Sunday, September 1, 2013

Camille Paglia aims low with Weiner

You know, I actually like Camille Paglia. She's interesting. She's some kind of left-pagan-atheist, but she's remarkably civil and manages to be thoughtful in her comments - plus she's something of a curmudgeon, and I tend to like those personalities. She's a good writer, she is actually fascinating to read, and she tends to have original ideas. That's not an easy mix to maintain as consistently as she does.

Anthony Weiner, meanwhile... I have no real opinion on. He's of the politically liberal persuasion, so I presumably wouldn't be enamored of his policies. I think his propensity for whipping his dick out on webcam is hilarious, and yeah, it's not appropriate conduct for... anyone who isn't a porn star, I suppose. So right away, I walk into the recent Paglia article with a bias in favor of Paglia.

But she made a move that I think is at once fascinating yet strangely despicable. She called for the psychoanalysis of Anthony Weiner as punishment:

But beyond that, I have been amazed by the almost total absence of psychological critique in news analyses of the silly Weiner saga. For heaven’s sake, Weiner is no randy stud with a sophisticated sex life that we need to respect. The compulsion to exhibit and boast about one’s penis is embarrassingly infantile — the obvious residue of some squalid family psychodrama in childhood that is now being replayed in public.
Oh really? We're going there? Alright then.

First things first: there's no such thing as a sophisticated sex life, much less one that we 'need to respect', aside from the ones associated with married men and women that are suitably private. Certainly not once we're privy to the specific details of them. That's the real problem with Weiner - it's that some tremendous detail of his antics beyond the fact that he was involved in some kind of online webcam quasi-cheating event. It's the difference between Bill Clinton 'having an affair with an intern' and Bill Clinton 'jamming tobacco products up some chubby intern's vagina'. The first one's vague, nondescript - you know the relationship, not the details. The moment details come in, things not only get more lurid, they get more amusing.

Which leads to the second. I was going to comment on how I'm not sure a nearly-70 lesbian is qualified to talk about what is or isn't infantile sexual behavior with men, but wikipedia lists her as a bisexual at the moment so she may be yet another ex-lesbian. Regardless, I think the comment still goes through. I'm not saying Weiner's behavior is excusable, or even normal. I am saying that I'm not sure Paglia's opinion here carries much weight.

But the third point... the real point... is that Camille recommends an interesting course of action with Weiner: psychoanalyze him. She's lamenting that no one has made this move yet, salivating at the prospect of how humiliating a drag through the mud there can be with this guy. She doesn't pause and ask herself why this is the case. You know, maybe the issue is that this isn't a "Weiner" thing, but more of a "quite a lot of people" thing. It's an internet age, people's self-respect is rather lower - there's a lot of body part pictures floating around out there at this point. Mock him over that, and you're not just mocking Weiner. You're mocking quite the large (ha ha) crowd.

At the same time I think... you know what? Do it. Let's touch that third rail, because I guarantee you - once we do that, we're getting the media equivalent of mutually assured destruction. Does Camille Paglia really think that she's immune to some tasty psychological analysis about her sexual proclivities? Or anyone else, for the matter? Let's start talking about people's sexual desires and activities and what drives them. Not 'who they're sleeping with' or who their husband or girlfriend or life-partner or paramour or whatever bullshit they're associated with. Let's talk about the acts. The kinks. The fetishes. The turn-ons. Let's ask what childhood trauma they experienced, what particular genetic defects they're privy to, to make them like what they like.

But I don't think we'll see it happening, because the world is not ready for that kind of honesty. Indeed, I think it's less ready now than it was ten years ago. It is, for now, a neutral zone that no one talks about, even in the popular press. And few people seem to have the guts to specifically analyze sexual preferences.

That's the funny thing. The closet never went away. It's only gotten bigger. We'll see just how big it can get in the coming years.

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