Nothing (or everything) to see here: Just an elected official operating a porn site with her husband

This is all going down just as I expected. With Democrats’ control of the Virginia House of Delegates at stake, the left-media is rallying around Susanna Gibson and treating this as a nothing-burger. First up is Politico’s Jack Shafer whose piece is titled “So What if a Candidate Livestreamed Sex Acts with Her Husband?” As Shafer sees it, politicians have been crossing sexual boundaries for decades and this is no different.

Politicians have long transgressed polite society’s sexual boundaries. Members of Congress always seem to be getting busted for hiring prostitutes. A number of members have been convicted for having sex with underage pages. In the 1980s, one lawmaker, Rep. Barney Frank, lived with a male escort who said he ran his prostitution service out of Frank’s apartment. In the 1990s, Congress could have passed for a swingers club as a passel of high-ranking members, including Bob Barr, Dan Burton, Robert Livingston, Newt Gingrich, Henry Hyde and Pete Domenici engaged in sexual affairs. And, of course, in 1998, President Bill Clinton collapsed the day’s existing moral standards when he did the same with an intern inside the White House.

This paragraph is just a mess. Shafer has lumped together various crimes (including sex with children and prostitution) along with adult men cheating on their spouses. His description of Bill Clinton’s behavior is a dumpster fire. Saying that Clinton “collapsed the day’s moral standards” is not even accurate since Clinton was defended and supported by lots of Democrats in exactly the same way Shafer is defending and supporting Gibson now.

We were repeatedly told that Europe was laughing at our prudish morality. Moral standards were openly sneered at. It was only decades later, after the Clintons were finally out of power and #MeToo became a thing, that some Democrats admitted it may have been a mistake to defend the most powerful boss in the world using a young intern for sex. There is a bit of a power differential there. So it would be more accurate to say Democrats tried to rewrite the moral standards of the day and later regretted it (until now).

Today, people’s lives are more and more online. New generations of politicians have grown up in a world where it’s commonplace to record their every move and misadventure, so we can expect to see more of this in the coming years. Some politicians don’t try to tough it out. Former Rep. Katie Hill resigned from Congress a few years ago after nude pictures of her were released amid a messy divorce and allegations of inappropriate relationships with aides.

If I recall, Rep. Hill admitted to the inappropriate relationship with an aide so this wasn’t just a case of allegations. Again, Shafer doesn’t seem to be bothered by powerful people using junior people around them for sex, even when it’s explicitly against the rules. (Remember the title of his piece is “So What…”) They way he’s jumbled up crimes and bad behavior, he’s basically making an argument for having no rules at all.

But I will give Shafer credit for one thing. He doesn’t fall for the obvious BS coming from Gibson and her lawyer about her being the victim here.

Gibson has gone on the offensive, protesting the “leak” of the sex performance and prospecting previously undiscovered legal territory by calling the distribution of the videos “an illegal invasion” of her privacy and a “sex crime” against her.

What Gibson and her lawyer lack in legal acumen, they make up for in moxie. When you livestream sex acts on a site where you have 5,700 followers and it doesn’t require a password, can you convince a judge and jury that your expectations of privacy have been violated? Likewise, her lawyer’s idea that it violates Virginia’s revenge porn law is a stretch. The livestreams of her having sex with her husband were made with her consent for an established audience. The fact that somebody recorded her performances that she already shared with her Chaturbate audience, and that somebody then shared them with a Republican who then shared them with the Post, hardly qualifies as harassment. Maybe copyright laws were violated here, but revenge porn? Nah.

Jumping over to Slate, the emphasis is on the potential political fallout for Democrats.

The Washington Post published a story on Monday that may harm Virginia Democrats’ chances of preventing a complete Republican state government takeover this November…

No matter how the residents of Virginia’s 57th District feel about their would-be delegate doing sex work on a public platform, this revelation sure does complicate the election campaign Gibson, a nurse practitioner, is currently running against Republican David Owen, a retiree and former homebuilder…

Now the revelations of Gibson’s sex work make it even more likely that Republicans will retain control of the House of Delegates and assume the power to reverse years of progress in Virginia at a critical moment for the climate, voting rights, and access to abortion and gender-affirming health care.

Eventually, the author does get around to saying people should really be congratulating Gibson for her history of sex work.

In a better world, Gibson’s history of sex work would have no bearing (or even a positive impact) on her ability to clinch a competitive seat in the Virginia Legislature. There is nothing wrong with what she and her husband do to earn money and/or have fun, and it’s despicable that political operatives would surface these livestreams to shame her.

I think the author of the Slate piece is in fact representative of the people who support Democrats these days, i.e. people who think livestreaming their sex life to strangers for money should have a positive impact on someone’s candidacy. I’m quite sure there are many Democrats who will become far more outspokenly supportive of Gibson because of this. The only question is whether enough of the party and independents feel this way to put her in office.

I wouldn’t rule it out.

The right has a reputation these days for caring about nothing so much as “owning the libs.” But the left isn’t so different. If Gibson can convince people that she’s a victim who is striking a blow against prudish Republicans, the left will back her in droves.

There is an actual moral issue here that even resistance Democrats and Slate staffer might want to think about. Is Gibson someone Virginia parents want young girls looking to as an example? If so it’s going to be difficult to convince some of those girls that sexting is a bad idea. (Livestream it to a whole school and you can count on an endorsement from Slate when you run for office years later.) If voters endorse this behavior, kids will get the message. The outcome of Gibson’s bogus claims of revenge porn will eventually be instances of real revenge porn after teens foolishly accept the idea that what Gibson did was not only neutral but admirable.

The AP has more progressives rallying to Gibson’s defense, though not everyone is convinced this is a nothing-burger.

Emily’s List, an advocacy group for Democratic female candidates, also defended Gibson.

“Susanna originally ran for office because of the overturning of Roe and she’s been very outspoken on standing up for reproductive rights. People are coming out in support of Susanna because they know that Republicans are coming after her because she was standing up for them,” said spokesperson Lauren Chou…

Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington, said that even in a more open-minded era for personal indiscretions, it’s highly unlikely Gibson will win.

“Donald Trump has defined downward what is acceptable in public life, but this doesn’t seem like the kind of conduct that Democrats will be able to sell in a suburban Richmond district,” Farnsworth said.

I wish I believed Farnsworth was right but I’m really not sure he is anymore.

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