It's a really bad time right now for people who like to send naked pictures of themselves to their nearest and dearest. Which, isn't that most people? I would have thought it was most people, based on the fact that it seems like everyone loves nothing more these days than to take selfie after selfie. And what is a dick pic, after all, other than a below-the-belt selfie? Yet one of the most widely read and tweeted Weiner think pieces yesterday was Erin Gloria Ryan of Jezebel's "Should You Send a Lady a Dick Pic" in which the answer was a resounding NO (unless, of course, it's requested, and even then, Ryan says, you probably shouldn't.) This is depressing. What would a world without dick pics be like? Must we go back to the days before smart phones and the ability to send each other perfectly filtered photos of our most private parts? Did Anthony Weiner have to ruin everything good and dirty in this world? Why is he the absolute worst?
So, I'll stop with the rhetorical questions now, but I'm completely serious in my defense of sexting and my belief that it is totally possible to separate Carlos Danger and his dick pic-sending ways from Anthony Weiner and his mayoral candidacy. Here's the thing about sexting—it's really easy to make fun of other people's photos because it's really easy to laugh at the vulnerability of other people. Reading other people's sexts is like watching really, really amateur porn, its very earnestness negates most (if not all) of the sexual appeal. And so you can't help but laugh. It's a natural response, like giggling when someone falls down. Only, with sexting, it's like they're falling down naked, so it's a million times funnier.
The thing is, though, it really only reflects badly on those of us who are laughing, because what we're laughing at are private moments. Other people's sexts are not meant for public consumption, and when they become public, tempting as it is to mock them, we should at least keep in mind that what we're laughing at is human nature. Which is funny and absurd, sure, but ultimately banal because it's everywhere. Embarrassing sexual moments are anywhere you want to look for them. And so, it shouldn't matter if Anthony Weiner calls himself Carlos Danger (which, apparently is an homage to Chuck Norris? ha!) and it shouldn't matter if he writes things like "I like to whisper in your ear while I make love to you. That ok?" Although, "make love"? What? Who says that? Lame.
Anyway, it shouldn't really matter that Wiener was caught doing these things, but it does. Why does it matter? Well, it's not because Wiener has sexual proclivities that fall outside an idealized version of domestic marital bliss. That has never really mattered to voters. The list of politicians who have transgressed in this way and recovered is long and will only, as time goes on, get longer, not only because many politicians have the kind of narcissistic personality traits that seem to go hand-in-hand with serial adultery, but also because they're, you know, human. And humans transgress. It's what we do. If all that Anthony Weiner had done was cheat on his wife, it wouldn't have to be a public scandal. Or, at least, it wouldn't have to be a public scandal with such a long tail.
But that's not all Weiner did. Wiener, and his wife, have made a point of being public about their renewed marriage by collaborating on profiles in the New York Times and People. Weiner made a point of saying that he was living on some sort of redemptive trajectory, while simultaneously continuing to do the exact same thing that had originally been his downfall. While, on some level, the hubris required to do this is kind of impressive, it is also incredibly disturbing that Weiner's most consistent act in the last few years seems to be lying and expecting voters to forgive him over and over.
Forgiveness is a funny thing. It's frequently cited as being a positive trait, as an indicator of growth and maturity. Forgiveness is often associated with strength. And yet watching Weiner and his wife at the press conference they held Tuesday, the face of forgiveness looked anything but strong. In the face of Huma Abedin, as she on again reiterated her support of her husband as both a man and a candidate, we saw what forgiveness really looks like. And how does it look? Well, the Times spoke to many New York women who are utterly baffled by Abedin's ability to not only forgive Weiner for this latest humiliation but also to publicly stand beside him and continue to support him. Gloria Steinem—who thinks Weiner should leave the race—told the Times in an email, “I have no way of knowing whether Huma, for whom I have great respect, is responding out of new motherhood, the Stockholm syndrome or a mystery." Stockholm syndrome seems, at this point, to be the most likely.
But in the end, it's really none of our business if Weiner's wife chooses to forgive him for what he's done to her and their family. However, as voters, it is our business to choose whether or not we should forgive him for what he has done to us during the mayoral campaign, a campaign which he has, in the words of just about everybody, turned into a circus. And we shouldn't forgive him. We should not allow ourselves to play into this guy's self-imposed personal narrative of political-hero-turned-martyr-turned-prodigal-son. First of all, Weiner was never that great of a politician to begin with. Similarly to Spitzer, he probably wouldn't have had to leave office if he weren't doing such a mediocre job as a legislator. Not only that, but Weiner had virtually no political allies, even after all his years in politics. No one defended him publicly. for what he did. No one was in his corner. Even now, people don't like him, they like his wife. Why on earth would we want to elect a mayor who was a legislative failure with no friends? This is the political equivalent of being a virgin who can't drive. This city is about to bid farewell to a mayor who, agree with all his policies or not, was very good at making allies and working with the people who were important in terms of getting shit done. This is a good quality to have in a mayor. Weiner has demonstrated time and time again that the only people who want to be close to him are anonymous women on the Internet and, it seems, his wife. And as if all those reasons weren't enough, let's not forget, that Weiner is coming close to ruining sexting. This is a terrible thing! No one should ever have to feel bad about sending a dick pic (as long as it's, you know, consensual sexting), but now some people probably do. Probably because every time you hear the words "dick pic" now, you think of Anthony Wiener, and, for most people, that is just not a turn on. Weiner needs to go away, so that the innocence and fun that has always been a part of sexting can be restored. And, also, so that New York can have a mayor who can be a positive force for our city, who isn't constantly shaming his wife, and who can choose a better screen name than "Carlos Danger." Well, ok. Forget that last part. "Carlos Danger" might be the best screen name ever.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen