Wednesday, July 24, 2013

On Weiner and centaurs

The hip thing to do, in response to Weiner's infinite capacity to embarrass himself, is to adopt the stance that WWPD's most loyal commenter, Petey, does to all things, and be all jaded-like. Whereas the mainstream media, or tourists horrified by Times Square and not because of the commercialism, or those in strict religious sects, or who even knows... whereas the pearl-clutching contingent is oh so scandalized by Weiner's antics, where you want to be on this issue is, you've seen it all, or at least heard of it all, and Weiner's totally G-rated by your standards. Andrew Sullivan and Dan Savage both point us to Amanda Hess's Slate piece about, well, ostensibly about how in this day and age, everyone has stuff they wouldn't want revealed publicly, but also about how very dull and everyday Weiner's sexual interests appear to be. Seems he has a fetish for women's feet. "High heels! Can you believe this freak?," Hess asks sarcastically.

So there are two issues here. I'll start with the second. In this age of the Savage Lovecast, with the centaur fetishists and poly triads looking to incorporate a tail (without an animal attached, rest assured) into their lovemaking, in this age of Google, no matter what goes on or doesn't in our own lives, we who have not been living under a rock are aware that everything's out there. So a married man who carries out imaginary affairs on social media or via text with young but of-age women, this is not shocking from a proclivities perspective. People are into stranger things than that. (Even Dear Prudence brought us the incestuous male twins, and will no doubt arrive in centaur country soon enough.)

While a blasé attitude is called for when it comes to what goes on in people's minds, or (and fine, opinions differ) on their computers in a not-so-interactive sense (i.e. porn, as vs. offering a real, identifiable other human being an apartment), it's really not a given that every middle-aged man is doing what Weiner was. If some couples have arrangements where this is acceptable, fair enough, but I suppose I'm square enough (or, as Sullivan might say, female enough) that I wouldn't take for granted that this specific thing is completely typical behavior. On the centaur-to-missionary-position spectrum, yes, this is unremarkable. But not on the behaviors-one-must-put-up-with-in-a-partner one.

The first and more basic issue, then, is the question of private moments revealed. I'm not sure how relevant that is to a case of exhibitionism, of a man who on some level (erotic, power-games, some combination) enjoys risking scandal. This isn't as if someone was secretly recording his goings-on, or as if the NSA was like, hey, look what's on this guy's computer! Sexy photos of women in high heels! A family man has had thoughts about women other than his wife! What was notable was the indiscretion. He could have been sending really chaste but romantic messages to tons of women about how pretty he finds them, and it would have been similarly remarkable behavior for a married politician.

Nor is this a case of youthful stupidity catching up with someone. If you send an explicit photo (or consent to having one taken) when you're too young to have thought about the consequences, that kind of does - at least for those experiencing adolescence in the smartphone age - put you in the same boat as so many others your age, and not really indicate exhibitionism or even bad judgment. (Is there any other kind of judgment at that age?) I mean, it's not that Weiner wasn't caught, but that risking getting caught - or getting caught and then succeeding all the same - is his game

In any case, it would seem that the issue with Weiner and perversion isn't that we're such a uptight society that we can't imagine a married middle-aged man would fantasize about sex with some random 22-year-old woman. This is assumed to the point of beyond-cliché. It's that this little discretion, paired with so much ambition, suggests a perverse desire to be... not above the law, exactly, but to be someone to whom the rules of bare-minimum image-maintenance don't apply.

11 comments:

Petey said...

"The hip thing to do, in response to Weiner's infinite capacity to embarrass himself, is to adopt the stance that WWPD's most loyal commenter, Petey, does to all things, and be all jaded-like."

Good lord. I'm quite un-jaded about politics.

My entire frame to l'affair Danger is how it affects the chances of my favored DiBlasio getting into the run-off, where I think he can make toast out of (the-to-be-despised) Quinn.

Second best outcome, Thompson gets into the run-off, where he likely beats Quinn, but I've reservations of how close Thompson has moved to the real-estate lobby of late. Worst outcome, Weiner makes the run-off, where he likely loses to (the-to-be-despised) Quinn.

I may be 'jaded' in a sense about the circus, and resultant sociological natterings about broader gender meanings, or how it relates to our notions of relationships, but only because elections are about important stuff, which will affect real peoples' lives and the future of the city in a profound way. Elections matter. To provide another example, I didn't support Clinton over Obama in '08, (once Johnny Edwards had dropped out, of course,) out of gender-esque or racial-esque motivations, but merely because Clinton had repeatedly signalled she'd govern notably to the left of Obama. Policy trumps all for me. The circus only matters in its election effects. How's that for sincere and un-jaded?

The personal may be political. But elections are even more political...

Andrew Stevens said...

Centaurs!? If only fetishes were all so understandable! The woman doing the cyber-cavorting with "Carlos Danger" apparently gets turned on by health care reform. There are apparently no limits to human perversity.

caryatis said...

Seems like Hess is failing to see the distinction between sexual desires (whether for a given fetish or for cheating) and sexual behavior. For those who care about politicians’ fidelity to their wives, the issue is not that adulterous men are perverts, but that, if he can’t behave responsibly and keep his promises in private life, why should we trust him to do in public life?

So whatever sexual matters he was talking about with the woman he was cheating on his wife with matters less than the fact that he was cheating on his wife. I don’t think people would be protesting if he was able to keep his sexual desires between himself and his wife, even if she was wearing high heels or pretending to be a centaur.

Speaking for myself, I don’t care about either his fetishes or his fidelity, but his utter lack of self-control is worrying. I want politicians who have the ability to pause and rethink their impulses. And who can’t be easily blackmailed.

caryatis said...

Moreover...perhaps like you, Phoebe, something about Hess's post really rubbed me the wrong way. Some of the sex-positive feminists seem to have this tendency to believe that rape is bad, therefore any consensual sex is just fine (fine and INEVITABLE). Obviously this doesn't sit well with me as a person in a monogamous relationship. Shouldn't there be gradations between "utterly evil" and "just fine"?

Phoebe said...

Caryatis,

"Speaking for myself, I don’t care about either his fetishes or his fidelity, but his utter lack of self-control is worrying."

I think this is the consensus among the reasonable. If he seems like a fool who can't control his own impulses/image, that's it's own issue, quite separate from what he enjoys, and whether it's with his wife or with someone else but with his wife's consent. But another way to look at it is, one wants politicians with at least a semblance of... if not humility, exactly, an appearance of respect for rules. Weiner's specific approach indicates that he wants to break all the rules but be deemed so brilliant or decent or something that he must be elected all the same. Which feels like a Great Man complex, and isn't so appealing in a candidate.

Re: Hess's piece, something definitely didn't sit right, but what? I think you've almost hit upon what it is, but it's actually something even simpler. Hess appeared to ignore that Weiner is married, now with a baby as well, and that this is the root of the controversy. Weiner's behavior would have been far closer to yawn-inducing if he were single. But he's not. Which means that all of this is humiliating to another person, likely even if they have an open albeit not openly open marriage.

David Schraub said...

In any case, it would seem that the issue with Weiner and perversion isn't that we're such a uptight society that we can't imagine a married middle-aged man would fantasize about sex with some random 22-year-old woman. This is assumed to the point of beyond-cliché.

I'm not sure how much you've been following bizarre Steve Cohen saga, but that story (which started when folks raised eyebrows at Cohen' tweets to a young blonde bikini model) seems to indicate that the fact of such attractions itself is still seen as worthy of tongue-wagging (Cohen is a lifelong bachelor, so there's no angle there about cheating on a spouse).

Phoebe said...

David,

I hadn't been following that in the least - this is the first I'd heard of it. Google now tells me that this was a scandal-or-not because Cohen claimed the woman was his daughter, which does sound odd. Was he genuinely confused? Is our society so harsh on older men pursuing younger women that he made up what would be, in that context, a really creepy cover story?

Anyway, there are different sorts of tsk-tsking, right? I don't think it's thought odd if a man fantasizes about bikini models. But it's often going to be thought skeevy or entitled if a man pursues a woman well above his 'league'. But it won't be scandalous. I mean, apart from the inherent scandalousness in this country of an unmarried politician.

Which brings up another question: what's our culture's sex-negativity, and what's our culture putting a check on male entitlement in this one arena (politics) where it might otherwise (see Italy) run rampant?

caryatis said...

While we're complaining, I have a big problem with journalists' tendency to lump all of what they choose to call "sex scandals" together--as if there were no meaningful difference between an alleged sender of dirty pictures, like Weiner, and an alleged rapist like Strauss-Kahn.

caryatis said...

Well, I guess I can take the "alleged" out for Weiner.

David Schraub said...

Okay, sit down because this story is wild.

Cohen tweets a blonde bombshell bikini model saying she's beautiful. Press immediately smells blood and starts circling ... until he reveals actually she's his daughter! Specifically, his illegitimate daughter -- he found out about her existence about three years ago and did the math, and since then he'd been trying to make up for lost time.

Except, a few months later someone does a paternity test and it turns out he's not the father at all! And Cohen seemed devastated -- he really had come to think of this woman as his daughter (thus making this the only time a politician was sad to hear the words "the paternity test came up negative").

Craziness.

Petey said...

"My entire frame to l'affair Danger is how it affects the chances of my favored DiBlasio getting into the run-off, where I think he can make toast out of (the-to-be-despised) Quinn."

Woo-hoo!

I was actually worried for a few days that (the-to-be-despised) Quinn could leverage the gender implications of l'affair Danger to approach 40, but the new Q Poll is out, Quinn is nowhere is near 40, and de Blasio is in second!

Plus, given that all the de Blasio stories of late have been about de Blasio can't get no coverage, this should postively change the frame.

Double-plus, given that Weiner and de Blasio are competing in the 'progressive' space, as de Blasio looks more and more like the 'progressive Most Likely To Make The Runoff, he's a natural destination for some of Weiner's current 16.

Hell, it's even made me learn how to correctly spell de Blasio's name.

(Can you register at your parent's home in time for the initial primary? In low turnout summer primaries, each vote has immense weight...)