Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Anthony Weiner: Contemptuous and Contemptible

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.

Hertzberg explains:

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 co√∂peration. 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.

Hertzberg remarks:

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.


Lastango said...

"Is this how the sexual revolution ends, not with a bang but a whimper?"

That's a superb observation! As I think on what you say, clues come to mind that suggest various forms this might take. For instance, Japan's herbivores are discovering gratifications apart from women, to the extent of sensing disincentives to sex, relationships, and marriage. All that would be stressful and dangerous, and herbivores don't sense any particular reason why they can't continue on as they are indefinitely.

Then there's the toxic combination of the decline of traditional dating, the replacement of this by hooking up and hanging out, the accelerated pace & volume of internet-sourced relationships (leading to desensitization, depersonalization, and churning), a high divorce rate, the normalization of out-of-wedlock births, and living one's life in public, on the social media, rather than one-on-one. In the future, people may decide to cut to the chase and enter into contractual relationships that amount to living separately-but-together, pooling selected resources in some sort of legal condition designed to confer parental status over the children they agree to produce and support together. That sounds like a piece of social futurism from the excellent sci-fi writers of the 1950's and 1960's. What would be left is the mere skeleton of a family structure, with heavy state involvement to fill in the gaps between the bones. And the sex? These paired up "life associates" will be getting that wherever they can or want, because that's part of the arrangement too. What Weiner did will no longer be risible, it will be normal -- just one of many options endorsed for its harmlessness as well as its hygiene.

Sam L. said...

So...not as bad as Bill Clinton, but waaaay more ludicrous.

Anonymous said...

Public sex reduces human beings to engaging in animal behavior. It is not sophisticated or cool or liberating, it is demeaning to the soul.

Anonymous said...

"Images of naked women grace the world’s museums. Images of erect penises do not." Exactly. But could you explain why?

Dennis said...

For the same reason you almost never see the external female genitalia. For most people there is nothing artistic about both male and female genitalia. There is something about the curves of the female body that creates flow and movement. The same cannot be said of the male's more angular form.
Why do we consider a circle more interesting than we do a square? Cubism not withstanding. In both art and photography we look for S's to create interest and to draw the eye to what the artist, photographer, et al wants to represent.
I suspect as humans we are programmed to see flow and movement which the female body is far more representative. Thats why "women in the style of "Rueben' were so popular for much of history.
Along that line, Why did those who were Scholastics deduce that orbits were perfect circles? Because GOD was perfect and would not produce something that was less than perfect.
If one wants an answer to a "Why" question there is the ability to search out the answers. Thats why the internet is such a valuable tool.