Home / Dave Brockington / Morality, Sexuality, and, uh, Politics.

Morality, Sexuality, and, uh, Politics.


This tells us something that we already know, sociologically and culturally, about the mindset of (some) Americans regarding the behavior of the honorable member representing New York’s 9th District.  However, it does so with an eloquence seldom seen on the issue:

America’s sex scandals (not the behavior, the “scandals”) are dangerous because they’re always about an interest in non-authorized sex. And because the lesson we’re always told they teach is that “too much” interest in sex, or “too little control” over our sexual impulses, or “too unusual” sexual desires are dangerous. And that the other kind of sexuality—one loaded down with guilt, shame, terror, and frigidity—is merely inconvenient, rather than a menace to society.

h/t Andrew Engelson of Only OK.

I’m not going to elaborate on the irrelevance of his behavior beyond the effect on his relationship with his wife and family in moral or governance terms.  However, he has become a minor political liability for my preferred party.  Nate Silver has a clever response.  New York will lose two districts in the reapportionment for 2012.  NY-9 has progressively become less Democratic, from 67% voting for Gore in 2000 to 55% for Obama (down one point from Kerry’s 56% haul in 2004).  As it would seem New York is set to lose one Republican and one Democratic district, just redistrict the extant 9th away.

It could be worse for the moral fascists.  It could be this guy.  It’s the same as George W Bush, only with underage sex as well.  [UPDATE: as commenter Kate points out below, it is quite clearly not “‘moral fascism’ if people are concerned over the accusation that he payed for sex with a minor?”  I greatly appreciate the observation.]

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  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    My first impulse has been to agree with this.

    On the other hand, in the last Weiner-related thread, a strong, feminist argument was made that (men) sending unsolicited pictures of a sexual nature (to women), even to adults, potentially constituted sexual harassment (though there was much concern about the word “harassment,” as it was generally agreed that this activity was not, in fact, tortious).

    I raise this because I do think these claims need to be taken seriously. The at least reflect the subjective experiences of some women. And there’s a long, ugly history of patriarchal power plays being excused by arguing that those opposed to them are prudes or puritans.

    Ultimately, I think, I come down on the side of Dave B here, and against those who think that the Weiner tweet constituted some form of harassment/assualt/etc. And the two key factors are: 1) the relationship between Weiner and the recipients (i.e. none; this was not, say, an employer-employee relationship) and 2) the actual content of the picture (which was, as pointed out on the other thread, tame enough for television).

    I do think, however, that this is a trickier case than either side of this argument wants to make it out to be. Simply dismissing concerns that Weiner’s behavior is a classic example of male privilege by declaring that those raising these concerns are prudes or a moral fascists won’t do. Neither will simply dismissing concerns that Weiner’s critics are prudes and moral fascists by invoking other concerns about patriarchy. An argument needs to be made.

    • John

      Sexual harassment has to be in a context of work, doesn’t it? You can’t sexually harass someone who you don’t work with.

      I guess it might be sexual assault (of rather the mildest variety), but I don’t see how we should be speculating about that until we get some actual evidence that any of the women involved was made uncomfortable by it.

      • jdkbrown

        What about crude sexual comments made to a woman simply walking down the street? That’s not in the context of work, but it’s certainly harassment.

        • John

          I think that actually qualifies technically as sexual assault, not sexual harassment.

          • jdkbrown

            Enh. I suppose we’re engaged in different discussions–I’m less interested in the legal question than the social/ethical question. So I guess I’m using the word “harassment” with its ordinary meaning rather than its technical legal meaning.

            • ptl

              jdkbrown, in England and Wales harassment can occur outside the workplace/school — as common sense would dictate.

            • Anonymous

              iB referred to an earlier discussion and that discussion had a lengthy commentary by me on whether sending unsolicited crotch shots is sexual harassment. Short version. Title seven and most state laws make actionable sexual harassment that occurs in the workplace but many dictionary definitions and common usage doesn’t restrict the term. I believe most people would agree that leaving obscene messages on a woman,s voice mail is sexual harassment even if the woman doesn’t work with the caller. At the least I believe that sending unsolicited crotch shots is tantamount to sexual harassment (and in many occasions worse conduct than what can be considered sexual harassment under Title Seven and state discrimination laws)

              • Agree with the general point 100%, but I don’t believe the recipient in this case has complained or implied she viewed it as harassment, no?

    • Scott Lemieux

      Yes. I don’t see what value there is in characterizing any behavior that is potentially objectionable from a feminist perspective as “sexual harassment.” I don’t believe that Weiner’s unsolicited crotch shots qualify — but that doesn’t mean his actions weren’t objectionable.

      • ptl

        Calling me “dear” is objectionable from a feminist perspective, and were you to do it, I would call you out on it. Telling me to get my tits out is objectionable etc., and I’d call you out on it, tell other people and cut you from then on in. Sending me a photo of your penis — unsolicited understood — is also objectionable etc. and I would hope I could do more than call you out on it, tell other people, and cut you; I might well call the police. And showing me your penis as I pass you in the street is again objectionable etc. and I’d call the police.

        So objectionable behaviour that is not assault may be legally actionable without falling under the heading of “sexual harassment (workplace)” or “sexual harassment (school)”, and could, in England/Wales, be covered by the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and/or the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

    • Kate

      Thanks for this. I think this is a good statement of how many feminists think about this issue, and it’s one with which I agree: http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2011/06/consent-matters.html

      (Yes, there’s a cultlike quality to Shakesville these days, but when you’re right, you’re right…)

      • Kate

        Darn. This was meant as a reply to Incontentia Buttocks above. Sorry. I really can use the reply button. Just groggy this morning, I guess.

  • Is there any evidence of non-consensual picture sending outside of the one he sent to Ms. Cordova? As far as I can tell, his naughty picture exchanging was generally done in the context of consensual flirtation and not junk shots sent to random women.

    • Scott Lemieux

      I believe this is correct. WIth my quibble about the “sexual harrasment” label noted, I think Mary Elizabeth Williams is good on why the Cordova picture is different and clearly objectionable.

      • John

        I don’t know. Cordova’s original statement came out when Weiner was still claiming his email was hacked and that he hadn’t sent the picture. It appears that Weiner was communicating with at least one woman he’d had an online flirtation with (the ex-porn star) and telling her to release a statement that was pretty similar to what Cordova actually released.

        I don’t think we can really take Cordova’s statement at face value. It definitely may not have been completely consensual, but I don’t think we really know enough to say for sure.

  • Kate

    Dave, just so we’re clear re: Berlusconi. Is it still “moral fascism” if people are concerned over the accusation that he payed for sex with a minor?

    • dave brockington

      Not at all. That’s very poor writing on my part, groggy myself this morning while writing it simultaneous to playing single dad to a precocious four year old.

      • Kate

        Thanks, Dave.

  • Kate

    Here’s the other thing. People keep asking if there’s evidence he sent unsolicited pictures *outside* of the one he sent (“as a joke”)to Ms. Cordova and which (whoops!) accidentally showed up on his public Twitter account? Why isn’t one enough to make you concerned, not only about his attitude toward consent but also about his the effect of his “non-vanilla” impulses on his judgment/impulse control? Why, for that matter, isn’t the fact that he apparently used his list of Twitter followers (who had no reason to suspect their following a U.S. Congressman would put them in such a position) to look for potential “sexting” partners? Isn’t that already a questionable conflation of public business (Twitter account of congressman) and private “non-vanilla” proclivities — one which suggests either that Weiner was already reckless or that his preoccupation with “sexting” had made him so?

    • DocAmazing

      Well, one reason is that his counterparts on the opposite side of the aisle have not generally enjoyed this kind of scrutiny, so there is a very strong question of what is motivating the attention that Mr. Weiner is getting of late. That does not diminish your point, however, and I agree that there is a question of judgment here. “Impulse control” is another of those phrases that has a technical meaning, though I see what you’re getting at; we can’t really know anything about his impulse control unless we know how many women he sent unsolicited pictures to. One is too many, but “impulse control” issues implies a pattern, and we don’t yet know what that pattern might be.

      Meanwhile, spare a few electrons to go after John Ensign, ‘k?

      • firefall

        Ensign has at least eventually resigned. How about Vitter, another actual criminal who is apparently immune?

    • There are a few issues to unpack here.

      First of all, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to insist that if we’re going to discuss this issue we should talk about what actually happened and not engage in pointless hyperbole. Weiner didn’t “tweet his dick all over the internet” or “send dong shots to random women who followed him on twitter” or anything like that.

      In the main, he engaged in consensual, online flirting and sex play with women who expressed support for him via social media. As far as I know, none of these women were actually constituents of his or otherwise asked for his assistance as a Member of Congress. One of his online paramours initiated contact with him by posting “Hotttt!” on his Facebook wall.

      So the incident with Ms. Cordova seems like an outlier unless further information is forthcoming. Who can say why he sent her the picture. Maybe he misconstrued their conversation, reading in sexual subtext where there was none. Maybe he was becoming unhinged and began sending unsolicited pictures as a way to up the ante on himself. Maybe He and Cordova were having a sexual flirtation and she wanted to keep that a secret from the press and her boyfriend.

      Either way, I don’t really care. As sex scandals go, this is really weak tea and I’m not interested in engaging in deep moral judgments or long-distance psychoanalysis of someone based on a penis tweet. Call me crazy.

      As it stands now, his constituents in NY9 want him to stay on and since they’re the ones who voted him in, I see absolutely no reason at all for him to step down. And if he does get redistricted out on 2012, I’d be happy for him to move out to Long Island and run against the douchebag who currently represents my district, Peter King. Not only would I vote for him, I’d send him money and go door to door telling other people to vote for him.

      Lasty, I’m more than a little disappointed with large chunks of the liberal blogosphere who seem ready, willing and able to indulge in neo-puritan bullshit rationalizations and throw one of the few strong progressive voices in Congress under the bus because he tripped their personal “ick-factor” switch. I’m sorry you had to think about a politician’s penis. I know that must be difficult for you. Get the fuck over it.

      • ptl

        I’m sorry you had to think about a politician’s penis.

        *rolls eyes* I’m sorry I had to think about how a woman felt when she received an unsolicited photo of Weiner’s penis; a whole lot worse, maybe, than I felt when a man I knew slightly send me a photo that was almost like that.

        My reaction to this Weiner business though is mainly this. He should resign because he showed such poor judgement and because he lied.

        • jeer9

          While I think most of the men in these past few days’ comments have agreed that Weiner’s behavior in that particular instance was reprehensible, if not legally actionable, I think this argument that he must step down is of a piece with the weaselly Wisconsin electoral tactics of Republicans in the Tea Party/small government thread above. Democrats are always called upon to adhere to a higher standard of conduct while the other side engages in similar acts of transgession (yes, Vitter, Ensign, Foley, etc., but often much worse: Bush/Cheney, Yoo, Addington, Bybee as regards torture and human decency) with impunity. It’s a game the corporate media plays in which personal flaws must inevitably reflect some essential poor political judgment in a liberal and merit social sanction or career termination (Spitzer) – but the personal cockiness in a conservative (Fuck the law! I will do whatever it takes to protect this country.) is only political – and barely worthy of judicial examination. That the Left acquiesces (or, worse yet, rises in moral indignation) when the scales are weighted in such a fashion means not only that the argument is ceded in advance (Where are your ideals, man?) but that the political double standard is tacitly accepted. Condemn Weiner to your heart’s content, but calling for his resignation or applauding Nancy (“Impeachment is off the table.”) Pelosi for demanding an investigation is pretty damn pathetic. A good deal of life seems to be conducted on slippery slopes, and liberals should pride themselves on finding the footholds that will help others rather than worrying that the public will think them no better than conservatives. An obsession with moral purity is not conducive to the goals of the non-Christian (irreligious?) side of the aisle and should not obscure the larger picture.

          • ptl

            An obsession with moral purity is not conducive to the goals of the non-Christian (irreligious?) side of the aisle and should not obscure the larger picture.

            well yes. (“Non-Christian” has many mansions. I’m atheist/agnostic. But I’m British, half the established church here is vaguely agnostic.) I don’t really care about Weiner’s moral purity. But I do care about his (alleged) non-consensual sex-texting. Necessity makes strange bedfellows. If I have, in this instance, to risk being associated with people who find sex icky, I will. I’ll find my foothold on the slippery slope.


      • Anonymous

        There was no prior conversation with ms. Cordova. She has said she had no contact with wiener other than deciding to follow him on twitter before she received the crotch shot. Any reason why you are choosing to disbelieve her and making up some story of a sexual flirtation

        Rather than talking about what really happened as you say you’re going to do you’re making shit up to slander a woman

        • Cordova and Weiner did have prior conversation. Corodva has said that the exchange was not of a sexual nature, but she declined to release the transcripts.

          It’s reasonable to suppose, given Weiner’s documented behavior up to this point, that either he believed there was a flirtation where none existed or that there was some flirtation and Cordova would rather not have that fact be known. I can’t see either of those theories as either “slander” or “making shit up”.

          It’s possible that more facts will come out and it will be shown that Weiner was regularly in the habit of sending unsolicited pictures to women who contacted him via Twitter. Should that be the case, I’ll withdraw my comments here and call for his resignation.

          Absent that, what we have is one picture sent to one woman one time. Not quite enough to demand someone resign, IMHO.

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    • timb

      cool, a racist is denouncing Dave on racist grounds. Will wonders never cease

      • dave brockington

        Oh that’s good. I know I’ve made it now. My work here is done.

        – Herr Doktor

  • thebewilderness
  • Sherri

    I don’t care what Weiner does with consenting adults, in or outside his marriage. I do care when he sends unsolicited pictures of his erection to a woman. That crosses the line for me. Consenting adults? Have all the orgies you want! Send all the pictures you want! No consent? Problem.

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    • timb

      first a racist and now a certified loon!

  • BarneyFranksSpeechTherapist

    Do any of you have a problem with a 47 year old man following and DMing a 17 year old girl? Anthony Weiner is a sick man and no amount of moral equivalence will justify or excuse his behavior. The Republicans want him to stay because it takes the Democrats off message. He should resign for the good of the party.

    • ptl

      I think he’s gone — nyt news alert — good news

      • Anonymous

        it appears he’s only taking a leave of absence. Didn’t know elected officials could do that

        • ptl

          So I see. I didn’t know they could, either.

  • TGSG

    Well, we all know there isn’t a Democrat in the country that has any morals anyway, so why should we be concerned with the “immorality” of a married 46 yr old, sorry I meant “honorable member representing New York’s 9th District”, having private chats with someones underage daughter, lying about it to the world and then after castigating newspeople, opponents, and “moralists” admitting to that whole “lying to the world about it” stuff.

    I mean really, if you’re a member of a party that tries to get elected on the platform of “we have no ethics or morals or compunction at all about anything you mouthbreathers might think are morals or ethics” why should we worry about ethics or morals at all?

    That is your argument isn’t it?

    • thebewilderness

      One variety of mansplaining is when they tell you what you think so that they can tell you how wrong you are to think it.
      TGSG just demonstrated this technique.

      • TGSG

        you didn’t answer the question.

    • timb

      the other mccain and patterico are covering this story in a way that will titillate you, dude, so maybe you should go back there.

      I spoke to my niece yesterday and she’s 16, does that qualify as talking to underage girls? When this charge has something specific to it, like the fact that he did anything more than basically email a 17 year girl advice and thanks, then you can come back and attack all “liberals,” as monolithic as they are, for being “immoral.”

      Can I assume that you will continue to ignore David Vitter in that instance?

      • TGSG

        strawman. you also didn’t answer the question and tried to change the subject to someone else.

        • timb

          I mean really, if you’re a member of a party that tries to get elected on the platform of “we have no ethics or morals or compunction at all about anything you mouthbreathers might think are morals or ethics” why should we worry about ethics or morals at all?

          That is your argument isn’t it?

          First, there is no strawman in my earlier reply and I think, once again, we see how conservatives on the internet, by and large, are just unfamiliar with the language of argument.

          Secondly, your question is bunk and it’s not my piece. It’s David’s, so quit calling your bastardization of a decent essay, “my argument.” Nonetheless, candidates always claim to be good family men and women (especially if they are not), because low information voters choose to vote for the your definition “sexual morality.” Thus, my a little honesty in campaigning would be nice, one shouldn’t expect it (for instance, it would have been nice to know Scott Walker meant “I will attack any interest group which might support the President,” rather than “I will try to balance the budget.”)

          Thirdly, much like I don’t ask my electrician or doctor or lawyer if he is faithful to his wife prior to engaging his professional services, I generally don’t ask my Congressperson.

          Fourthly, your party is the one who defends men who solicit prostitutes, pay off mistresses, and receive BJ’s in the front seat of their car while Speaker of the House while simultaneously attacking a guy who flirted with women on the internet and never touched any of them.

          It is troubling — in a moral sense — that y’all are bothered so much more by a venal sin and than a mortal one.

          Then again, the only consistency you know is the consistency of partisan affiliation.

  • Kate

    I have to wonder whether we moral fascists are allowed to be as disturbed by the Weiner/Twitter-groupies relationships as we are supposed to be, according to some LGM bloggers (coughSEKcough), by the Althouse/Meade relationship. If I don’t care whether or not Weiner resigns, may I simply mock him and his relationships for the rest of his career without being labeled a moral fascist?

    • Dave Brockington

      On the latter point, yes. You can mock him, I’ve done on my fb page. What he was doing in several of the cases is just plain stupid (while additionally several others, including what we know about the 17 year-old, was innocent; at least at this stage — again, we don’t nor can’t know what his longer range intentions were).

      Fortunately, “the rest of his career” is likely to be five minutes, so any angst will be short lived.

      As for the Althouse/Meade thing, I honestly don’t give a shit.

  • Flowers

    Once again.

    Men: No big deal.
    Women. Yes it is.

    Wow. The patriarchy is a persistent bastard.

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