Anthony Weiner Sexts, My Head Does Not Explode

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Dan Savage thinks I'm trying to enforce my narrow vision of morality on Anthony Weiner's wife:


Lots of the sanctimonious, sexphobic, clueless dopes crucifying Anthony Weiner have claimed that they're speaking on behalf of his poor, defenseless wife--and these same dopes would turn on Weiner's wife instantly if she came out and said that she knew, didn't care, and wanted everyone to back the fuck off and back the fuck out. Mrs. Weiner would then be guilty of the unforgivable crime of undermining what marriage means to Megan McArdle.

UPDATE: I think it's unlikely that Mrs. Weiner doesn't give a shit, for the record, but there are wives out there who don't give a shit about their husband's online activities--as well as wives who engage in online sexting, texting, flirting, and Tweeting themselves. And one day a sex scandal is going to break and instead of playing the stoic victim, a la Mrs. Vitter and Mrs. Spitzer and Mrs. Clinton, the wife is going to join her "disgraced" husband at the press conference and they're going to announce that they have an open relationship. And Megan's head will explode.

This seems like a classic example of egotistical bias--the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must have the exact opposite of your values.  So if you're pro-life, pro-choicers don't care about babies; if you think that controlling carbon emissions would put too big a burden on the economy, then environmentalists must be secret communists who hate prosperity. And, of course, if America's leading "anything goes" sex columnist wants Weiner left alone, anyone who thinks Anthony Weiner's a jerk who did his wife wrong must be a bible-thumping prude who believes that sex is something that only happens between married people, in the missionary position, in the dark.

Of course, as regulat readers know, I'm a libertarian not a conservative, and heartily in favor of any arrangement that consenting adults care to make.  There's no reason that he should be aware of it, of course, but there's also no reason that he should start making up opinions for me to have on sexual morality.  If you don't want to do the research to find out what someone believes, then it seems to me that the most sensible thing to do is to avoid speculating about their motives.

Of course, it wouldn't have taken all that much research; it was right there in the post he linked.  Had Dan Savage read more carefully, he might have noticed that I said "This is, to be sure, a bit trickier in an era when people like me and Andrew accept that there can be healthy non-monagamous marriages." This is not the sort of thing that you usually hear from the sort of  sanctimonious, sexophobic dope whose head explodes when they find out that people have an open marriage.  (Check of proof: since college, I've had friends and acquaintances in various sorts of open relationship.  My head is still in one piece.)

For the record,  I'm not standing up for Abedin--I'm sure she would rather everyone ignored this.  I'm standing up for the principal that people who run around having illicit sexual interactions behind their partner's back are doing something scummy, and that it is perfectly legitimate to point this out pour encourager les autres.  People should be afraid of cheating.  They should not think that it is going to be winked at.

If, however, she had come out and said "Yup, this is how we rock it in our marriage," I would have said "Leave them alone".  A mite qualified, because Weiner seems to be using his position to interact with women in a way that's extremely risky for a man in his position--no matter how liberal America becomes, I'm not sure having pictures of your genitals on the net is ever going to make you anything but a figure of fun.  Still, all in all, my head would not only have failed to explode, but also been saying things like "It must have taken a lot of guts to say that on camera.  Bravo to both of them for their honesty and courage."

I suppose in some sense that this is about what marriage means to Megan McArdle--but as a longtime fan of Savage, I think that it's about what marriage means to Dan Savage.  Which is to say that you need to be honest with your partner, and that you both have to agree to what activities are acceptable, and what are not--and that with a few exceptions*, anyone who breaks that agreement is, erm, a "cheating motherfucker".

As long as it's honest, voluntary, and agreed, I support whatever arrangement people want to have.  Asexual, polyamory, swingers, whatever makes everyone involved happy.  To me, society can enforce norms about what constitutes acceptable sexual behavior--or it can enforce the norm that you and your partner(s) have to agree in advance upon what constitutes acceptable sexual behavior.  But it can't simply have no opinion at all.  Society survives by having very strong opinions on the rules for any interaction involving two or more people--that's why you're filled with murderous rage whenever anyone jumps in line, and why most people don't jump in line.  How are these rules enforced? By yelling at people who try to jump in line, shaming them in front of the group.  Not to educate the queue jumpers, who are usually the sort of people who have no shame. But to discourage others from following their lead.

I don't think Weiner should resign unless there turns out to be some sort of illegal behavior.  I don't even want to drag this out longer.  My point was actually a pretty narrow one, which is that there was no reason that the media should have refused to cover this.  The guy seems to have broken his marriage vows in a particularly public and ludicrous way.  He also sent photographs of his own genitals to, well, everyone.  And he invented singularly unconvincing lies in order to pretend that he hadn't, well, sent photographs of his own genitals to the public at large. C'mon.  If this were someone you knew, would you really expect everyone you know to pretend it didn't happen? I don't think that there's good reason to go looking for these scandals, but when they are, so to speak, thrust upon you, then I think you have to point out that this is not acceptable.

That doesn't mean this mistake should be life-ending, and--unless the rumors about minors prove true--I hope that he survives this.   But unless and until his wife says "I knew about this, and I was okay with it", I will continue to believe that he deserved at least a fair portion of what he got.


* I basically agree with Savage that if you refuse to have sex with your spouse for years on end, or to discuss alternatives, you are asking for it.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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