29 July 2013

The Politics of Undocumented Sex

Curiously, Anthony Weiner is about to lose an election because of virtual rather than actual sex.

I remember reading the Starr Report on Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky. In one segment, the report graphically described Clinton approaching climax in the Oval Office. I remember thinking that if you could graphically describe a president's bowel movement you would probably cause a spike in disapproval of any former White House occupant. Some acts, while inherently human, certainly don't seem presidential. Starr realized that it wasn't enough to accuse Clinton; he had to graphically describe what he did. Weiner did Starr's work for him, "documenting" what didn't even happen.

What's curious about Weiner's sexual problems is that he apparently didn't have sex with any woman. His was an act more akin to interactive erotica than actual sex. Still, it leaves behind a trail of evidence far more graphic than actual sex and for that reason I think that these acts of virtual sex will do more to de-rail politic careers than actual sex that is left rather abstractly described. "They had an affair" sounds less offensive than "He, turgid and eager, raised above ..." even if the first is real and the second is virtual.

In most of corporate America, work isn't real unless it is documented. In a social world increasingly defined by Facebook and Twitter, a good time undocumented by pictures is suspect. Finally, a sexual indiscretion that is documented - even if it didn't happen in the physical world - is more real than one that isn't documented - even if it did happen in the physical world.

Oh, and one last thing. All the pundits are saying that Weiner should drop out. Weird. He's running in an election. Last I heard, the voters decide if this sort of thing disqualifies you. If it is as bad as the pundits think (and it probably is), that will be reflected in the polls. But again, elections let voters weigh the difference between the veteran who might be too cozy with lobbyists or the rookie who seems clean but is probably clueless, the actor who can deliver great speeches but seems sketchy on policy implications and the policy wonk who makes  voters' eyes glaze over. As much as pundits would like it to be different, voters still decide.

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