When Politicians’ Sex Lives Stop Being Private

This article is republished from Verities and Vagaries.

Ok.  I didn’t want to address it.  First, it seemed like a stupid thing to be talking about at all, and then it just seemed stupid, and now it’s mostly sad.  But I found that thoughts on the topic were accumulating, unbidden, in my head.

So, pardon my being unfashionably late to this particular pity party, but since you (hypothetical reader and one friend who actually) asked, here are a few musings on Anthony Weiner:

1.  I don’t care, in and of itself, that Anthony Weiner gets something out of online flirtations/relationships with women.

a.  Hey, doesn’t everyone go through an inappropriate instant messaging phase?  I did. Then again, I was…. not married.  And also… in junior high, when I couldn’t get any boys at school to flirt with me in real life.

b.  So to qualify the first statement, I think it’s pathetic that Anthony Weiner, smart, progressive mind, noted Democratic congressman, grown man, gets anything out of his virtual liaisons, but hey, he doesn’t want to legislate what I do with my body, and I’ll return the favor.

2.  The fact that Anthony Weiner is married adds another layer of sadness to the situation.  I feel a lot of sympathy for his wife, for whom this must be incredibly humiliating.  And the fact that he’s married makes Weiner’s dalliances a moral issue that they wouldn’t be otherwise (at least, unless it’s confirmed that he carried on such things with underage girls).

a.  But among politicians–or, more broadly, people in power– infidelity is so common that we can’t get rid of all the cheaters.  Nor, I think, should we.  I don’t think marital infidelity itself renders anyone unfit for office.  Unfit for matrimony, maybe, but skeazeballs can be smart, competent, and yes, even principled when it comes to carrying out their elected duties.

3.  What makes Anthony Weiner probably unfit for office is two-fold:

a.  He was too stupid and egoistic to realize that of course news of his exploits would come out.  Of course if you send multiple body shots to multiple women, using your real, elected name, somehow one of them is going to emerge.  That would likely have happened even if he hadn’t shot himself in the metaphorical and literal crotch by accidentally tweeting the infamous gray underwear pic.  Hell, much as I admired the man, if he had tweeted me such a pic, I would have at least considered selling it to Gawker and making a little money for grad school, so who’s to think one of the many ladies he was tweeting/texting/Facebooking wouldn’t have done the same?

b.  He was too stupid and egotistical to acknowledge that once the photo was out, the jig was up. He failed, spectacularly, to acknowledge the lessons of very recent history.  First, he witnessed the Chris “Craigslist” Lee debacle, and yet kept up with his steamy sexting. Then, he ignored a principle rule of dealing with scandals, which is that lying about it compounds the problem.  Now you’re a skeazeball and a liar.  And in addition to his own lack of common sense, Weiner thought that the media and America at large would somehow swallow (ugh) his lack of “certitude” and not ask any more questions.

Well, now the questions have been asked and answered, and once we’ve seen this much of an elected official, we’ve reached an over-saturation point.  I, for one, would not mind seeing any of Anthony Weiner for quite a long time.  And as for his gorgeous and talented wife, Huma Abedin, I hope she considers taking a cue from her boss’s career and running for office herself.

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  • anonymous99

    Really?  Isn’t the real problem the expectation of lifelong, romantic, monogamous, coupling (modern marriage)?  The whole concept has never worked and never will work.  It’s really an epic fail of an epic social experiment.


    I’m really confused by the fact that feminism has had contempt for marriage from the outset, even calling it slavery, which I agree with, but then ascribe “morality” to spouses stuck in an unnatural state.  I thought “morality” comments were the job of the right.

  • jadelyn

    And I really wish people would stop making it out like it was.  At least two of the women involved have come out as saying they did not consent to Weiner’s turning their interactions sexual or to receiving pics, which makes it HARASSMENT.  Not just an online affair.  The problem isn’t about his infidelity (which, does anyone know if Weiner and his wife were monogamous for sure?  Perhaps they had an arrangement.), it’s about his pattern of being willing to ignore consent and using his position to attempt to turn interactions with female fans into sexual interactions, without their consent. 


    And I have a sneaking suspicion that would be the major issue, at least in the coverage on purportedly-feminist spaces, were it not for the fact that before this all came out, he was one of our heroes.  Not to say that this is the only place I’ve seen this, and the news that it was not consensual has not exactly been widely-spread in mainstream coverage, from what I know of it, so this may be thoughts based on incomplete knowledge of the situation.  I don’t blame anyone for that.  But please, read the provided links.  This is more than “Good guy gets scapegoated over extramarital online flirtations”.  This is “Supposed ally uses his clout with fans to sexually harass women online.”  As feminists/womanists/pro-woman allies, we need to not treat those the same, because they aren’t.

  • anthonyjk

    Harrassment to me is when someone repeatedly makes sexual advances to another person after the latter has specifically expressed her disapproval.


    None of the women you note have ever said that Weiner ever forced himself upon them after making the initial attempt to come on to them; and nor do they say that they expressed their disapproval directly to Weiner.


    That is qualitaitvely different than what Anita Hill alleged that Clarence Thomas did, which was repeatedly make advances and come-ons towards her even after she openly told him to back off.  THAT’S more like the classical definition of harrassment.


    It may not have been wanted by the women, and Weiner is no prince due to his behavior….but on the level of sex scandals, this barely even rises above entry level.


    It’s almost as if some liberal women want to impose on men the same tightly restirctive sexual morality as the Religious Right want to impose on everyone else. How is that any different??


    If Anthony Weiner was a fighting Blue Dog conservative Democrat who supported antipornography legislation that some feminists favored, would that make his behavior more acceptable?? Based on the many conservative Dems whom have done much worse and survived unscathed, I’d have to say the answer is obvious.


    We cut our own allies at our own expense when we use the Right’s morality to prejudge our own. Just saying.




  • arekushieru

    I think you’re confusing two VERY different things. Sexual harassment and sexual assault.  Consent is always required BEFORE any sexual advances are made.  

    Sexual harassment is sexual harassment.  There MAY be degrees but there is no point in trying to mitigate the effect of certain types of harassment by avoiding calling it what it is.