Anthony Weiner, aka Carlos Danger, was sentenced to prison for texting with a 15 year old minor girl. Just Weiner’s code name reveals how out of touch he was with reality. The man lost his grip–and everything and everyone he valued, too, all for some moments of sexual titillation.
Is Weiner a sex addict? He does appear to have some of the symptoms of a person who struggles with addiction, for example, he kept returning to the same risky behaviors despite the possibility of negative consequences. He reportedly tried rehab, but without success. Despite having a powerful and beautiful partner in life and a son, he was apparently unhappy and unfulfilled, just as many people with substance addictions report.
But Weiner was not using a substance. He was using another person, a teenager. Even if the teen contacted him, he was the adult responsible for their interaction. This was sexual abuse.
What makes a person act this way? Most perpetrators of sexual abuse are out of touch with how to get their sexual needs met in a healthy way. They are embarrassed and ashamed by their own sexual needs. Sometimes, to cope, they get rid of their sexual needs by projecting onto the teen that he or she was seductive. This lessens their responsibility for their actions, but it doesn’t make them any less egregious.
Perpetrators of sexual abuse generally take advantage of the difference in power between themselves and the child or teen. In Weiner’s case, he was a powerful man who the teen he abused may have thought could do her some favor, or she may have felt that being desired by someone powerful validated her ability to attract attention. Whatever the case, he used his power to engage the girl sexually. Mature men do not do this. Mature men want to protect younger people, not exploit them.
Weiner’s sexual behavior was out of control. We do not know his sexual history, and probably never will. Having worked with people with out of control sexual behavior, however, I know that usually there has been some form of abuse–sexual, perhaps, but it also could have been emotional or physical. The person’s ability to form a loving, trusting relationship is compromised; their self-esteem, and their sexuality along with it, is damaged.
Being sexually attracted to teenagers is not against the law; acting upon the urge to sexually exploit a teen is. Weiner’s problem is, in a sense, everyone’s problem. Someone like Weiner, who feels attraction to adolescents, needs a safe place to talk about and understand his attraction. He needs to identify healthy outlets for his sexual needs. It is something we all owe to ourselves, whether or not our sexual expression fits standard expectations.
Not many therapists are willing to talk to someone in this position. They may feel too upset or even disgusted to help. And, of course, if the person has acted on their urges, then a report needs to be made to protect the child or teen and others in the area from further abuse. Could Weiner openly talk about his sexual interests with anyone treating him? Or, was he told he was an addict and needed to refrain from certain behaviors in order to live a healthy life? Is it possible to have a happy life if a conversation about sexual health isn’t possible?
I don’t think so.