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Reflecting on the Furor of Sexting

I just don’t get the media hype about congressman Weiner’s tweeting and sexting. Presumably if it was done on work time or in his office one could make the argument he was being unethical with government time and money. On the other hand, the manic obsession of reporters hounding him was totally out of proportion to his infractions from my viewpoint. It is true that to engage in this kind of duplicitous behavior when a newly wed with a baby on the way. And it reveals he is either a really self-absorbed, narcissistic cad or deeply overwhelmed and stressed out. Assuming his wife was oblivious to his sexting other women he clearly has some major work to do to save his marriage! And rethinking his own motives might be a good idea as well. But what was the media hype about and what exactly is so bad that the public had to be kept informed so minutely as to his behavior?

One therapist and author, Dr Marty Klein, whom I greatly admire suggests that it was because his behavior reveals he is not into vanilla sex. And we all know that those who are not vanilla get punished. He also asks how it is that we don’t also give as much obsessive attention to the sex phobic congressmen (most are male) whose Christian fundamentalism does such damage in our culture? This reveals we can be vanilla (that is engaging in sexually acceptable acts) and act out sexually repressive biases and pathologies without anyone noting or caring, and certainly not condemning! And this is particularly true if, at the appropriate time, there is a public apology, contrition followed by attempts made to remedy the mess one creates. How many of these rituals by male public figures have we been through? The standard script is now routinized.

Let’s be clear that nowhere does the Bible come off as the sexually repressive book that sex phobic Christian legislators claim. Nowhere does Jesus come down as being against sex… or pleasure of any kind. To the contrary, Jesus used metaphors and stories that revealed his appreciation for the sensuality of life and he violated a significant number of sexual/gender rules to make his suspect. So where that leaves us is this latest brouhaha is not about Christianity or morality. It is instead about a deeply fearful culture attempting to punish public figures who step of line in their private lives. Frankly, I think it is about sexually repressed people being very fearful that someone is having more fun than they are!

However, because the church has focused so much on prohibiting “putting Body A into Body part B” (a phrase of Jessica Valenti the author of “The Purity Myth”) we have said very little about emotional infidelity. And, we have not as communities of faith thought through what infidelity even means if the parties are intentionally open to multiple intimate relationships.

            The ethical issue with the Weiner behavior is that if we choose, for whatever reason, to step beyond being ‘vanilla’ in our sexual behaviors it must be done ethically. This means being honest with our intimate others about what we are doing or want to do and why as well as considering, in advance, potential consequences for all parties!

            So, is sexting strangers violating the church’s sanctions against marital adultery? Probably not, technically. But then again, as we tell all young adolescents, “Don’t do it especially because of the fall out if it becomes public.” And Representative Anthony Weiner is prime "exhibit A."


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