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It’s all about sex, and that’s the shame

June 13, 2011

What would happen to your career if your erotic desires were made public? Depending on where you work and what you do for a living, you may well risk losing your job. This reality has nothing to do with your ability, but everything to do with our discomfort as a nation with the issue of sexual expression.

Deviance is defined by a group’s reaction to an act. Our reaction to other people’s sexual expression tells us a lot about our culture and its sexual values, but nothing at all about the nature of sexual expression.

Anthony Weiner is a victim of the same social discomfort that is faced by teachers, judges, and anyone else in whom the public’s confidence can be shaken once their personal desires become public.

The persecution of Anthony Weiner is wrong. He is guilty of nothing more than flirting and the only person who has any right to be angry is his wife. Did he handle the situation well? No. I wish he had been brave enough to tell the truth at the outset. It will be a banner day when a politician, caught in a legal, consensual act of sexual expression, looks up and says, “Yes, I did that. Now, can we get back to work?” Weiner lied because of the sexual shame that pervades our society and which is being rained down upon him now that he finally told the truth. This shaming is particularly galling because there wasn’t even any hypocrisy here, just the sad irony that a man who routinely fights for sexual equality panicked when his own sexual expression was suddenly and unintentionally exposed.

Anthony Wiener is brash, unconventional, and he doesn’t lie well. He usually pulls no punches in speaking the truth as he sees it. In many ways he is an ideal public servant.

It is my deepest hope as a constituent of Rep. Wiener that he resists the calls for his resignation. When his term is over I hope he runs for reelection so we, his constituents, can exercise our freedom to decide who represents us. Many of us are much less bothered by all this than are his colleagues in Congress, but he represents us, not them. I am furious that in the midst of three wars, an economic crisis and the dismantling of public services, the leadership of the Democrats are focusing their outrage on one man’s cyber-flirting. I’d like to remind them that while they can harass and bully my Congressperson, only we in New York’s 9th Congressional District can fire Anthony Weiner, and I’d venture to guess that if a vote were taken tomorrow we would return him to Congress to do what he does so well: represent the liberal values of his constituents and needle his fellow democrats when they make too many concessions to the right.

Others may say that the problem with Anthony Weiner is that he can no longer credibly do his job. If that becomes true it is our own fault. It is not a result of his flirting with women online. It is entirely a product of our reaction to his flirting. And that is truly a shame.



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