I can't defend Anthony Weiner. The man is utterly unsympathetic. Even before the scandals he was an obnoxious twit.
So don't take this as a defense of him. But... what bothers me about the wall-to-wall Weiner coverage is the breathless accusations about how he (gasp!) used power to seduce young women.
Girls star Lena Dunham tweeted, "The problem isn't adultery, or perversity. It's wielding your position of authority to subjugate the women who dream of a piece of the pie." If this was Weiner's cardinal sin (as some would have you believe), we must be left scratching our heads, thinking: "How then can any of us be saved?" And what Dunham is talking about seems to be very different than what Weiner actually did.
Throughout human history, innumerable men have used their power to try and attract women. Maybe your power is that you're 6'3", handsome, and athletic. If that's the case, you get to be subtle about your power. These are obvious signals. Being tall or good-looking speaks for itself. Being rich is yet another form of power that can be wielded tastefully to achieve desired results. (The "trappings" of power.) Regardless, the signal is clear: I can take care of you physically, financially, or…. whatever.
This is using a position of power to get what you want. Because you are blessed with something, this form of signaling can be done in a not-so-showy or tacky manner. But what if you're a skinny kid whose last name is Weiner — or what if you're a pudgy nerd named Newt? If that's the case, you may have to work a little harder at getting women to notice you. Sometimes this is unseemly.
The desire to be desirable might even become a driving force in your life. And if you have some talent (and channel it into the right things), this motivation might even drive you to become wildly successful. And then, once you become successful, you have power. And when it comes to your ability to attract potential mates, you might just be like a kid in a candy store who, having been deprived of candy for decades, is working overtime to make up for lost time. (This is not an excuse, but an explanation.)
There are few driving forces more primal (or potent) than the urge for mating privileges. We all know this, and we know that people are attracted to power for deep-seated evolutionary reasons. In the old days, physical power was all that mattered. As we became an information society (where physical security was slightly less important), men who would have otherwise never have had a shot began to use their strategic minds to figure out how to become alpha males.
Let's be honest: If it weren't for sex, a lot of successful men would have little incentive to show up at work, invent something, run for office — you name it. (Please don't be mad at me for saying this. I didn't create this truth. But it's true nonetheless.)
If we are honest, we will confess this is true: A lot of good things in the world came about because some guy was trying to impress women.
The problem is not that Weiner used his position of power to attract women (you know, like his wife). The problem is that he never stopped using his position of power to impress women. He continued to do so after he was married. This is hubris, and it's wrong. It is wanting to fly too close to the sun. Since the Greeks, we have punished this sort of thing. I get why this is bad. But let's not conflate it. Let's not say it's wrong to do whatever people have done since the beginning of time.
It's not that Weiner abused his power. It's that he is a serial abuser — and that he did so in such an obviously stupid way.