The Fidel Castro Of The Sexual Revolution
I nominate Richard Goldstein, a journalist and dirty old man who, at 69, transmits sexytime images of himself to strangers over the Internet [Note: I fixed the link, which takes you to the Atlantic piece. — RD]. His Atlantic essay in defense of Anthony Weiner chastises fellow Baby Boomers for losing their revolutionary zeal. This one is a keeper. Excerpts:
Aging, and the insecurities that come with it, have made it difficult for many people of my generation to tolerate the flexibility they once reveled in. And respectability has turned once-ostracized groups into paragons of virtue. Gay pundits with a short memory now sing in the choir of contempt for Weiner. “Diaper-changing one moment, dirty talk the next,” clucks Times columnist Frank Bruni.
It’s important, in this climate of contraction, to reiterate the first rule of sexual ethics in the ‘60s: “First, do no harm.” The most salient question for heirs to the Revolution should be: Whom did Weiner hurt? If we take his wife, Huma Abedin’s, words at face value, she isn’t happy about his online escapades, but she doesn’t think they merit breaking up their marriage. This is the way many spouses might reason in a similar situation. Applying the values of sexual liberation we must conclude that each couple is entitled to make its own decisions about what behavior is acceptable and what is not.
Sexting appeals to many people precisely because it provides a relief from the burdens of being known that intimacy can create. I say this as a married man [N.B. He’s gay. — RD] who cherishes the risk-free freedom that online flirting can create. I am, while I play this game, the rascal of my dreams. There is conquest, coquetry, intensity––all without threatening the love I feel for my spouse. And there is an almost literary ability to project myself into fantasies I would never want to act upon. Clearly many women appreciate this outlet as much as I do, since they participate in it. But have any of Weiner’s critics actually tried sexting? Presumably not. They are a veritable scout troupe of probity––or perhaps they have never learned to use a webcam.
The herd mentality is particularly strong when it comes to sexual conduct, and those who indulge in a disgraced practice seldom have the courage––or the opportunity––to speak up. How many people who enjoy pornography have said so? When was the last time you read a defense of an unorthodox marriage? (Bear in mind that nearly half of all married people, surveys tell us, will depart from monogamy at some point.) My generation has loosened the restrictions we grew up with by allowing for same-sex unions and single parenthood, only to contract them as tightly as our sphincters will allow when it comes to the medium that breaks most decisively with our past: the internet. It’s on the new, the peculiarly 21st-century aspect of this scandal, that Weiner’s critics have focused their most intense ire and mockery.
Second thoughts are counterrevolutionary! It must be so exhausting, working to stay radically au courant without looking pathetic. Think about it: Goldstein, a man who is in his 70th year on this earth, delights in taking pictures of his superannuated todger and texting it to perfect strangers. What a generation. Clapped-out Boomers of the world, repent! You have nothing to lose but your gold disco chains.