Why Anthony Weiner’s Behavior Wasn’t Harassment

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If the first stage of sex scandal coverage is gossip, the second is cultural analysis. The second stage helps justify our prurient delight in the first. (I suspect that the only people who don’t enjoy sex scandals are the scandalees, not the scandalized.) But it also represents an instinctive desire to make sense of stupid or reckless conduct by people in public life who we presume should know better.

Besides, like gossip, analysis of sexual behavior is a game almost anyone can play. Unlike most national or global crises, its exegesis demands no particular expertise. Common sense, sexual experience and, these days, a little understanding of social media provide all the necessary analytic credentials. Professional sex scandal experts—pop psychologists who claim special, secret knowledge about our psyches—are generally fools or hucksters, like pop politicians on the other side of the looking glass who claim that solving complex economic, environmental or international problems and potential catastrophes requires mere common sense and a commitment to passing legislation no longer than three pages.

But as much as I value cultural analysis (and indulge in it) I’m sometimes wary of the generalized lessons it tempts us to draw from particular cases. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and one man’s sins or indiscretions tell us a lot more about him than the rest of us. So while Anthony Weiner‘s apparent self-centeredness, exhibitionism, and instinctive dishonesty seem quite familiar and reminiscent of other successful or temporarily successful little power mongers, his lamentable failings are, in my view, universally human, although they may be expressed in culturally specific ways.

Read the full article at The Atlantic Monthly…

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