Wounded Weiner just a symptom of society’s isolation

Mayoral Forum on Senior Issues

BY K. WEBSTER | Men are set up to be isolated. Thus they are often plagued by a seemingly endless quest to staunch insecurity and loneliness through some version of sexual contact. Too often, the search winds up landing them in the arena of the sexual exploitation of women. Lots of guys are derailed by the billion-dollar sex industry (or by self-driven intrigues) while seeking the very real human need for touch. Usually it ends in settling for the illusion of contact — a numbing or briefly satisfying relief.

Anthony Weiner got busted for his oddly disconnected effort at connection. Although self-driven, it happened in the context of a highly sexualized society that keeps men manipulated and preoccupied.

Profit seekers deliberately and increasingly entwine sex with the hardwired need for closeness. It sells. It tantalizes. It promises excitement in a seemingly dreary landscape. But despite the ads, commerce really doesn’t belong in between two people’s liking/loving/wanting each other. And trying to use the act itself or hints of it to avoid loneliness is a bit of a dodge. In a better world, the use of sex as a weapon of mass distraction would be seen for the aberration it is. Sex can give us back our sense of closeness, the goodness of life and passion. But really, when the sex is good, it almost wasn’t the point.

Men are set up to be “on their own” from very early on. Male babies and boys are held far less than female babies and girls. Boys are mercilessly humiliated if they show caring or the need to be close. It’s brutal, and the accumulating isolation leaves men sitting ducks for anything that looks like an offer of reprieve.

The problem is from long ago and can’t be solved without looking at the conditions that created it. That early loss of connection can only be grieved. Guys are required to go it alone at a too-tender age and they go it alone ever after. The desperate pull to quench that isolation with a counterfeit fix isn’t easily resisted — “Maybe this one will end this lousy feeling.” And the omnivorous sex industry is always ready to help.

Women are set up from early on to take care of every human problem. Survival of the human race demands that we erase ourselves constantly. We’ve been told it is our only worth. We are vulnerable to giving our all without regard for our own real interests — we don’t take ourselves into account. There is a terrible insecurity in being female in a male-dominated world that men usually fail to fathom.

I have been thinking it would help if men and women could try not to take advantage of one another where we have been “used” by oppressive institutions. Men have one version of sacrifice (cannon fodder in war, working themselves to death) and women have another (centuries of unpaid, disrespected labor as caregivers or as men’s sex tools).

Women resort to trying to make men feel better — by any means. Or, since women have no institutional power, we might try to absorb it through men of influence. We might try to take on male patterns of disconnection to try to avoid the vulnerability wrought by sexism. It’s all pretense, but it can supply that momentary feeling of pseudo-power men are encouraged to indulge in.

Men will do anything to feel even the pretense of closeness (hence prostitution — you don’t believe the woman actually likes you, but “it’s close enough”). And men are deluded thinking they can live with that ruse.

They lose all integrity pretending it doesn’t damage real humans who are female.

We live in a society that gives us very few options for closeness. We grow up in this confusion and then try to find partners. All that past loneliness is supposed to magically vanish — solved by our true love. And when it doesn’t, we despair: We give up on closeness or hunt for someone who will make the bad feelings go away.

So, as Anthony Weiner is targeted as a sexual deviant, a progressive voice is weakened, his family is embarrassed, the exploitation of women goes unchallenged, and men’s very real struggles are belittled. His compulsive actions are rightly questioned, yet never about the tragedy they reveal. Really, in our culture, it just means that men will go further underground, hiding the places they feel lost and alone: trying to mend a societal problem with private solutions, exploiting women and girls (or boys) in the process.

Don’t get me wrong, some of the jokes have been funny. They give us a chance to laugh at these foibles. But maybe there’s more than letting it be reduced to a sound bite, the butt of jokes or self-righteous punch lines?

It is past time to stop the exploitation of women and girls by men, to stop allowing boys to grow up so isolated that they self-destruct and / or destroy others, and to stop blaming one another for our struggles around closeness. We need to hold sex as kind of sacred, a chance to challenge what Einstein called the “separation delusion” we’ve been saddled with.

Maybe we need to start finding ways to make it possible for all of us to admit how badly separated we got from one another and try to find ways to make that different.