Weinergate: How Anthony Weiner and John Edwards lost control of their private parts.

Weinergate: How Anthony Weiner and John Edwards lost control of their private parts.

Weinergate: How Anthony Weiner and John Edwards lost control of their private parts.

A wartime lexicon.
June 6 2011 11:00 AM

Anatomy of a Scandal

How Anthony Weiner and John Edwards lost control of their private parts.

(Continued from Page 1)

If this catches on, there will be plenty more lucrative work for lawyers. Imagine the new firms that will go into business to represent independent dicks. Campaigns could be charged billable hours by Nasty, Brutish, and Short or Long, John, and Silver. (There might even be room for Weiner, Weiner, and Weiner.) In the meantime, it will become necessary for all prudent males in public life to register copyright on actual and potential pictures of their private parts, perhaps especially those taken from the apparent viewpoint of their uneasy owners. I am pretty sure I couldn't be confused with anyone else. I am convinced furthermore that I'd be able to identify my own property, but to avoid any confusion (or "conflict of interest") between us, I'm arranging for the waistband of my briefs to read clearly: "Hitch: 'Too Big To Fail.' Serving the Community and Making a Difference Since 1967." I shall just have to hope that everything in the vicinity is shrinkproof.

Our everyday language is unintentionally revealing here. A flasher who displays his genitals in public is spoken of as "exposing himself." In fact, we all expose ourselves, or much of ourselves, every time we go out. The line is crossed only when the exposure is full-frontal. Possibly we use the misleading form in the hope of avoiding the unmentionable. But does this usage not also "expose" something else, as in the even more coy version, "He exposed his person." This is truly to invest the member with the qualities of an individual. This being the case, the whole issue of personality could be redefined. Passports and drivers licenses could have reserved spaces for beefcake shots, which would provide much more authentic proof of identity. ("Sir, I'm going to need to see some …)

In my time at Oxford, there still persisted a quaint survival from the Victorian era. A special part of the river bank set among the willows was reserved for nude male bathing, with membership restricted to dons and clergymen. Prominent signs and barriers prevented boats and punts containing females from approaching this discreet stretch. On one fateful Sunday afternoon, however, a recent flood had washed away the signs and weakened the barriers. A group of ladies was swept past the rows of recumbent and undressed gentlemen. Shrieks of embarrassment from the boat, while on the shore—consternation. Pairs of hands darted down to cover the midsection. All but one, the hedonist and classicist Sir Maurice Bowra, whose palms went up to conceal his craggy visage. As the squeals were borne downstream, and the sheepish company surveyed itself, Bowra growled, "I don't know about you chaps, but I'm known by my face around here." How long will this traditional view endure?

See slideshow of other bad things that have happened to Anthony Weiner.

Christopher Hitchens' Kindle Single,  The Enemy, on the demise of Osama Bin Laden, has just been published.

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was a columnist for Vanity Fair and the author, most recently, of Arguably, a collection of essays.