But what about consent?

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, June 13, 2011 22:26 EDT
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Okay, I'm so incredibly sick of this stupid Anthony Weiner thing, but feminism has been sucked into it, and bigger issues are being attached to it, so what are you going to do?  I can't pray for this country to grow up, since there is no god and prayer doesn't work.  But this morning I wrote about women, feminists even, taking on the schoolmarm role, and I forgot to load it down with caveats about how sex needs to be consensual, and so concerns about consent naturally came up.  I honestly hoped that my long track record of being all for consent would spare me the need to write a few hundred more words, but alas.  

Dana Goldstein and I are on Bloggingheads today rehashing our debate about Weiner and whether or not politicians should be held to a sexual standard.

In it, she raises the same concerns about consent, as did Ta-Nehisi.  It appears that one of the women involved has been clear that she did not engage with Weiner in any sexy talk prior to the penis picture.  And while she's not accusing him of harassment, I think that likely rises to the level of it.  I hope it's obvious that this is a much different kettle of fish.

But I still think most of my concerns are firmly in place.  This isn't a consent scandal.  To be fair, we do have consent scandals in our media.  Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a consent scandal, for instance.  But can anyone look deep into their heart and say that this would be going down any differently if every single woman involved was saying, "I was completely into it.  Cock pictures, yum!" No, we cannot.  Hell, if anything, that would probably just make it worse.  

I think what I'm getting at here is that this isn't about defending Anthony Weiner. This is about how much power we give to right wing fucktards like Andrew Breitbart who are completely unconcerned with consent, and whose sole purpose is to start up sexual witch hunts.  One of the reasons that I wasn't completely aware of the compromised consent issues is that it's been treated like an irrelevant aspect in the media.  Weiner's completely consensual chat logs are being given even more attention than the single picture we know was non-consensual, and the reason is there's more there to feed the prurient interest.  I think it's important to tease out these various issues, as complicated as it is.  The next target for a witch hunt is probably going to be 100% consensual stuff that simply is humiliating if put in the public square, because consent has no impact on why this particular scandal is a scandal. 

For instance, in my post this morning, I was addressing two separate situations that had zero to do with the consent concerns.  The Jezebel piece was about cheating and lying, and the Democratic women are playing up the female-judges-of-philanderers angle.  I've seen more ink spilled on the question of whether or not there's an angle with the fact that he did this in his office and at the gym than the consent question.  (As I noted in the video, I don't really see a gaping difference between using your down time at work to send sexy messages to people and using it to play Angry Birds, so long as you're careful not to involve coworkers.)  Since the media is making this about sex, I'm addressing my media critiques to the sex angle.  If we're having a conversation about consent, that's a much different conversation.

My concern that I've been on about is bigger than a single politician who is probably going to be redistricted away anyway.  It's about the future of politics and placing such prudish standards on private behavior that no one will actually be able to meet them. And it's women, I believe, who will pay more.  At Double X, I wrote about this piece in the NY Times, and one thing that was noted was that women are easily discouraged from running for office because they're afraid of being picked to death by an often-misogynist media and their political opposition. This is a legitimate fear!  And in our new post-Weiner era, when your bedroom doors are being flung open and your truly personal behavior is being considered part of your job qualifications, women will get it way worse. There are many people who will feign outrage if a woman simply sleeps with a man she's not married to, and who wants to deal with that? If we want more gender equality in politics, this is not going to help in the slightest.  

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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