The Psychology of Anthony Weiner’s Photo Problems

2013-07-30 Weiner

With an odd blend of poignancy and frankness, Katy Waldman explains at Slate just how mistaken Weiner is if he thinks his, *ahem*, “self-portraits” are having their intended effect:

Is there anything more depressing than the crotch shot? Any other form of so-called erotic communication that telegraphs the same mix of loneliness and tawdriness? Amanda Hess finds Anthony Weiner’s newly-unearthed sexts boring. To me, they are more like the photos of oil-soaked birds that surface after a petroleum spill: greasy, helpless, and broadcasting a frantic need.

The rest continues in this vein and I think it’s worth the read precisely because it’s not trying to be funny. It’s a serious consideration of Weiner’s issues and, along the way, of what men so often get wrong about what women

(I’m sure there’s all kind of ridiculous fun I could have had with this headline, but I think I’ll just leave that to Matt Drudge. The self-portrait line is as far as I’m going to go.)

3 thoughts on “The Psychology of Anthony Weiner’s Photo Problems”

  1. Related, from NYT:

    And still others said he might be driven by a combination of a mood disorder and feelings of inadequacy to seek reassurance about his masculinity from women he had never met.

    How an accomplished adult could continually engage in such behavior and believe that he would not be caught would be a central question in any diagnosis, said Dr. Richard C. Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College.

    “It’s almost as if a little child were playing at being a politician and trying to hide something,” Dr. Friedman said. “The level of denial is so great, and it’s so incompatible with major responsibility, that the psychological puzzle is not only to find out why he’s doing the particular behavior, but why somebody would be functioning at such an uneven level.”

    Mr. Weiner’s habit of sending women graphic photographs of his body, Dr. Friedman said, suggested someone with a deep insecurity around his body image and his masculinity.

    “There’s a different type of narcissism that’s based on self-esteem problems, in which the person then defensively covers up by saying: ‘Aren’t I wonderful? Look at my wonderful organ. Isn’t it beautiful?’ ” he said.

    This type of insecurity often dates to puberty, Dr. Friedman said, adding that the superherolike alter ego that Mr. Weiner chose for one of his online relationships — “Carlos Danger” — also hinted that any feelings of inadequacy could be longstanding.

    “It’s as if you were being exposed to the mental processes of a 9-year-old boy,” he said.

  2. Galen-

    I’ve talked about politicians and scandal before, and I think that it’s important that people who engage in bad behavior face negative consequences, but not because of some idea of karmic justice. Rather, it’s to maintain functional incentives within society. I include this pre-amble not because I think you agree or disagree, but because of what I’m about to write:

    “It’s almost as if a little child were playing at being a politician and trying to hide something,”

    That’s the saddest thing about the episode to me. If we set aside the idiocy of his action (which I think is a social expression of the logic in my first paragraph), the idea that he’s a little kid trapped in an adult world defines us all.

    I think adulthood is, in some important sense, a myth. What I’ve realized from raising my own kids thus far is that they have essentially the same range of emotions as a human. We think of babies as being so fundamentally cute and silly that they wouldn’t have a notion of “dignity”, but (as far as I can tell), from a surprisingly age they must certainly do.

    Obviously we change as we grow older, but I now think of it is a change along a continuum as opposed to some kind of qualitative shift from one kind of being (child) to another (adult).

    I think historically this was used to justify treating children like adults and sending them to work in factories for heinous hours. Western society largely invented our own idea of “childhood” (from what I understand) during the Romantic period, and I think treating children with special care and consideration was a huge step forward.

    But I also think that ultimately the same kind of empathy and caring we should for children should be shown for all people. And that’s why, like I said, I started with that harsh first paragraph. There’s a need to maintain rigorous standards of what is acceptable and not acceptable within society. I’m not in any way excusing Weiner, but for me that’s not the whole story. Once we’ve established social boundaries for proper behavior, there’s the remaining question of how we orient ourselves towards those who, for various reasons, run afoul of the standards and cross the boundaries.

    And, without diminishing the strong negative incentives (the man should never have a political career again, period) I can’t help but feel a sense of sympathy because what he’s struggling with–in his extreme version of it–is something we all struggle with. We grow up, we assume these huge responsibilities, but we’re still the same kind of being that we were at age 15 or 9 or 5. With the same fundamental fears and desires.

    Anyway: not sure if this makes sense but all I’m saying is that–while Weiner is obviously far out on the bell curve–he’s not really different from anyone else. And, while I don’t think we should make allowances for this behavior, I really do feel for the guy.

    Like Kate (in the Slate article) said: it’s just profoundly sad.

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