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Friday, June 10, 2011

Blogger Confession: I Didn’t Tweet On My Wife

You can’t open up a newspaper, read a blog, listen to the radio, or watch television without hearing about a sex scandal. Why? In part, because there seems to be so many of these scandals going on, sometimes simultaneously, and in part, because there are so many different mediums looking to capitalize on the car wreck of the day. We used to lament the news would only focus on murder and crime. Now we have sex scandals, 24/7.

I feel obligated to state upfront: I did not cheat on my wife, though if you listen to others caught in sex scandals isn’t that what they always say? Then the story changes and eventually, more of the truth comes out.  I don’t want to write about the sexual morality of men in powerful positions (few have any) or to  debate whether Congressman Anthony Weiner should resign (his political career is dead regardless of  what I have to say), nor do I want to call for sext ed in schools, business and homes (but we do need it, apparently). I want to examine lessons we can learn as it relates to scandal PR and connect it to the book
world.

The first connection is that no doubt someone is working on a book related to recent sex scandals –
Schwartzanegger, that IMF guy who allegedly sodomized a maid, former senator Edwards and his
federal indictment in connection to his hush money love child scandal, and Weinergate. Before this blog is read today there may be another sex scandal ready to be exposed. Until the public stops paying to read about sex scandals there will always be these kinds of books. And they are the ones that will get publicity, because, well, sex sells. So, if you want to make money as an author, write about a sex scandal or be prepared to tie your book into one.

There are many books related to sex, including ones that cover scandals, biographical confessions, how-to books, relationships, marriage, erotica, porn, disease, rape, and fiction. There are also many books of how the famous, rich and powerful have risen and fallen. Our national appetite for these type of books is insatiable. Anything sex related seems to touch all aspects of life, from love and entertainment to scandal and crime.

The second connection is social media. Granted, most authors aren’t tweeting pictures of their private
parts to strangers but there is a big lesson to be learned: the digital record of your views and actions outlives a bankruptcy filing on your credit report. You can’t take it back. If you hope to have a public career as an author, do not think you can separate your social life or personal side from your writing or business life. Online, it is one merged existence. And people will judge you for it, even hypocritically.

I suppose, over time, society will take a different attitude to things that become public knowledge, since so much is becoming public knowledge. Right now we’re in a transition stage. The public norm is moving and changing at the speed of technology’s ability to reveal what people really think, say and do. We’re still getting used to the idea of reading other people’s private comments but at some point, when enough people are harshly judged or exposed publicly we will change our standards and start to accept the things we discover online or see depicted in reality shows. 

Just look at how society, over the years, has become more tolerant of what used to be seen as social no-no’s: divorce, interracial marriage, premarital sex, gay marriage, babies out of wedlock, addiction and recovery. The more we learn of the prevalence of certain behaviors, the more we accept them.  Television and pop culture over the last 50 years has torn down many social taboos – whether it’s about language, depictions of  violence and sex, or about the discussion of social and political issues. At some point we will grow tolerant in  learning about the human side, even the repulsive side, of those who are our role models, celebrities, politicians, and leaders. It doesn’t mean we should condone bad behavior, such as when a married congressman is sexting penis photos to women half his age, but we may eventually find a way to not condemn him either. How so, you ask?

We will find, as a society that lives more online and publicly, there are many behaviors and viewpoints out there that seemingly offend us or make us uncomfortable. But an overexposure to them will move us from thinking one is a deviant to one is just normal. Society’s standard default is not the ideal and lofty standard it hopes to live by, but rather it is likely far below even the mediocrity we had come to presume and expect from others.

Does it really shock us that a congressman talks dirty online? So many millions of people do what Weiner did. And the more we hear of these situations, the less surprised we are and the less judgmental we become. What we  are still surprised at is how badly these pop culture figures lie and cover-up their tracks. At the very least, they use poor judgment, and often, they violate standards of ethics, professional conduct, and even break the law – not to mention disgrace their families.

So, authors, keep your sex scandals off-line but don’t expect to cover them up forever. And when they are discovered, write a book about them. But in all seriousness, I do expect that society will still maintain a standard of expected behavior but one that is tempered with the reality that with every leaked Tweet and sext message what seems unusual, unfathomable or even distasteful is probably going to be the new norm.

Then we can move past discussing sex scandals all the time and put the focus on the important stuff –
promoting our books!

Brian Feinblum can be reached at brianfeinblum@gmail.com and he can be followed on Twitter
@theprexpert (but he will not be tweeting x-rated photos!).

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