Sex, Politics, Morality, Gender and the Publication of the Private(s)

June 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

        Sex and politics have always been strange bedfellows where the trysts and couplings of political ideology and sexual mores end up resembling either Dr. Doolitle’s Push-me-Pull-you or a Caligulan orgy, neither of which allow delineation of what belongs to whom.  Unfortunately for Anthony Weiner, he tweeted on to the zeitgeist’s resonant frequency.[1]
        Politics has a constant right/left shift.  Sex oscillates between the male and the female.  Our social ambivalence to technology veers between (betweet?)  analog and digital.  Gender issues battle over power and weakness.  Religion, at least among the monotheists, is a three way tug-of-war between Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  Race and ethnic biases still pulse with the historical tension throughout our society — Loving v. Virginia[2] is not as old as I am and the election of a black president has only illuminated the strong racist undercurrent that still exists in this country[3].   We shut our blinds to watch reality TV, as the public and private battle it out.  
        The easy jumping off point for most people was the punny —  Weiner’s weiner and the slew of puns that are, uh, hard to pass up.  The first phase however was political.  Politicians and politicos have long used the sexual proclivities of their political opponents to try and gain a political advantage.  Andrew Breitbart is only the most recent in a long line of *uckrakers[4], beginning with James T. Callendar, who went after none other than the drafter of the Declaration of Independence.  Did Thomas Jefferson’s fathering of children by Sally Hemming impinge on the morality of the truths that we hold to be self-evident?  I don’t think so.  Apparently all men are created equally in the struggling with sexuality department, too. [5]   
Politics and sex have been over exposed so I’ll move on to a more important question: Are women turned on by the site of a man’s junk or is women porn really a guy vacuuming?  I would say inquiring minds want to know, but the discussion digresses into a slew of jokes about which head is doing the thinking and  devolves into flat condemnation of men’s brutish sexual flashing.
I’m more interested in the flip side, which is the defusing of female sexuality.  Sexual imagery is arousing to both sexes, yet in a Kinsey-ian flashback,[6] our culture seems unprepared or unwilling to acknowledge that, yes, women too are sexual beings.  Sexism is the attribution of a supposed negative aspects to a specific gender.  Saying women are not as bright as men is clearly a sexist comment, but so is saying men are more sexual than women. Not to belabor a biological point – but you are reading this and that means your mother did it.  
The ambivalence to female sexuality (most of Weiner’s texts/chats/pictures) were sent in the context of mutual sexual cyber-play with women, who presumably have the ability and wherewith-all to locate the send, enter and power buttons on their computers.  Yet there is an undercurrent on the Weiner story of his “attack” on these women.  Nothing overt, just a sense of a Weiner attack.   More horrific than Weiner’s picture seems to be the fear that any of these women were sexually complicit.
Enter race and stereotype —  Philip Roth’s lascivious Jew, Portnoy complaining  as he defiles the family dinner.  A horny, dirty swarthy Jew is sending dirty pictures to middle America white, wholesome, pure, virginal girls!  Look at that nose.  Pretty damning stuff, so how do you hide racist motivations?
Marriage is what brings the racists together.[7]  The Jew was married — and his wife is pregnant!  Not only is he defiling wholesome mid-western porn stars, but traditional American institutions as well — marriage and motherhood.  He probably Portnoy-ed the apple pie in a Chevy, too.  
 However, in post 9-11 America, nothing is so simple.  The paragon of motherhood and virtue — a powerful woman of Saudi Arabian (Is she Muslim?) descent, Huma Aberdin, right hand “man?” to Hilary Clinton.  Huma is the embodiment of political and traditional male power, marriage and motherhood all rolled into one neat and ethnically diverse and confusing package.[8] Her husband?  A name subjected to adolescent sophomoric humor that he will now never escape — Portnoy’s Complaint made flesh.
Amidst all of the political and sexual machinations, a question begs to be asked.  What of the personal should be exposed?  The compulsion to seek approval of one’s male virility makes men’s sexual actions often seem foolish and non-thinking.  Should that be subjected to public scorn, ridicule and judgment?
Regardless of one’s thoughts on sexual morality, the public-ization of the private is a balance that the law and society has constantly struggled to maintain.  A common euphemism for genitalia is “privates”  and if you ask the Congressman, I’m sure he would tell you that he would have liked for his private purveying of his private private pictures to remain private.  Yet, technology has made the private more public and if anything, the Weiner incident (scandal is overblown) illustrates the rapidity with which the private can go public and viral.  And as with any virus, those most infected will experience the crushing emotion of ostracization and societal scorn, while the observers can rest in the ease of knowing their private shame and privates remain private.  No need for compassion when it is not your life being ridiculed.
I’ve seen and heard a lot of commentary, but not once did I hear anyone suggest that Weiner, should have simply said when asked if it was his photo — “None, of your damn business.”  Of course, everyone would have taken that as an admission, which ultimately came anyway, but it would have drawn a line between the private and the public.  No tearful, Breitbart co-opted press conference required.  
Weiner’s waggle in the public eye combined sex, politics, gender and morality, but most overlooked, it held up a mirror to our uneasiness with technology and social media, where the private can become the public with a push of the button.   And as the private personal fantasy enters public reality, the consummation gives birth to the surreal.  

[1]“Resonant frequency” is the physics term describing the frequency at which a system oscillates at larger amplitudes than the normal  frequencies.  It is the reason your car will shake at certain speeds, but will smooth out if you go a little bit faster or a little bit slower.  
[2]Loving v. Virgina is the 1967 anti-State’s right, 14th Amendment case in which the Supreme Court outlawed the type of marriage that allowed current Justice, Clarence Thomas, to marry his right wing, tea partying wife.  Insert irony here.
[3]And the racism crosses cultural boundaries, from the notorious New Yorker cover to the birthers.
[4]F or M, you decide.
[5]Footnotes appear to be in my ironic blood today.  Judging from the treatment of David Vitter by the Republican power network, including Utah’s own hymn writing senator Orrin Hatch, Weiner would have been better off getting his sex the oldest fashioned way — paying for it.
[6]Congressional inquiries were made into whether Kinsey or the Rockefeller Foundation were Communists.  The sexualization of women had to be a Communist plot.  Newspapers and editorials lambasted Kinsey for his attack on “American womanhood”, all while he was telling them to pay more attention to the American woman’s hood.
[7]My apologies to A Princess Bride.
[8]And she didn’t literally “stand by” her man.

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