serve the people. He is not running because he wants to help the city. He is running because high office will provide him access to more, better groupies.