Post 3.9 - Polling the Electorate

Two days ago, Representative Anthony Weiner of New York admitted that he had sent "inappropriate" photos of himself to a female college student in Washington state over Twitter. I am not sure why we're all surprised by this, nor am I sure why the United States or the American media are apoplectic over this.

Millions of people -- literally millions -- have sent some form of risqué image of themselves to other people. Every new technology has been sexualized whenever possible, especially over the last two centuries. Pornographic photography is as old as photography itself, and once cameras became cheap enough to be available to the masses, people sent self-images to the objects of their sexual affection.

The internet is just faster and a lot less private. But I can't get upset at little (or not so little) Anthony for being as human as the rest of us.

"But he's a married man!"

Do you think he is the first married man to do this? He's not even the first member of the US Congress to do this.

And I am going to go further and say that I don't think it is even a bad thing for married person to do, male or female.

If you've been reading this segment of this blog, I've been talking about ways to make our sexual experiences more gratifying, including better communication, exploring fantasies, etc. The internet sex industry is built around fantasy and communication, and can reach virtually any level of gratification one wishes. Rep. Weiner never met this college student, nor any of the other women with whom he has interacted online in this manner; they never had sex, there was no exchange of bodily fluids, etc. For comparison, think about former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, or even former President Clinton -- Weiner's situation is in no way the same thing.

Ok, so was it an emotional betrayal? I am not sure it is. Humans like eye candy, humans like variety, and to me, this is no different than masturbating, just doing so with an online, interactive partner. There was no emotional connection that has been admitted in this whole thing, just a little fun between adults that was largely visual and cerebral. He never intended to meet anyone, and never did.

Ultimately, the masses who do this in the privacy of their own homes enjoy one singular trait that Weiner does not: anonymity. This is ultimately the issue. Social conservatives believe our elected leaders should be held to a higher standard of behavior if for no other reason than to set an example. While many of our conservative brethren feel empowered to pass judgment on Weiner's behavior, they may be (and many are) doing the same thing, just out of public view.

Believe it or not, I made the same mistake once.

Ok, mistake may be the wrong word, because I have no regrets about it -- but I certainly failed to realize or recognize what was about to happen.

When I was a college junior, I posed nude for a fellow student's art project in photography. He was my roommate, I felt comfortable with the idea in the abstract, so I agreed. I remember going behind a partition to undress, and once all my clothes were off, I suddenly felt this oh God what am I doing feeling. He coaxed me out, had me in the various poses as a study in the human form, and we took the pictures. It was not a negative experience at all, it was not pornographic or erotic (at least, not to me or to him), and I largely forgot about it after it was done.


I went to the library, as one does when one is in college, and I was checking out books at the counter. The freshman girl processing my selections kept looking at me and then over my shoulder. After a moment or two, I decided she likely did not have a twitch, and I turned around to see myself naked, spread eagle, in all of nature's glory -- among other pictures from other students' projects.

I am sure I blushed. It never occurred to me that anyone would see the pictures I had posed for. The photo shoot had felt very private, somewhat intimate, and a singular event between myself and the photographer. And in that awkward moment, I realized I was suddenly public domain.

At least it was art, and my college community was very small, but this is the basic understanding that people miss in their online activities -- there is always, always the potential that the image you send via your mobile phone, via e-mail, via Twitter, via website, via any electronic means will go to the world. It is out there forever. You can become public domain without realizing it, even if you feel safe and ensconced in a conversation with someone for those brief, possibly orgasmic moments.

But back to the original point. I think women are going to see this as a betrayal, and men are seeing this as a "mistake" -- as sex for women tends more often to be about emotional connection than physical release. But either way -- so what? Rep. Weiner has been an advocate for his constituents and has been serving his country publicly and is on his 7th term in the House of Representatives. We have so many other things to worry about in our country right now -- unemployment, housing prices, the overall economy -- I think we can stop gasping over someone being naughty online.

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