Crotch Shots :: Why Do Men Tweet and Text Their Junk?

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday June 8, 2011

After repeated denials, Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York finally admitted June 6 to sending suggestive photos and having other forms of contact with six women other than his wife. His admission came in the wake of a provocative bulging underwear shot sent via Twitter to a woman described as "college age."

Such behavior may be thought of as stereotypical for gay men, some of whom who swap images (sometimes quite explicit images) via social media and the Internet as a matter of course; but if Weiner's behavior demonstrates anything, it's that showing off the goods through electronic means is not a strictly "gay" behavior.

Nor is it limited to one side of the political aisle: Earlier this year, a similar scandal engulfed Republican then-Rep. Christopher Lee, who had "sexted" provocative images of himself to women, including, reportedly, a transwoman.

Lee abruptly resigned when the scandal broke. Weiner, who has served for seven terms thus far, has shown no inclination to step down, and chances are he won't have to. New York voters, though shaking their head at Weiner's antics, have indicated that they would vote for him in the next election, the Associated Press reported on June 7.

"Politically I think he's very smart and I value his contributions to our Congress," said one constituent, Ralph Sepulveda, 58. "It was really stupid. I just don't think it's grounds for him to resign."

But Weiner's conduct actively stupid? Or was it more a matter of his higher brain functions simply failing to engage? The politician himself made no such distinctions, saying at a press conference that his behavior was simply "dumb."

"If you're looking for some kind of deep explanation, I simply don't have one," Weiner said. "This was just me doing a dumb thing, doing it repeatedly and then lying about it."

But a deeper explanation was offered by marriage therapist Bethany Marshall, who told ABC News, "Adults, particularly those in positions of power like politicians, sext because they want even more power.

"They want reassurance, they want the sexual stimulation, they want to think of themselves as sexually desirable," added Marshall, who went on to recall that it wasn't so long ago that "sexting" was something we heard about when it involved teenagers -- a demographic we expect to be dazed with hormones and judgmentally hobbled by a lack of life experience.

Not any more, though. It's become increasingly clear that adults are just as prone as youths to sending out compromising photos of themselves.

Whether such actions are due to dumb mistakes or gonadal short-circuiting, a good part of the public seemed to have a measure of sympathy for Weiner. Selpuveda echoed a common response among many New Yorkers: The scandal, if you want to call it that, is mostly media-generated, and has been "blown way out of proportion."

"As long as he's doing what he's supposed to politically, who are we to judge?" agreed Sevan Jacoby, 56. "Men will be men. Let his wife worry about it."

And that -- the "men will be men" attitude -- may well encapsulate what's going on when guys, be they gay or straight, go public with their privates, sending intimate images into the wider world where there's a chance that they will gain a wider circulation than intended.

It's a notion with some scientific backing, according to a New York Daily News article from June 6.

"The simplest theory for the behavior is that these men think the photos will serve to arouse the woman -- because they, themselves, would find it arousing if that woman sent such a photo to them," Marta Meana, who heads up the Society for Sex Therapy and Research, said during an MSNBC appearance, the Daily News reported.

But the reverse is not necessarily true, the article went on to note. Women don't generally find such displays attractive.

"Former New York Jets sideline reporter Jenn Sterger said she 'wasn't flattered' when former New York Jet Brett Favre allegedly sent her X-rated photos of what was under his jockstrap," the article noted.

Still, there is evidence that exhibitionist behavior as a means to securing sexual congress is deeply ingrained in the primate brain.

"Men who send off penis pictures probably aren't thinking at all, they're responding to an unconscious, evolutionary urge likely inherited from our primate ancestors: male monkeys and apes routinely display their penis (usually erect) to females to indicate sexual interest," a neuroscientist, Ogi Ogas, was quoted by as explaining.

But as technology continues to develop at an unprecedented rate, it's arguably outstripping human judgment, which is already notoriously uncertain when it comes to issues of sexuality. As previously reported at EDGE, it's all too easy for high-profile people to find that their personal messages to others become public property--lessons that figures as diverse as mega church leader Eddie Long and British politician Chris Bryant learned the hard way, when the media caught wind of provocative snaps they'd taken and sent along to others or posted online (tight-fitting muscle shirts in Long's case; tighty-whiteys in Bryant's).

But such hi-tech pratfalls might not be the sole province of men after all. Though women may not appreciate being approached in such a bald manner, there is some evidence that providing erotic images to an established significant other is not outside the realm of possibility for the so-called softer sex: Recall the erotic videos that former Miss California USA beauty queen Carrie Prejean reportedly made for a beau before she skyrocketed to global fame as a defender of heterosexuals-only marriage.

All was not clear sailing as Prejean undertook a brief career as a poster girl for the right. Prejean's employer, the organizers of the Miss USA pageant, fired her, claiming that she was not living up to her duties as the holder of the Miss California crown. Moreover, the pageant organizers said, semi-nude photos of Prejean, taken when she was a teenager, violated the terms of her contract.

Prejean claimed that she was being silenced for her Christian views against gay families, but the media reported that there were other skeletons in the beauty queen's closet, citing the purported existence of a sex tape.

That video reportedly resurfaced when Prejean sought to sue her former employer for $1 million, only to settle for nothing -- supposedly once a lawyer from the other side showed her a copy of the rumored sex tape.

The fact that sexuality is a near-universal constant among humanity is often overlooked in the back-and-forth political one-upsmanship of the "gotcha!" game. Both sides play it; both sides see adherents fall to it; both sides have grown adept at playing to a supposedly outraged constituency. The Democratic leadership, for instance, is not asking Weiner to step down, but the AP reports that calls for an investigation and ethics probe in the matter have already started among Weiner's own colleagues.

Meantime, from the other side of the political divide, the conservative blogger who broke the story about Weiner's follies dropped still another bombshell, alleging that he had a much more explicit photo that Weiner purportedly took of himself.

"Conservative activist Andrew Breitbart of the website tells NBC's "Today" show he considers the image 'an insurance policy' against attacks from Weiner, who on Monday admitted the photo was of him," the AP reported on June 7.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.