Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sex Scandal--Not!

The recent hubbub surrounding Obama budget director Peter Orszag suggests that sex scandal buzz in this country has reached a new low. Or maybe it's a's kind of hard to say.

You see, what is most remarkable about the Peter Orszag sex scandal is the fact that nothing particularly scandalous has happened. There's not even a cover-up here: Orszag and all the other major players in this ersatz-scandal have been utterly forthright and forthcoming with the public. It almost makes me nostalgic for the days when being embroiled in a sex scandal really meant something, a time when admission to the vaunted pantheon of naughtiness was reserved for those whose hijinks were truly gasp-worthy.

In striking contrast, the Peter Orszag story is as unsatisfying as a decaf--where's my jolt? The facts, in brief, are these: Claire Milonas, a financially independent woman abundantly capable of raising a child without the company of its genetic father gave birth in November to a child she conceived with Orszag last spring. Shortly after she became pregnant, Milonas and Orszag broke up and Orszag began dating comely ABC news journalist Bianna Golodrya (timing Orszag and Milonas confirmed in a joint press release issued earlier this fall). And then in late December, Orszag and Golodryga became engaged.

Seasoned sex scandal watchers were left wondering: where is the adultery? Where is the wrecked family? Where is the kinky sex, prostitution, or closeted sexuality?

The lasting legacy of the Orszag scandal may be the way a series of non-events were able to capture the public imagination as if something scandalous had occurred. In this way, L'Affaire Orszag has pushed the scandal envelope--but is this a direction we really want to go? The real news here lies in the way the national appetite for sex scandals has implicated us all in the politics of sexual policing—even when there is no there there.

So I say: let’s limit subjection to the ordeal of public scrutiny to those who actually deserve it, like politicians who want to legislate what we can do in our private lives while taking extraordinary liberties in theirs (are you listening Larry Craig, David Vitter, and Mark Sanford?)