Joe Barton wasn’t a household name outside of Ennis, Texas, until an image of him engaged in a sex act with himself appeared on the internet. As a conservative congressman, this wasn’t exactly the image he wanted his constituents to see. Not that there was anything wrong with it.
Earlier Wednesday, Barton acknowledged “sexual relationships with other mature adult women” that he said took place while he was “separated from my second wife, before the divorce.”
“Each was consensual,” he said in a statement. “Those relationships have ended. I am sorry I did not use better judgment during those days. I am sorry that I let my constituents down.”
Who is this “mature adult woman”? Her name is withheld, this is the first curiosity. Concealing the identities of rape victims has long been an accepted part of the regime, as they did nothing to make themselves newsworthy beyond being the victim and should therefore not suffer the taint of a sordid story. But here? The woman was no victim.
The woman, who spoke anonymously, shared with The Post a recorded phone conversation in which the congressman confronted her about communications she had with other women connected to Mr. Barton, including sexually explicit material he had shared with her.
Notably, the retelling of the story is backwards. The anon woman “shared” a phone call she surreptitiously recorded (Texas is a one-party recording state) where Barton threatened to call the Capital Police on her if she didn’t leave him alone and stop sharing his sexually explicit images. Built into the story is Barton’s use of his power to threaten the woman, to make her the victim.
Why twist the story this way?
Barton’s sexual dalliance involved no impropriety. It wasn’t nonconsensual, as with the two additional women (four as of this writing) who came forward about Sen. Al Franken. To the extent it might have been extramarital, he was at the end of a marriage, separated. And even though no one wants the image in their head, even conservatives are allowed to masturbate.
But the woman, whose identity is inexplicably shielded, revealed the video, a still image from which ended up on the internets. Texas has a revenge porn law, unconstitutional as it will ultimately prove to be. But as former Gawker writer, Adam Weinstein, spins, “revenge porn statutes do not exist to protect powerful men from gross hypocrisy.”
Well, maybe. After denying it with her typical combination of name-calling and absurd lies, Mary Anne Franks snuck in a newsworthiness exception to her model revenge porn law in an attempt to compensate for one of many First Amendment failures. Of course, Weinstein is right that she never intended her law to protect powerful men, even though the law, of necessity, couldn’t come out and say that.
Is it “newsworthy” that this bible-thumper had sex and sent sex videos to women not his wife? That’s part of the problem. Some, like Weinstein, would say it is, as it shows Barton to be a hypocrite. Others would argue that he committed no crime and his sex life is nobody’s else’s business.
Too late now, however, as Joe Barton’s sex life is on display in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and elsewhere. And it’s proven by the nonconsensual electronic transmittal of an image on the internet. Whether he deserved shaming is no longer the question. He’s being shamed. And no matter who you are, a pic of you masturbating on the internet isn’t going to make you a hometown hero.
So if the story was being told accurately, it would begin with a woman breaking the law. It would include her name, possibly a mug shot if available, and then go on to talk about how this criminal woman harassed this guy by searching for, finding, and reaching out to other “mature adult women” with whom he was involved.
Is there not a piece of the story involving Joe Barton’s embarrassing personal hypocrisy? Arguably there is, particularly since his politics are conservative, making him a pariah to woke journalists, whose job it now is to explain to readers why they should hate people like Barton.
But hey, who isn’t a hypocrite these days? Franken, at only two accusations, was being cleansed of his taint because he dedicated his political career to good causes with which the media approved and was only human. Revenge porn is only wrong when used against a sympathetic female, even though the law makes no such distinction. The same politicians who called for the death penalty for college boys demand fairness for themselves.
There is a much easier explanation that covers all that’s happening, and anyone wishing to be marginally honest with himself knows it. So much effort being squandered on rationalizing one team’s hypocrisy versus the other’s, and all of it failing miserably to persuade anyone not already inclined to believe. Such a waste.
Let’s be frank: there are no principles involved. There is no intellectual honesty here. You like whom you like. You hate whom you hate. Whatever the people you hate do is wrong and inexcusable, and whatever the people you like do can be forgiven for the good of the cause, no matter how horrifying it would be had it been done by a player on the other team. And women win either way, because they’re women.
And what makes this most ironic is that this not only allows all of you to stop spending so much time and energy trying to find some way to justify your beliefs and sensibilities, but it saves us from having to give a moment’s thought to an image of Joe Barton’s self-love. Whether newsworthy or not, nobody needs to have that in his head.