MAXWELL: On subject of sex, we’re so confused

3/13/2008 – Printed in the NATIONAL section of The St Petersburg Times Newspaper

Who will do it next?
I am talking about illicit sex, the heterosexual kind, the homosexual kind and the pedophile kind. Which big man will get caught with his pants down?
As we all know, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer is the latest big man to fall on the national scene. Spitzer, known, among other nicknames, as “Mr. Clean,” “The Sheriff of Wall Street,” “Eliot Ness” and “The Steamroller” for his corruption-fighting zeal, has been accused of paying for the services of a pricey hooker and resigned under pressure Wednesday .
We Floridians are keeping our fingers crossed. After all, we have had more than a few rascals in our collective closet over the decades.
I do not think the next fallen star will be Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who is single and, from all we know at this time, seems to be doing his romancing pretty much in the sunshine. And, heck, if you are young, handsome, single, likable and do not run around playing Mr. Sanctimony of the Whole Wide World, the sane among us are inclined to allow you some wiggle room, as it were.
The thing that bothers me most about sex per se in the United States is that we are so two-faced, ambivalent and Puritanical about it. Sex infuses our lives, but we are confused about it.
On one side, we love sex and everything about it. We openly promote it. Look at the typical clothing ad in today’s “family” newspaper or magazine or on a roadside billboard. More than likely, you will see beautiful women suggesting you-know-what. Fine by me. But do not pretend that sex and sexuality are not being promoted, along with the product in question.
On the other side, we go crazy and our Puritanism takes control when someone actually carries out what our ads suggest. Many of our ads, be they for colognes and perfumes or for beer and cars, are telling the sexes how to attract and score.
I do not treat so-called sexual misconduct lightly. It is a serious matter, especially when our biblically based perceptions of its sinfulness have the power to ruin lives and bring down governments. Compared with most of Western Europe, we are sufferers of arrested sexual development, sexual juveniles.
If, for example, Nicolas Sarkozy were the president of the United States instead of France, he would have been forced out of office months ago, or we would have crippled him so badly with our self-righteousness that he would have resigned of his own accord. Shortly after being elected, Sarkozy and his wife divorced. Word has it that Sarkozy and his wife slept around before the divorce.
Months after the split, Sarkozy began a very public affair with Carla Bruni, a supermodel with a string of affairs fit for a B-grade flick. Sarkozy’s popularity is falling now not because of his sexual behavior but because of his questionable leadership in general.
In the United States, we reject such behavior in words and with action. Bill Clinton was impeached for his misconduct. His presidency was weakened, and the nation was weakened.
We have a long list of congressmen, governors, mayors and others who have gone down or have been weakened because of their misconduct with members of the opposite sex. (I do not mention homosexual misconduct because it simply is not tolerated.) The list includes congressman Wilbur Mills; Sen. David Vitter, whose name popped up on the telephone log of the so-called D.C. Madam; GOP leader Robert Livingston; and House Speaker Newt Gingrich. And possible career-ending trouble started for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick after evidence surfaced that he and an aide were exchanging e-mails of the intimate kind.
Americans, along with the press, have not always been so uptight about sexual misconduct in high places. Rumors surrounded FDR, Dwight Eisenhower and JFK, but we were more willing to tolerate our leaders’ imperfect private lives. In today’s Puritanical America, FDR, Ike and JFK would be toast.
Again, I am not saying that Spitzer’s behavior is acceptable, especially because he paraded around as a paragon of virtue. I believe, though, that we could use Spitzer’s fall to take a hard look at our rejection of sexual misconduct while we glorify sex in almost everything we do.