French president Francois Hollande might be upset that his alleged affair with actress Julie Gayet became public, but one thing that has not changed is the French public’s perception of him. While his personal approval rating has been on the decline in general, it had nothing to do with his love life: a poll revealed that more than 80% of French respondents did not judge him because of his recent actions.
That would never happen in America.
As Bill Maher pointed out on his January 31 show, Lis Smith did not receive a job with the Bill de Blasio administration after working on the campaign because it was discovered that she is in a relationship with Eliot Spitzer. Not a sordid affair, not sending naked pictures of herself over Twitter. Simply his girlfriend. As Maher then asked,
Why is everyone in the world better about sex than America?
He specifically called out Left-leaning Americans, especially in the city boasting the country’s most progressive mayor. De Blasio allowed the taunting of the less than reputable New York Post to decide the fate of his staffing decisions because the once-disgraced Spitzer decided that he’d still like to be human.
The contradictions in our media are stunning. We rightly applauded the mass marrying of gay couples during the Grammy awards as Mackelmore rapped his affirmations of marriage equality. Liberals nationwide helped push forward legislation to help couples achieve just this in state after state. Yet as Maher stated,
Acceptance of gays is the new ‘having a black friend.’
I noticed this mindset as the Huffington Post grew more popular a few years ago. This supposedly innovative publication was making its name through biting editorials and a dedicated staff seriously covering national politics, yet its Entertainment section might as well have been pulled from People or Page Six. How could an online newspaper trying to gain credibility with social and political issues fail so miserably when it came to entertainment? Put another way, why do we treat entertainment as an aside with little artistic merit, a section where we can get our gossip fix sated and nothing more?
That’s how we inevitably treat all public figures. As Maher pointed out, Spitzer did more to reform Wall St. than any other politician, yet was taken down by an overzealous libido. Today he’s remembered for sexual misconduct and not civil actions. In fact, we recall his prostitution affections while forgetting the questionable financing of his own campaign, so pressing is our passion for all things sex-related.
I’m not advocating for quick forgiveness of sexual misconduct. That is something that should be worked out between the parties involved. Yet this puritanical trend carries over into every public sphere of influence. In the yoga community, sex scandals are equally ogled at. Some merit attention: Bikram Yoga founder Bikram Choudhury is accused of sexually assaulting students. If he is found guilty, the man should be prosecuted, and practitioners of this style should at the very least question the morals of their founder and whether or not they want to continue with this particular discipline.
In that case, it is former students directly pressing charges. Yet a recent ‘scandal’ broke out due to complete hearsay. The accuser did not have any relations with the teacher in question and yet the ‘story’ still made Page Six, as well as a number of prominent yoga blogs. All of the articles were mere rewritings of the original blog written by the accuser with no actual reporting involved.
Yoga practitioners talk about the necessity of virtues in their practice, yet apparently integrity is not among them. Half the time the yoga and health blogosphere is filled with TMZ outtakes that have nothing to do with the discipline. In such instances, the ethics and morals—the yamas and niyamas—are suitable only when it does not contradict what you’re personally doing.
Should we hold such public figures accountable for their actions? Certainly. Can we give them the benefit of the doubt until all sides of the story are heard? Apparently not.
Maher suggested that Smith should sue the de Blasio administration for sexual discrimination, and chastised the Left for its ‘slut-shaming.’ We’ve reached a point where we, as he said, root out not only adulterers, but those who date them. As open-minded as progressives claim to be, forgiveness is not among the accepted possibilities for those who have done wrong.
When Maher suggested that New York City is acting like ‘Salem-on-the-Hudson,’ he wasn’t far off. Our inability to conceive that we are sexual animals somehow remains a repugnant, archaic feature and not an integrated component of being human. We decry the sexual repression of burka-clad and homophobic cultures, yet when it comes down to it, our sexual maturity is in no better standing.
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