SYNDICATED COLUMN: Sexual Freedom: The Next Frontier

No One Should Be Judged Because of How They Have Sex

If slavery was America’s original sin, Puritanism was its original curse.

In recent years the United States has made significant strides towards greater equality and freedom. Racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry have been significantly curtailed by new laws and cultural education. But we still have work to do. Four centuries after people so uptight they couldn’t get along with the British invaded the New World, however, the United States remains one of the most sexually repressed Western countries.

It is not good for us.

“If expression of sexuality is thwarted, Christopher Ryan wrote in Psychology Today last year, “the human psyche tends to grow twisted into grotesque, enraged perversions of desire. Unfortunately, the distorted rage resulting from sexual repression rarely takes the form of rebellion against the people and institutions behind the repression.”

In other words, mean parents, churches and right-wing politicians.

“Instead,” Ryan observed, “the rage is generally directed at helpless victims who are sacrificed to the sick gods of guilt, shame, and ignorant pride.”

Like, for example, gays. Fourteen states still had sodomy laws on the books by the time the Supreme Court invalidated them in 2003.

And the occasional politician.

Former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner is the most recent in a long line of elected representatives to step down because of a “sex scandal.”

I use scare quotes here for a simple reason: Sexual expression should never result in a scandal.

It’s been more than a week since Weiner resigned after getting caught sexting naughty pictures of himself to women via Twitter. Weiner was a liberal, so ideology wasn’t at issue.

Most of the Democrats I talked to had the same weird take on Weiner. They weren’t offended. Not personally. They themselves didn’t think he had done anything immoral, or illegal, or that he had betrayed his constituents. They didn’t care.

They questioned Rep. Weiner’s judgment. Didn’t he know he might get caught, and what would happen if he did?

What Weiner did wasn’t bad, at least not bad enough to warrant resignation or impeachment. To most Democrats, including the House leadership, Weiner’s mistake was tactical—his failure to anticipate the outrage of other people that reflected lousy judgment—a personality flaw that required him to fall on his (much photographed) sword.

They didn’t care what he did. They didn’t like Weiner’s failure to be discreet.

It is time—well past time—that we Americans grew up.

No one, not even a politician, should be pressured to resign because of sex.

Even when they’re a hypocrite.

Perhaps like you, I snorted when Larry Craig, the anti-gay Idaho senator was arrested (and plead guilty to) cruising a men’s room with his “wide stance.” Here was a right-wing Republican who opposed gay marriage, allowing gays to get domestic-partner benefits, or even banning employment discrimination against gays, cruising for hunky tail at the Minneapolis airport.

“Let me be clear: I am not gay. I never have been gay,” he told a press conference.

Fun stuff. And hardly the first time a gaybasher got caught with his, um, you know, in a, well, um, nevermind.

Miraculously, Craig got to finish his term. But his political career is over.

Looking back on Senator Craig now, however, I think we progressives missed a teachable moment.

Rather than ridicule the man, we ought to have defended him as a victim of an unjust law. In the 21st century, why should anyone go to jail for soliciting consensual sex?

Also, we should have exploited Craig’s predicament as an opportunity to create a dialogue with him, to ask that, given his own status as a gay or bisexual (he was married) American, he reconsider his antigay politics.

One day, I hope, we will live in a nation where another person’s sexual expression is no one’s business but theirs and their sexual partners. We will be allowed to do whatever we want with whomever we want, as long as what we do is with a consenting adult.

Even if we take pictures and post them online.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is


10 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Sexual Freedom: The Next Frontier

  1. Anthony Weiner’s actions are more reflective of garden variety narcissism than any sexual kink or even a lack of judgement. He just assumed that he was so wonderful that strangers would love to see his pecker. Unfortunately for Weiner, Andrew Breitbart did indeed like what he saw.

    If all the narcissists in Congress resigned, there wouldn’t be anyone left in the capital besides the cleaning staff. Maybe that would be an improvement? Alas, politics does seem to select for a personality type and that type often prevents competent leadership.

    • I’d say Weiner is an exhibitionist. As far as we know, he never intentionally sent his dick pics to anyone who wasn’t interested.

  2. Puritanism, schmuritanism. In true NYT weasel language fashion, I would say that “some” could claim that what Weiner did is no different than him opening his trench-coat in the park to flash those women. Flashing is an offense in most places, even if it’s not a violent one, so there’s room to claim that the ex-Congress critter’s actions border on the illegal, or that they could be made illegal, for coherence’s sake.

  3. Puritanism is indeed our curse, along with the First Great Awakening led by Jonathon Edwards (oh for us to be rid of Jo(h)n Edwards’!!!! for they are all giant douches). I agree that Anthony Weiner didn’t do anything wrong, he just offended puritan sensibilities and he wasn’t on the side of politics where he was valuable enough to defend . . .as opposed, say. . . to Trent Lott. . .

    It’s still absurd to me that truly criminal action is accepted as normal, yet peoples’ careers fall for complete BS….

  4. Weiner lied about what happened, and then asked others to lie as well. That’s what did him in. Before you start saying “all politicians lie and people expect them to”, it’s not the same thing. He made such an egregious lie that he ruined himself. Blaming right-wing bloggers, etc … was the worst thing he could do. What did he think was going to happen, that he would be able to rig web logs or something? When that fell apart, the final straw was his asking the recipients to lie for him. Note, that was when he resigned – after the part about his asking others to lie.

    Recall Nixon: “It’s the lie”.

    Weiner discredited himself to the point of absurdity and that is why he’s gone. Not because he tweeted his dick.

  5. I don’t agree. He lied because he wanted to avoid an extreme embarrassment. The fact that he stuck it out as long as he did shows that he thought he could pull a Vitter or Craig and stay in office. The lies are what made it untenable for him to stay, specifically when the one woman came out and said he asked her to lie. That was the end. Not the dick tweeting. People didn’t really care about that as much.

    • Circular logic.

      If society, and especially the media, wasn’t childish about sex, Weiner would have had no reason to fear the public learning about his proclivities. He lied because of social mores. You can’t separate one from the other; sexually liberated society equals no reason to lie.