An attempt to explain Weiner

When I said last week, with regard to Anthony Weiner, that “Many human things are alien to me,” I was actually responding to a question a female friend had asked me, but which I didn’t post: “Do men think that sending such a picture of themselves to a woman is a way to turn her on?” The idea of trying to understand a man who thought that this was a way of attracting a woman was too bizarre. I could not imagine what was going on in the mind of a man capable of doing that, and I didn’t want to try. Hence my joking but serious reversal of the Roman writer Terence’s statement, “Nothing human is alien to me.”

On further thought, however, I have to say that Weiner’s behavior is not at all beyond comprehension. As we know, the polymorphously perverse nature of the human sex drive means that people are capable of sexualizing anything. Such sexualization of things that should not be sexualized ranges from the abnormal (sexualizing a shoe) to the criminal (sexualizing a child). Somewhere along the spectrum of abnormal sexual behavior is self-exposure. My theory is that the reason Weiner sent that photo was not that he thought it would attract the young woman, but that he got a sexual charge from exposing himself. What he did was strange and perverted, but it was not incomprehensible.

The really strange part is that a congressman thought he could get away with such behavior. But that also can be explained. We live in a culture in which more and more kinds of sexual conduct are more and more licensed. A man in a highly prominent place in life, admired by many people, with many women available to him, will have his sex drive—including his perversions, if he has them—goaded to a high pitch, even as his exalted position gives him the feeling that he can get away with anything.

UPDATE, June 7: A major problem with the above theory is that Weiner has sent other photos (the Daily News has them here), but, while odd and maybe perverse, they are not lewd. No other X-rated shots have turned up. So except for the one photo he sent to the Seattle co-ed, he doesn’t seem to have been driven by a need to expose himself. Unless we see the photos as describing a progress: the two earlier shots, of Weiner barechested and of Weiner leaning back with the cats around him, are perverse but not X-rated; then he graduated to X-rated.

UPDATE, June 8: Based on the further Weiner X-rated Facebook conversations published yesterday, I think a much simpler explanation of his behavior is possible: the man enjoyed engaging in sexually charged electronic exchanges with women he didn’t know, and he thought he could get away with anything he wanted to do, so he did it. End of story.

- end of initial entry -

Anna writes:

Replying to your post, it seems clear that Weiner is just an idiot. Regardless of human propensities, common sense should prevail. I laud keeping foibles private, and even in a culture where sexual activity is more and more licensed, if you are in the public eye, advertising is idiocy.

LA replies:

Do you think that “he’s just an idiot” is a sufficient explanation?

June 7

LA writes:

The NY Daily News quotes several psychologists on Weiner’s motivation, but I don’t find their explanations particularly insightful:

Manhattan psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert said Weiner’s behavior suggests he was looking for a rush.

“I see this a lot with high-powered people, usually men, where they’re thrill-seekers,” said Alpert, whose clients include Wall Street executives. “Often the risk of being caught heightens the intensity and makes it all the more thrilling.”

He said Weiner’s recklessness seems to have caused him to ignore a golden rule of asking, “Would it be okay if one of my constituents saw this or my wife saw this?”

Patrick Wanis, a human behavior expert, said Weiner seems to have been more interested in feeling powerful.

“What we are seeing is a new pattern of these people who are very powerful in their position, but they seem to lack power in their personal relationships,” said Wanis, who is also a celebrity life coach.

“It’s a person who says, ‘I’m trying to find a way to feel powerful because I have no power in my personal relationship.’”

Baltimore psychologist Frank Gunzburg said Weiner put himself on a slippery slope by trying to justify his behavior by saying his online relationships did not turn physical.

“You feel somewhat better because you haven’t gone over that barrier that others have crossed,” Gunzburg added.

But Yvonne Thomas, a Los Angeles-based psychologist, said cheating is cheating, even if it’s just online.

“It’s too affectionate, it’s too intimate,” Thomas said. “That’s stuff you reserve for only somebody who would be your partner. It’s not just for anybody. That’s what differentiates having a significant other.”

James P. writes:

I think “Weiner is just an idiot” is not a satisfying explanation. Thomas Bertonneau is closer to the mark when he says the elect think they cannot sin—“whatever they do is excusable because they are the elect.” We have reached a point where the elect can’t even be bothered to pretend to abide by the rules any more, let alone to conform to traditional concepts of honor, dignity, or decency.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 06, 2011 10:10 PM | Send

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