We Are Not All Exhibitionists Now

What Women Really Think
Nov. 30 2009 11:32 AM

We Are Not All Exhibitionists Now

The story of the gate-crashing Salahis was with us for the duration of the holiday, given top billing at every major paper and half-heartedly justified by the pretense of their presence as a "security issue." The commentary was predictable because we’d seen the same when balloon boy descended from the attic. We created the Salahis. This is our culture of attention-seeking. The Salahis aren’t outliers, they are what we have become. Etc, etc, and so forth.

This line of argument has always seemed to me unpersuasive. Of course we’re going to notice the tiny minority of fame addicts more than we notice the vast majority of people who lack interest in publicly humiliating themselves; getting noticed is the point. Yes, fame-seekers now have more stages on which to perform their dysfunction. But that doesn't mean that there are more exhibitionists among us than there once were, or that every life is now a public life. Kids who grow up on Facebook are going to be relatively practiced at drawing boundaries; if anyone knows where the line is, it’s the people who have always had to make the choice between privacy and public revelation. I don’t care if Penelope Trunk wants to tweet her miscarriage , but that kind of openness does not seem to be the norm.

Advertisement

The Heenes and the Salahis aren’t uncomfortable to watch because they epitomize some ugly new aspect of American culture. They’re painful to watch because they're desperate to be liked, and it's awkward to encounter that level of neediness in other people.

Kerry Howley's work has appeared in the Paris Review, Bookforum, and the New York Times Magazine. She is currently finishing a book about consensual violence, ecstatic experience, and the body.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Photography
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
The Good Word
Sept. 21 2014 11:44 PM Does This Name Make Me Sound High-Fat? Why it just seems so right to call a cracker “Cheez-It.”
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.