Two years ago, New York Congressman Anthony Weiner was embroiled in an embarrassing scandal. He had committed no crime, but yet his colleagues in the United States Congress were calling for his resignation. Donald Trump called him a psycho, and prominent Democrats such as Paul Begala said his behavior was “disgusting.” Comedians could not help but pile on jokes and puns on his name. As Jon Stewart put it, “I’d be impeached as a comic if I didn’t joke about Weiner.”
What Weiner had done was to text semi-naked pictures of himself to three women – none of whom were his wife. One of them was only 21 years old, and after she passed the pictures to her friends, they went viral on the Internet within hours. As one writer put it, Weiner reached out to touch someone and ended up reaching out and touching everyone.
Weiner’s beautiful and very private wife, pregnant with their first child, admitted to being devastated by the scandal, but she urged her husband to tell the truth. He took her advice, but his political career did not survive. He resigned from Congress and went into rehab for sexual addiction.
These days Weiner is staging a comeback as a potential candidate for Mayor of The City of New York. He recently granted an emotional interview for a front page article in the New York Times Magazine. In a voice choked with tears, he tried to explain that his behavior was “just another way to feed this notion that I want to be liked and admired. I wasn’t thinking – Is this risky behavior? Is this smart behavior?”
This time around, the public might just forgive Weiner. Despite all the outrage about how bizarre and inappropriate his behavior had been, the truth is that his behavior is more mainstream than you might think. Many people believe that he did not really cheat on his wife because he did not have sex with any of the women. He told interviewers that he had discussed his online relationships with his wife even before they were married. Under these circumstances, some psychologists consider what he did just a harmless form of fantasy sexual play.
Psychologist Brett Kennedy wrote that it was interesting that during sex scandals like Weiner’s and President Bill Clinton’s, many people express outrage at these men’s lack of self-control. But by criticizing the men involved, they are also showing that they identify with them and perhaps have their own problems controlling similar behaviors, as two recent surveys may indicate.
A survey from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project done in May 2010 found that 30% of people ages 18 to 29 years old have received nude or partially nude pictures, and 13% have sent them. Among the age group 30 to 49 years old, those percentages are 17% receive them, and 5% sent them. A newer survey from 2012 of 2,097 adults found that one in five had “sexted” in the past. In the age group 18 to 34 years old, 40% had sent “racy” pictures or text messages.
If “sexting” has indeed become more common among not only teenagers but also adults, Anthony Weiner may just have a second chance in politics, and the voters of New York may just elect him as their very controversial mayor.
Bader, Michael (DMH). “Everything Said about Anthony Weiner Is Wrong,” Psychology Today, June 8, 2011.
Barondes, Samuel (MD). “The Pride and Shame of Anthony Weiner,” Psychology Today, June 18, 2011.
Cillizza, Chris and Sean Sullivan. “Anthony Weiner For New York City Mayor,” The Washington Post, April 11, 2013.
Gates, Sara. “Adult Sexting on the Rise,” The Huffington Post, June 8, 2012.
Kennedy, Brett (PsyD). “Anthony Weiner: Sex, Lies and Tweeting,” Psychology Today, June 11, 2011.
Kurtz, Howard. “Soul-Searching Weiner Seeks Forgiveness,” CNN News, April 11, 2013.
Parker-Pope, Tara. “Digital flirting – Easy to Do and to Get Caught,” The New York Times, June 14, 2011.