Photo by Caroline McNally

Dear Roe, 

American politician Anthony Wiener has been caught in a sexting scandal again, and the media is all over it. While he was cheating on his wife, he wasn’t doing anything illegal and was sending his dick pics to consenting adults. Should the media be paying attention to this, and should it affect his career?

Dear Letter Writer,

Here’s the thing: Anthony Wiener is a dick whose dick gets hard when he shows off his dick. Now, one has the right to show off one’s dick to other consenting adults, and one is also entitled to have said dick get hard via the act of displaying it. However, one becomes a dick as well as possessing a dick when one shows one’s dick to consenting adults who are not one’s monogamous partner who one has vowed to remain dick-loyal to.

One becomes a mega-dick, or Dick² when one poses beside aforementioned now-humiliated and betrayed monogamous partner and publicly promises to this partner that one will keep one’s dick in one’s pants – only to show it off, yet again, to at least two more people who are not their now Humiliated and Betrayed² monogamous partner.

But does being a dick mean you should be publicly shamed about it? I believe people have a right to privacy regarding their sex lives, and, as long as everyone involved is consenting, it’s really none of our business – nor is it ever, in my mind, particularly interesting.

I have received dick pics in my life, as have most of my female friends. Most of my guy friends have sent a dick pic or two in their time. Minus the infidelity, the details of Anthony Wiener’s sexting activities are therefore not actually that shocking, and to pretend they are means that we’re all participating in a moralistic mass charade. And the publishing of the photos and the body-shaming that has accompanied them is just tacky as hell.

Now, my belief in people’s right to privacy has a caveat. If you profit – socially, economically or politically – from shaming other people about their sexual choices and espousing often oppressive moralistic beliefs, and then are discovered to be a giant hypocrite who actually engages in these proclivities in your private life, then you get to be publicly called out.

This isn’t just so we as a society can enjoy shaming a bigot (though let’s be honest, that can be fun). It’s so the ill-deserved power of that individual can be dismantled and they can no longer shame others for things they do themselves, and also so we can show each other that these moralistic ideals are usually bullshit.

For example, Pentecostal televangelist Jimmy Swaggart made a living and a name for himself among fundamentalist Christians and Republicans by denouncing liberals, feminists, casual sex, prostitution and pornography – only to be revealed to frequently cheat on his wife with sex workers, and consume huge amounts of porn.

Likewise, Republican Newt Gingrich used Bill Clinton’s sex scandal to further his own political career, lambasting Clinton for his adulterous behaviour and trying to get him impeached – all the while, cheating on his own wife.

Larry Craig spent 18 years in the US Senate and 10 years in the US House of Representatives, gaining huge support for his social conservatism and hugely homophobic stance against LGBT rights. However, he was caught soliciting sex from a male undercover police officer and allegedly had affairs with up to eight men during his marriage and political career.

And the list goes on. There are countless politicians – as well as countless Catholic priests, of course – who have gained personal power from attacking and oppressing others, presenting themselves as moralistic individuals who are either anti-adultery or anti-LGBT rights – all the while cheating, engaging in same-sex activities, or raping children.

Their voters, supporters and followers deserve to know that these individuals are hypocrites who are not living up to their ideals – and society at large needs to know that power gained by moralistic anti-sex claims is usually bullshit, and thus we should probably all chill the fuck out, and stop withholding people’s human and civil rights based on outdated moralistic claims.

Anthony Wiener didn’t explicitly run a campaign based on family values – but he does also strongly support the institution of marriage for both straight and LGBT people, supporting tax incentives and special status to people who are married over people who are not. And if you repeatedly disrespect the basic canons of your monogamous marriage, but give it a special social power, then you probably need to rethink your platform and ideology – as do your voters.

The problem is, the media isn’t using the Anthony Wiener scandal to talk policy, or discuss our ideas of marriage and monogamy and how they affect society. The media is largely just laughing at him, which isn’t hugely useful on any level.

But then the media is rarely interested in being useful when it comes to discussing the sex lives of famous people. From reporting on cheating celebrities to speculating wildly about stars’ sexualities and proclivities, famous people who are not politicians have their sex lives discussed for entertainment all the time – so why should politicians be afforded any more privacy?

Ideally, I think that – barring bigoted hypocrites – the media shouldn’t be writing about the private sex lives of anyone.

If famous people want to use their platforms to offset the stigma facing LGBT people, asexual people, kinky people, non-monogamous people – grand, good for them. But as ever, consent is key. If we haven’t been invited into someone’s sex life, either by explicit information or their (often untrue) proclamations of what they do not and never would do, then we should all probably stay out of it.

I don’t care about Anthony Wiener. I do care about how we talk about sex, and the reasons and methods that still allow us to use sex to shame people and invade their privacy. That’s a conversation worth having, and if Wiener’s wiener can get us there, his privacy may have been worth the sacrifice.

If not, I think all of us come out of this looking a little bit like dicks ourselves.

Dear Roe,

I’m a 30-year-old straight woman. I’m a smart, independent woman, sex positive and have my shit together. I’ve always loved sex – but I’ve also always had an orgasm problem, and it’s becoming really annoying. I’ve been with my current boyfriend for nearly a year, and he’s great – funny, kind, smart, and really generous in bed. The sex is fun and hot and I’m enjoying it, but I’m having the same problem I’ve had in all my relationships. During sex – penetrative, oral, whatever – I can’t orgasm, and just end up faking.

I can come when I’m alone masturbating, but I can never finish with someone. Even if I touch myself during, or if he goes down on me for ages. I get really close, then just hit a wall and can’t let myself orgasm. But then, when he leaves, I’m usually still turned on (probably because I haven’t come!) and end up masturbating, at which point I can orgasm easily. What the hell is wrong with me? I’m crazy about my boyfriend and want to orgasm with him, and am getting more and more frustrated with myself. What do I do?

Dear Letter Writer,

You might not appreciate this now, but you are so lucky. So many women out there don’t have the confidence, positivity or sexual awareness to be able to bring themselves to orgasm, and more don’t believe that they are physically capable of doing so (even though most of them are).

You don’t have that issue. We know you’re physically able to come, you are having orgasms, and so we can rule out physical factors.

Which brings us to the mental and emotional reasons you may be having trouble. As a woman who obviously knows what gets her off, I’m going to assume that you’re telling your boyfriend what you like, and it’s not that he’s doing all the wrong things, rather you’re a bit too in your head to enjoy sex with him as much as you should.

Without knowing you or more details, I can only speculate about what could be causing your mental blockage. Seeing as it’s been a problem in more than one relationship and you haven’t mentioned any sexual or emotional trauma that could be contributing to your issue, I’m going to guess that it may be based on control or trust issues.

Being intimate with someone is scary, and sometimes, despite our best intentions, we subconsciously maintain some distance from our partners by exerting unnecessary control over situations where we’re the most vulnerable.

For some people, that means never letting your partner see you cry, or not letting them help you when you’re upset or stressed. For others, it could mean emotionally withdrawing whenever you’re jealous or feeling insecure, in an attempt to prove that you don’t really care about them. And sometimes, women can subconsciously prevent themselves form orgasming with a partner.

This could be because women are socialised to be ashamed of our bodies and sexuality, and orgasms see us at our most ecstatic and physically uninhibited. Some women are afraid of what they look or sound like when orgasming, or that they may squirt, and so instead of letting themselves orgasm, they fake it so it looks prettier and tidier to their partner.

Or it could be that women are subconsciously worried about how orgasming with someone could affect their emotions – they could be worried that they’ll get more attached, and thus be less in control of their feelings.

Given your description of yourself, I’m guessing one or all of these issues could be at play. For a woman who identifies herself as independent and “having her shit together”, it can sometimes be difficult to let go of control and to trust someone else. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Remember that you’re both able to orgasm and not obliged to – you don’t have to always orgasm with your partner. Keeping this in mind will help you to approach this orgasm quest not as a problem that urgently needs to be solved, but as a fun exercise in making your sex life even better. Stressing about it will just keep you in your head and from enjoying the moment – the exact opposite of what we’re aiming for.

You can build up to orgasming with your partner slowly. After sex, when you’re still turned on and thinking of having a nice masturbation session – do it with him in the room. Tell him you want to get yourself off as he watches you, and then do your thing. If you can’t get there with him watching, it may be a sign that you’re not quite at ease with him seeing you come yet. Or flip this; masturbate for a while before you have sex, so that you get really comfortable and turned on, and then grab your boyfriend and get him involved.

If you usually have sex with the lights on, maybe try it in the dark, where you won’t be as concerned about him seeing you come, and you may be able to lose yourself in the moment a bit more.

If you usually masturbate with sex toys, introduce them into your sex play, so that you can physically get into a similar place as when you masturbate.

But try not to get frustrated or dispirited. You’re an awesome, smart, confident, sex-positive woman! You’re able to orgasm! You’ve got a great, funny, smart, kind boyfriend who is generous in bed!

You’ve got all the ingredients for a killer sex life. Just play around until they fit together – and have fun doing it.

Have a question for Roe? Submit it anonymously at

Roe McDermott is a journalist, arts critic, Fulbright awardee and sex columnist from Dublin. She lives in San Francisco, where she's completing an MA in Sexuality Studies.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *