Kerry Cohen

Kerry Cohen

Loose Girl

Are Men's Bodies Hot or Not? Some Thoughts on Weinergate

someone said I desire you and they lost control

Posted Jun 07, 2011

Unless you live under a rock, you've heard about Representative Anthony Weiner's scandal in which he sent photos of his junk to a series of women. Most recently, he admitted through tears that yes, indeed, those photos of his impressive package and fine body are indeed him. He called it a "hugely regrettable mistake." Hugely, indeed, Mr. Representative. 

Then Jezebel posted an article by Irin Carmon in which she suggested that this rash of men sending pictures of their privates to women was the result of male narcissism, meaning their behavior has more to do with arrogance about their bodies than anything else. 

I don't buy the narcissism theory. Nor do I buy the various other suggestions about these men needing power. Are they not already powerful? Was Bill Clinton, for instance, not powerful as the President of the freaking United States when he got it on with Monica Lewinsky? My sense is that men get a similar sort of flak that girls and women get when they act slutty in the public eye, and my sense is also that the impetus for such behavior comes from a very similar place.

For my forthcoming book Dirty Little Secrets: Breaking the Silence On Teenage Girls and PromiscuityI interviewed seventy-five girls and women about why they act promiscuous. In the end, I found that their reasons were very much like mine had been when I lived out the pages of my memoir Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity - they wanted to be desired. They wanted to feel worthwhile because they didn't already feel so. Being desired meant they mattered in the world in a real way. Being desired meant they deserved the attention and love they felt desperate for. Some of them sent nude photos to guys, and they did so not because they believed their bodies were fabulous, but because they wanted the guys' attention. They wanted him to keep his mind on them, to think they were hot, desirable, maybe even lovable. 

Hugo Schwyzer, a friend and colleague, writes about the fact that men feel similarly. In fact, men are told much more so than women that their bodies aren't attractive. Worse, men's bodies are gross. As a man, Hugo suffered from this sense that he wasn't physically desirable, and so when a man said, "You're so hot, you make me want to come," he was, as he said, "floored." Someone thought his body hot - not his money, his power, or his performance - his body. He writes:

How different those words were from my ex-girlfriend's "Hugo, you make me feel so good." While she had praised my technique, this stranger praised my body's desirability. And I realized how hungry I was for exactly that kind of affirmation. I needed something to counter that old certainty that my male body was disgusting.

When Megan Broussard wrote "Hottttt" in a Facebook comment on a video of Anthony Weiner's speech, that's what launched their Internet flirtation and the now famous photo of his weiner. John Edward's recent misbehavior began with a similar "You're so hot" from Rielle Hunter, the woman he made a sex tape with. I can't help but think that Weiner and Edward, like so many other men, were struck in the same way Schwyzer had been when someone said I desire you. These men have lots of public power. They are respected politicians. It's unlikely they feel the need for more power. More likely, they are just human beings like you and me. More likely, for the first time in ages, maybe in ever, some cute girl told them how desirable they were and they lost control. They were floored. Their behavior was regrettable, for sure, and definitely a mistake, but it was also just human. 

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