Enough with the sex scandals already

Actor Christopher Lee poses on the red carpet ...

Reuters photo

Christopher Lee shirtless! No, not that one. This one:

Christopher Lee

Associated Press image (from the U.S. House of Representatives)

Don’t get me wrong; I’m happy to see any Repugnican politician bite the dust, but something feels at least somewhat wrong about the latest casualty of a sex scandal, Repugnican U.S. Rep. Christopher Lee of New York.

Lee resigned his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives today after the website Gawker revealed that he had responded to a 34-year-old woman’s personals ad on Craigslist, telling her that he is a divorced, 39-year-old lobbyist, when, in fact, he’s a 46-year-old married-with-child U.S. representative.

And, Gawker reports, he sent her these images:

Married GOP Congressman Sent Sexy Pictures to Craigslist Babe

Oops.

The woman contacted Gawker about her e-correspondence with Lee, and the rest is history.

I don’t really see, though, that Lee was guilty of much more than attempted infidelity and apparently being in the throes of a midlife crisis. I mean, lying about his age, repeatedly using “Lol” in his e-mails to his would-be mistress, posing shirtless in a mirror and flexing his biceps like a teenager — that reeks of a midlife crisis to me.

As reprehensible as he seems to be — Gawker notes that Lee’s “support for ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and vote to reject federal abortion funding suggests a certain comfort with publicly scrutinizing others’ sex lives” while his own apparently is quite interesting* — it seems to me that the matter really is between Lee and his wife. And, dare I say, that he shouldn’t have had to resign over it.

As fun as it is to dog-pile upon an apparent Repugnican hypocrite (wait, that’s redundant…), my concern is that these sex scandals, aside from giving us perverse entertainment at the expense of others’ privacy, serve to preserve our national hangups over sexuality.

Lee’s crime here isn’t that he’s a sexual being. We all are sexual beings, and sex, when used for communion, is a wonderful thing. Lee’s crime here is that he’s a liar. He apparently lies to his wife (unless they have an open relationship, which I rather doubt) and he very apparently lied to his would-be mistress. (No, it’s not OK to lie about your stats and status, even for just a Craigslist hookup.) This makes you wonder how much Lee lies in other areas of his life.

But the embarrassment of having his private e-mails and his shirtless pic released to the entire world should be punishment enough for Lee.

Again, this was an attempted extramarital dalliance, not sexual harassment while on the job or sexual assault, which of course would justify resignation from elected office.

By focusing on the salaciously scandalous aspects of Rep. Christopher Lee’s downfall, we are missing the opportunity to have national discussions about the more important human issues, such as how we can age gracefully (and not pathetically), what we can do to change our youth-obsessed culture, and whether or not monogamy really works in the first place.

Until we do have those discussions, the sex scandals will continue.

*Gawker does not get itself off of the hook for being sensationalistic by pointing to Lee’s apparent hypocrisy. I’m perfectly OK with outing — exposing a closeted (usually Repugnican) politician whose voting record has been anti-homosexual — but this is not the same thing.

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