What Weinergate Says About Our Society

Why are we so obsessed with genitalia?

The imprint of “Weinergate” isn’t so much what it says about Rep. Anthony Weiner’s genitals as what it says about us.

When Rep. Weiner yesterday manned up and admitted that it was his underwear-encased, tumescent penis pictured in the notorious tweet, it gave new meaning to the phrase “member of Congress.” When he walks softly through the corridors of power, he carries a big stick.

Shooting fish in a barrel, I admit. But has there ever been such an unfortunate pairing of surname and scandal? How could anyone—scribe, talk-show host, blogger, cable anchor, kindergartener—avoid feasting on double-entendres when the perp’s name is a euphemism for the very source of the imbroglio?

Simple answer: You can’t.

A situation that has aroused this much controversy warrants a long, hard look. What came of it?
Truth, for one thing, in a surreal mea culpa that was carried live on some cable networks. Having been lied to for 10 days, the media was after blood—pubic or otherwise.

After Weiner confessed to having had “inappropriate” cyber-relationships with six different women over the last three years, a female reporter yelled out, “Were you erect?” Sarah Palin couldn’t have scripted a more ludicrous “question,” especially for a Democrat from New York. Thankfully, he ignored it.

Prior to his press conference, Weiner had practically pinned a target to himself by telling anyone with a microphone that he “couldn’t say with certainty” whether the penis in question was his. For the media and late-night hosts, this was like throwing raw meat to a starving lion. How difficult was it to recognize one’s own gonads?

They’re like snowflakes—no two are exactly alike. As Bill Maher says: “I can remember all the pictures I ever took of my dick.”

Even when Weiner got a friendly audience with a “mainstream” host such as Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, he shot himself in the nuts. When asked if the image of the party-size organ was his, Weiner joked that he “wished” it were. And he’s straight. Even his good pal Jon Stewart gave up on him.

Given the attention this story has generated, it is painfully clear that our level of common discourse has sunk even deeper into the morass.

Remember the uproar in 1994 when a high-school student asked candidate Bill Clinton “boxers or briefs?” during an MTV youth forum? (Clinton answered “usually briefs.” Little did we know it was just the beginning of the public’s fascination with his crotch.)

Today, that question would be laughably quaint. We’ve gone from “boxers or briefs?” to “cut or uncut?”

The concept of anatomical boundaries for elected public officials disappeared with Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress. Once again, a man’s penis has become fodder for national debate. And naturally, ratings have soared.

It’s a given that Weiner displayed shockingly bad judgment for a United States Congressman. He should have known that everything would surface on the internet, and quickly. Regardless of his intentions, he looked like a sleaze.

With House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi calling for an ethics investigation, Weiner’s manhood will remain in the spotlight. And the puns will keep on coming.