It boils down to this: Don’t pose nude for the cam­era

The Saline Courier - - OPINION -

Re­turn with us now to those tit­il­lat­ing days of yes­ter­year. Or yester-month, any­way. It’s been at least that long since a name-brand Wash­ing­ton politi­cian was forced to re­sign due to a sex scan­dal. And ev­ery­body’s fa­vorite kind of sex scan­dal at that: nude pho­tos of an at­trac­tive young con­gress­woman, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat Katie Hill, in in­ti­mate as­so­ci­a­tion with an­other woman.

“Re­venge porn,” they call it. “Bi­sex­ual,” they whis­per.

Ac­tu­ally, there’s noth­ing par­tic­u­larly erotic about the pho­tos pub­lished to date, al­though the ba­sics are clear: An em­bit­tered ex-hus­band ped­dling his wife’s in­ti­mate se­crets to rightwing mis­chief-mak­ers at Red State. Who, along with Bri­tain’s Daily Mail, claims to possess hun­dreds more naughty im­ages. Just about the cru­elest, most class­less thing a man could do to some­body he sup­pos­edly once loved.

The man should be horse­whipped and for­ever ban­ished from po­lite so­ci­ety -- as­sum­ing such a thing as po­lite so­ci­ety ex­ists any­more.

Not to men­tion the “jour­nal­ists” who printed them. In many ju­ris­dic­tions, Wash­ing­ton, D.C., among them, pub­lish­ing what the law calls “non­con­sen­sual pornog­ra­phy” is a crime -al­though it wouldn’t take much of a lawyer to ar­gue that the im­ages, which don’t de­pict sex­ual ac­tiv­ity, aren’t tech­ni­cally porno­graphic, even if Red State’s openly ac­knowl­edged mo­tive was to wreck the con­gress­woman’s ca­reer.

This bound­ary once crossed, we’re al­most cer­tain to see more of it.

Hill her­self, a charis­matic Demo­cratic star once seen as Cal­i­for­nia’s an­swer to Alexan­dria Oca­sio-cortez, and whose sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion was never a se­cret, cast the blame widely in her farewell speech on Capi­tol Hill.

“I am leav­ing,” she ex­plained, “be­cause of a misog­y­nis­tic cul­ture that glee­fully con­sumed my naked pic­tures, cap­i­tal­ized on my sex­u­al­ity and en­abled my abu­sive ex to con­tinue that abuse, this time with the en­tire coun­try watch­ing.”

OK, fine, al­though I’m left with a cou­ple of ques­tions. First, who took the pho­tos? As­sum­ing it was Hill’s jeal­ous rat of a hus­band, did she ever think it was a good idea? If so, she’s been ex­traor­di­nar­ily fool­ish, ba­si­cally a po­lit­i­cal time bomb wait­ing to ex­plode. Just as well that it hap­pened early dur­ing her con­gres­sional ca­reer rather than later, when there might have been greater col­lat­eral dam­age to per­sons and is­sues greater than her­self.

Hill was her own worst en­emy.

I’ve been sur­prised to learn how strongly older women I’ve spo­ken with about this is­sue feel about Hill’s folly. Maybe it’s gen­er­a­tional. Af­ter all, my wife and I grew up in an era when priests sat in dark­ened con­fes­sional booths en­cour­ag­ing teenaged chil­dren to con­fess “touch­ing im­purely.”

So pos­ing for such pho­tos strikes us as deeply self-de­struc­tive, po­lit­i­cally speak­ing. If that’s your hobby, find a dif­fer­ent pro­fes­sion. Maybe men shouldn’t be so in­ter­ested in gaz­ing at im­ages of naked women, but a visit to any art gallery from the Lou­vre to the Arkansas Arts Cen­ter shows it’s been a ma­jor hu­man pre­oc­cu­pa­tion since for­ever. Ex­pect no changes.

In­deed, back when dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy and the in­ter­net first be­came a thing, I dis­tinctly re­call warn­ing a group of col­lege girls to be cau­tious. “I don’t care what prom­ises he makes or how much he begs,” I re­mem­ber say­ing. “If you let your boyfriend take naked pho­to­graphs, your fa­ther will end up see­ing them on the in­ter­net.”

You see, I know a thing or two about old dad.

One time I wrote a col­umn em­pathiz­ing with TV sports­caster Erin An­drews af­ter a Peep­ing Tom shot naked video of her through her ho­tel room key­hole. A dis­tin­guished gen­tle­man of my ac­quain­tance mes­saged me want­ing to know how he could see it.

That’s old dad for you.

Even so, I re­main rel­a­tively un­moved by rhetoric about “slut­sham­ing” and ef­forts to “weaponize women’s sex­u­al­ity against them.” No­body made Hill re­sign. Pre­sum­ably, she couldn’t stand up to what she feared would be com­ing if she didn’t. She was black­mailed, yes. Too bad she didn’t think she could face it down.

Writ­ing in The Wash­ing­ton Post, Molly Roberts opined that if nude beef­cake pho­tos of a male con­gress­man ap­peared, “he’d prob­a­bly earn ac­co­lades for his viril­ity in­stead of at­tacks for his wan­ton­ness along the way.”

Well, for­mer Mas­sachusetts GOP Sen. Scott Brown did some R-rated male mod­el­ing as a lad, but no can­did cam­era stuff. Oth­er­wise, I don’t think so.

Fel­low Post colum­nist Chris­tine Emba feared for her en­tire mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion, cit­ing “one 2015 study [that] found that 82 per­cent of adults have sexted in the past year.”

Ed­i­tor, please: If that were even re­motely true, Hill wouldn’t have a prob­lem, now would she?

Look, Wash­ing­ton sex scan­dals are as old as Congress. True, Alexan­der Hamil­ton wasn’t a con­gress­man when his adul­tery came to light in 1797. He was sec­re­tary of the Trea­sury.

Hamil­ton lived it down. Too bad Hill couldn’t.

•••

Arkansas Times colum­nist Gene Lyons is a Na­tional Mag­a­zine Award win­ner and co-au­thor of “The Hunt­ing of the Pres­i­dent” (St. Mar­tin’s Press, 2000). You can email Lyons at eu­gene­[email protected]­hoo.com.

GENE LYONS

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