Like most people, I am both amused and shocked by the latest Anthony Weiner sexting revelations and scandal. It is like a car crash where it is hard to look away even though you know you should.
I am fascinated by the “medicalization” of Weiner’s behavior by some sectors. This CNN clip with therapists is to me a good example.
The words “sexual addiction,” “exhibitionism,” comparisons to alcoholism, “not in control of his actions” are bandied about. This to me has fascinating echoes of the medicalization of homosexuality in the 70s and also the medicalization of the choices made by the transgendered. There like here the strategy is fraught. The patient has to perform the “sick role” as a way of excusing himself from responsibility and/or earn governmental support.
The comparison, though, prompts the following question (and yes I am purposefully trying to be provocative so take it with the appropriate grain of salt): As with homosexuality, what is the underlying problem here that calls out for condemnation? Is this merely legal moralism rearing its head again? What’s so wrong about sexting?
Well, let’s try to answer the question. Let’s take the Weiner situation as our case study. Weiner did many things wrong in the first and more recent revelations. He lied and misled the public about what he had done. He flirted virtually with a woman other than his wife and potentially embarrassed his wife (though this strikes me as less wrong then an extramarital affair which is de rigeur in politics). He showed a technological stupidity in sending it out on his twitter feed. Perhaps he showed “bad judgment” in doing something where he would likely get caught (as an aside, does that mean we want our politicians to be better at doing wrong things so we don’t catch them?)
All of these are contestable, but I will grant they form a basis of condemnation.
But factor these out for a moment. The act of Sexting itself. Why is that wrong? If one person (and to factor out infidelity, lets say both are single) shows off their naked body to another in the form of a photo, what would make that wrong?