What’s the difference between New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner and your garden-variety flasher?
The editorial boards of the big New York papers—the New York Times and the Daily News—have called for Weiner, a Democrat, to abandon his campaign to be the city’s mayor, based on the fact that he lied about his rehabilitation as a serial sexter after his habit of sending nude or nude-ish selfies to young women led to his resignation from Congress two years ago.
While I agree that the lying is reason plenty to demand that Weiner end his mayoral bid, there’s something worse than lying going on here. The kind of selfie-sending in which Weiner has engaged is predatory, even if some of the recipients of his photographic outreach were receptive to it.
I don’t mean to be a buzzkill on the Weiner jokes. Go on, laugh at the absurdity of it all. I certainly have. But this is no mere sex scandal, as some in the media have framed it; this is not simply about Weiner’s infidelity to his wife. (And yes, I think it’s fair to call cellphone sex with women who are not one’s wife “infidelity.”)
This is a scandal of sexual predation.
The most disturbing aspect of the Weiner scandal lies in his compulsive seeking of attractive women, often very young, for the purpose of cyber-flashing them. Really, if Anthony Weiner lived in an age before the advent of social media and smartphones, he might well be riding the subway wearing nothing but a trench coat, scanning the straphangers for the youngest, prettiest woman in the car to shock with his mighty sword.
When the scandal that ran him out of Congress broke in 2011, it was revealed that Weiner made a habit of responding to certain female fans who had sent him messages of kudos for his political actions with a series of messages that quickly turned sexual. Some welcomed these, finding it flattering that a star congressman would take such an interest in them, but at least one college student was shocked when he sent her a photograph of himself in underwear, sporting a bulging erection. Genette Cordova told the New York Times that she had not exchanged any messages of a sexual nature with Weiner when she received the underwear shot.
At the June 2011 news conference at which Weiner addressed that first round of allegations about his selfie-sending and sexting, he said he had sent Cordova the underwear picture as “part of a joke.”
“I still didn’t get the joke part of it,” Cordova told the Times.
When I was 17, I was walking on the sidewalk in my suburban neighborhood when a guy driving slowly down the street called to me to ask me for directions. When I approached the passenger’s side window, his real M.O. became apparent: his underwear and pants were around his ankles.
That guy and Anthony Weiner have a lot in common. If there’s any one reason for Anthony Weiner to leave the political stage for good, it’s that one.