I woke up to a text containing the following image this morning, and all I could be was grateful to my friends for keeping me up to date. I wasn’t even surprised. We live in a time when the president of the United States can talk about assaulting women on tv and get less than a slap on the wrist for it. What we also live in is a time when social media has absolutely saturated our everyday lives, and porn can (though I’ve got no idea why you’d want to on such a public medium – exhibitionism?) be accessed through this media.
The very basic rundown is that Cruz – though I’m sure we’ll see some hapless intern take the hit for this – seems to have ‘liked’ a video posted by porn twitter account ‘@SexuallPosts’. I haven’t scrolled on that account far enough to find it (please, don’t make me) but as far as I know the tweet is still up.
Far from being an isolated incident, this case is part of a raft of similar occurrences involving male public figures, the internet and social media, and porn. The one I’m most familiar with (give me a break, just googling ‘MP accidentally likes internet porn’ was enough to make me want to throw my laptop out the window) is the case of pastor William Henry Dewberry III, whose instagram account (and more) is pictured below:
Taken in August of this year, the screenshot says it all. (The aftermath: claims of being hacked, the account was later shut down and, potentially, resurrected under the same username by someone else with a sense of humor.)
So let’s break it down. What exactly is bad about what these men are doing? Surely there’s nothing inherently wrong with showing their appreciation for media they find sexually arousing*, is there?
But it is problematic. It’s upsetting because in all these cases, even setting aside the misogyny inherent in so much of the porn industry, it represents a fundamental dishonesty that says a lot about the people running this country.
The descriptors that immediately spring to mind for me are an odd mix of hypocrisy, naïveté and entitlement. Both men call themselves righteous, and use twitter – unlike how most of us use it – to present a ‘public facing’ veneer to the world. I can guarantee you that none of these dudes are tweeting about what they’re making for dinner or posting cat videos.
But, somehow, again and again, it becomes clear that these masks they wear for the public, be they of wholesomeness or professionalism, do not completely cover the yucky bits underneath.
It’s notable that in both these cases the men’s twitter accounts describe them as, in various ways, fighters for righteous causes. Dewberry’s IG account names him a pastor, and retired US soldier, both arguably admirable professions, though neither inherently morally righteous. Cruz’s profession is a mystery to no one, and he goes so far as to call himself, with nebulous accuracy, a ‘fighter for liberty’ (and choose a rather unfortunate cover image that centers on his groin area when minimized, nice going Ted).
You may want to cry foul at this point, at least for Dewberry, and that would be fair: a brief look at his instagram account suggests it may indeed have been hacked. But I posit that, as my links above suggest, these incidents are symptomatic of a larger problem. If someone wanted to frame him for some transgression, they had a very clear template to work off of. Powerful men using that most public of apps to give us a glimpse of their most private of tastes. It would be ironic if it wasn’t so nasty.
‘Naive’, too, because these men are very consistently members of a generation who grew up before the internet and social media was readily available. This is where the comedic value of their behavior comes from: most of the authors writing about these incidents are millenials or at least computer-conversant. To most of us, this stuff is so easy a child could do it. Many of us are children. It’s baffling, frustrating, and a little bit satisfying to see that the people who control the production of laws, the propagation of media, and the leading of our communities can be so demonstrably incompetent at something we’re all so familiar with.
And ‘entitled’, as most of these men undeniably are, because the consumption of pornography is not by any means new; it has been available to the general public far longer than the internet has. If you think about it, there’s never been any question that a lot of people, including politicians, consume pornography (though they seem to consume more than I do). But the fact that none of them seem to have been properly censured for it (though I note with satisfaction that Anthony Weiner does seem to have been charged) is galling.
Though they’ve all been lampooned, their behavior shows no signs of changing. At the very most I think the other men who would get themselves in these situations will take these news stories as an object lesson: don’t get caught. And I wouldn’t expect any different, but it’s still disappointing.
*It’s necessary to point out that it’s been claimed the porn Cruz ‘liked’ was in fact incest porn. Though I’ve been unable to verify this, if true, then it’s very much wrong.