One thought came to mind when I heard the news that former congressman Anthony Weiner had once again sexted with a woman other than his wife: Why does it matter? Of course, it probably matters to Huma Abedin, the mother of his child (that is, assuming that they have an agreement of monogamy, and that their definition of monogamy includes refraining from sexting with others). But why should we care?
These new sexts allegedly took place after the New York mayoral candidate’s post-scandal resignation from Congress, and continued until as recently as last summer, according to gossip site The Dirty – and Weiner admitted in a press conference Tuesday that, “Some of these things happened before my resignation. Some of them happened after.” That timing is supposed to be important, because he had already apologized for doing the exact same thing. He was supposed to be a changed man, right? Well, Weiner has at least learned to ‘fess up this time around: He admitted earlier this year that there might be other sexts out there and today he confirmed that he did indeed send these new messages.
We could get up in arms about his duplicity toward the general public. We could act indignant about the fact that he hasn’t been forthcoming about aspects of his intimate life. But why not instead be angry that we live in a country that requires him to be dishonest about his struggles with monogamy in order to maintain his career? Maybe we instead should be outraged by the hypocrisy of everyday Americans shaking their fingers at Weiner — and then using that same digit to tap out a sext to someone other than their spouse.
He isn’t a Spitzer. He hasn’t campaigned to make sexts illegal. Nor has he, like some conservatives, fought against same-sex marriage on the grounds of preserving the sanctity of marriage. His hypocrisy is a deeply personal one: He said that what he did was stupid and then he did it again. Well, let ye who is without embarrassing sexts cast the first stone. (Side-note: I read some of Weiner’s messages out loud to my partner, guffawing after each — until he jogged my memory about a few that I had sent to him in the early days of our relationship and I proceeded to shut the hell up forever on that topic.)
We might tell ourselves that this reveals something relevant about Weiner’s character — his absurd ego or penchant for risk-taking, perhaps. But are these not also qualities that might make him a good politician? Have we not seen similar characteristics in Bill Clinton, John Edwards and so many other talented-but-philandering politicos? I can’t help but think that we are disturbed by his lack of sexual control not because it is relevant to his job but because it reminds us of the ways that we sometimes feel overpowered by sex. It’s nice to imagine that the people we trust with running our cities, states and country are infallible, unlike us. That they neither piss nor shit nor take dick pics.
Well, guess what, they do. The question is whether or not their personal weaknesses interfere with their ability to do their job — and how much we play a part when it does.