Friday, June 17, 2011


One thing we learned from the Anthony Weiner affair is that many people do not understand the difference between shame and guilt.

I will stipulate that Weiner did not commit a crime. He did not try to rape a chambermaid. True enough, he exchanged puerile vulgarities, but he never crossed the line into carnal relations. Guilt is not his to bear.

One might say that he didn't even cheat. For all we, he might have had an arrangement, as Kiri Blakeley calls it, whereby his wife let him indulge himself over Twitter as long as he did not indulge himself in reality.

So, he never had sexual relations with any of those women. Ever since Bill Clinton taught us to use legalistic dodges when talking about sexual relations, we are all attuned to the possibility that a man might be indulging in sexual activities while telling himself that he was not really having sex.

Self-righteously, Andrew Sullivan has been saying that Weiner was forced to resign for not having sex. Sullivan seems to think he’s very clever to have discovered this point, but Larry Craig, Mark Foley, and Chris Lee also resigned for not having sex.

As a self-proclaimed apologist for people who expose too much of themselves on the internet, Sullivan has also been pompously pointing out that Weiner committed no crime. Tweeting a picture of your privates is not a criminal offense.

Again, the Weiner scandal is not about the crime, or lack of same. It’s about the cover-up, or, in this case, the lack of same.

Weiner was driven out of office for having breached decorum. In a moral society that is a very serious failure indeed. It is a greater failure for someone who is supposed to work for the public interest.

As many of us had suspected, Anthony Weiner, through his actions on Twitter, announced to the world that he had no sense of decorum, that he could not be trusted, that he had no respect for his office.  

That’s what it means when you place your private parts on public display.

Weiner’s was not just any old breach of decorum. Spitting on the floor of the House would also count as a breach of decorum; so would speaking out of turn.

As it happens, his was the ultimate breach of decorum. Weiner exposed his turgid organ to random women who had found themselves excited by his intemperate rants.

Weiner thought it was OK to trust women who were turned on by a serious character flaw: his lack of self-control.

You will say, and Sullivan might say, that Weiner’s failure was more symbolic than real. Then again, so is saluting the flag and celebrating the fourth of July.

As it happens, exposing the full frontal phallus is the last frontier in self-exposure. It is one step beyond what Hollywood will tolerate. It is the last barrier separating public and private.

Covering it up makes you a social being. All human beings, even the most primitive, cover up their private parts.

This organ is not just sexual; it is also generative. Thus it retains a privilege that the bicep does not have. It plays its role in actions that might lead to reproduction. You cannot say the same about any other organ of the male body.

Very few women like to look at it. Perhaps they are affording it a certain amount of respect. With the exception of aberrant individuals like Anthony Weiner, the phallus seems to function best when it is not being stared at.

The presence of an exposed phallus makes Weiner’s case different from those of politicians who got caught in sexually dalliances, whether with prostitutes, with the family maid, with an Argentinian siren, or with House pages.

Not one of the public officials who were caught overstepping the bounds of good behavior had had the temerity to expose his turgid manhood to women he did not know and had no reason to trust.

The vanity and stupidity are breathtaking. The failure to understand the most elementary form of human decorum is stupefying.

As it happens, the only men who expose themselves in public are porn stars. We are not surprised that the first person to offer the unemployed former Congressman a job was Larry Flynt.

Weiner’s breach of decorum was absolutely and utterly unique.

Weiner did not break any laws that I know of. Yet, he failed in his most fundamental responsibility as a public servant: to maintain a strict separation between public and private, thus, to keep his private parts out of the public domain.

Once he went over that line, he lost respectability. Then again, did he ever really have it? To those who cheered him, it didn’t matter that he was emotionally incontinent. He was standing up and defending their ideas.

I would recommend that they reconsider how they judge character. No one has a strong character because he can rant and rave more forcefully than anyone else.

If that turns people on, they are being excited by a fetish.

We would all agree that Weiner was brought down by his own lies. And yet, only a man who has no character would lie to the world, to its face, and imagine that he could get away with it. And only a man who has no character would expose his phallus to the world. There is very little difference between the two.

Weiner’s combatative, argumentive style also meant that he refused to grant any credence to the arguments of his honorable opponents.

Weiner is the type of man who rails when he receives disrespect but shows no respect to others.

From the time when Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden, covering the genitalia has been a singular and irreducible sign of membership in a human community.

We become social beings when we give the good of the community precedence over our personal interests?

Are members of Congress and other public servants in it for their own benefit, whether financial or sexual, or have they chosen to use their office to enrich or aggrandize themselves.

Weiner falls within the category of the latter. The worst part of his dereliction was that he did not even bother to hide his intentions.

Voluntarily making your privates public denotes shamelessness. It always denotes shamelessness.

If someone violates your privacy, films you engaging in a private act, and distributes it, you will certainly feel shame. But you will not be taxed with shamelessness.

Those who fail to understand the dire consequences that befall people who are shameless are more likely to find themselves in situations they cannot control.

If so eminent a blogger as Andrew Sullivan can dismiss Weiner’s faults as nothing very important, how can you explain to a fourteen year old that sexting is a very bad idea.

What would Sullivan say to the high school student who sexts a picture of his or her privates to a prospective romantic partner, only to discover that the same picture has been distributed throughout his or her social world.

For a teenager, that is the ultimate nightmare. Most teenagers do not have the moral resources to deal with the excruciating agony that constitutes shame.

I would hate to think that some teenager will get into sexting because an adult like Andrew Sullivan has allowed him to believe that it is no big deal because it's not the same as having sex.

We who are older and wiser should make a considerable effort not to lull children into situations where they are going to be traumatized beyond anything they have ever imagined and beyond anything that they are capable of handling..

Those of us who have reached the age of mature reason should never ever even suggest that it might be alright to sext.

Any adult who suggests otherwise is either blithely unaware of the dire emotional consequences that these acts produce or is willing to take a rhetorical cheap shot in order to look like he’s clever and cool.


Kiri Blakeley said...

Very well done, Stuart

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks, Kiri. I've been enjoying your posts on AW, most especially the one about the possibility of there being something like a marital "arrangement." It feels like there is, though you are the only person who has been willing to speculate. At the least, AW did say that his wife was aware of some of his pursuits before they married. So there must be some kind of understanding... though I agree with you that "arrangement" is the more accurate term.

Kiri Blakeley said...

I'll be on 20/20 tonight discussing cybercheating too, iffin ya wanna watch.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks for the reminder. I was out last night, so I could not catch it. I'll try to watch the segment online or in repeats.