Cross-posted at OWNI.

Something has been nagging me about the Representative Weiner (D-NY) sexting scandal: how would this story would play out differently had the sexting-congressperson been female? I wrote earlier about how differently “sexy” pictures of male and female political candidates are handled.

When Krystal Ball ran for congress, images of a past Halloween party became some of the most Google’d images in the world, unlike male politicians running for office at the same time who were also involved in scandals about images of their past behaviors. The images of women in general, and, in this case, female politicians, become poured over, detailed, dissected, analyzed and obsessed upon to a far greater extent than what is occurring with Rep. Weiner. Yes, the images he sent are being shared on and offline, but had Weiner been female the images might be shown akin to the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction”: the media would scowl at the perversion while simultaneously showing them on a constant loop, dissecting every pixel in detail.

So let’s do quick Google Image searches for Krystal Ball and Anthony Weiner. (In these screenshots I am logged out of Google and “SafeSearch” is off, however, neither of those factors influenced the results much).

Krystal Ball’s results are dominated by the images that caused scandal. You have to scroll through pages of images in Weiner’s results to find the “offending” images. Given that Google’s resultsare based in part on popularity and website inter-linking, we have to wonder how Weiner’s post-scandal online presence would be different had he been female. [We should note that Weiner had a larger online presence before the scandal than did Ball. However, many of the top images in the search are post-scandal, so that is not a complete explanation for the discrepancy]. In fact, it is easier to find women showing skin in Weiner’s results than the so-called “lewd” images themselves.

Even Sarah Palin, who has never tweeted “lewd” photos of herself to all of the Internet, has search results more focused on her body than does Weiner.

Michel Foucault noted that sexual repression is closely related with sexual obsession; and the obsessively prying “gaze” is really the regulation and controlling of ourselves and our sex. The relative lack of obsession of the images in this scandal strikes me as evidence of the weaker regulation of the male body and men’s sex.

How else would this scandal play out differently had Rep. Weiner been female?


Please welcome guest blogger Nathan Jurgenson.  Jurgenson is a graduate student in sociology at the University of Maryland and co-edits the Cyborgology blog.