By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Robert Steinbuch likes to spank and be spanked. So do I, but our similarities end there. Whereas I've proudly edited Naughty Spanking Stories From A to Z and will gladly confess my spanking prowess, Steinbuch, a lawyer for the Senate Judiciary Committee, is suing his former lover Jessica Cutlerbetter known as the blogging blabbermouth Washingtoniennefor revealing his sexual secrets. Specifically, his civil suit claims that Cutler's Internet postings "constituted a gross invasion of privacy, subjecting him to humiliation and anguish beyond that which any reasonable person should be expected to bear in a decent and civilized society."
Steinbuch is attempting to capitalize not only on Cutler's fame but also on the idea that spanking and hair pulling, as hot as they may be, have no part in a "decent and civilized society." Cutler used only his initials, but once her blog went public via Wonkette, politicos quickly pointed to Steinbuch as spanker number one, and he's claiming to have suffered "severe emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment, and anguish."
I dropped out of law school, so I can't speak to the legal merits of the case, but I laughed at his invasion-of-privacy claim. I'd read The Washingtonienne (Hyperion, 2005), Cutler's barely fictionalized novel chronicling her D.C. exploitsnamely partying, fucking congressional workers on their desks, and taking oodles of cash from suitors to pay her rentbut I didn't know Steinbuch's name until his lawsuit, splashed on the Smoking Gun, revealed it.
Spanking and hair pulling are the main kinky activities Steinbuch is angry at Cutler for publicizing. He alleges that these revelations go beyond what the so-called reasonable person could bear having known about him. But if they were so shocking, why was he doing them in the first place? We seem to want sexual privacy when it's convenient, but we also want the freedom to be publicly wanton, from blogs to reality shows to tabloid tell-alls. In a post-Monica Lewinsky world, I'd think anyone in Washington engaging in extra-curricular sex play would have considered the possibility that his kinky thrills might someday be revealed and act accordingly.
If you doubt that sex and politics are permanently intertwined bedfellows, note this case wellnot only because it occurred in our country's capital, but also because sex itself, especially kinky sex, is as political as it gets. While sodomy laws are no longer enforceable in the U.S., kink is still a factor in custody battles, job discrimination, and other arenas. Nonprofit group the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (ncsfreedom.org) works to defend alternative sexual practices such as getting off on pain; those who do are still not widely understood, by law enforcement or society. We're an easy joke and a handy target.
Should your supposedly deviant sexual activity be exposed, watch out. It's OK to flaunt "normal," missionary position sex, but veer away from that supposed standard and the sparks will fly. Clinton was so harshly excoriated because instead of fucking Monica on his marital bed, he got a blowjob under his desk and used a cigar to twiddle her twat, which caused more uproar than his adultery.
It's the same in the Cutler case. Unlike Monica, though, she blogged about it, and word spread much faster.
One of the key questions about sex in our time is whether it belongs in the private or public sphere. The correct answer is both. While the legal right to privacy is relatively new, the idea that what goes on in the bedroom stays in the bedroom is older. My generation's frank sex talk scares many old-timers, especially when babes are doing the blabbing. Cutler quickly cut away that fictional public/private line, dishing what she did sexually and what she thought about it, and that seems to be Steinbuch's biggest problem. Even though she praised him, he clings to the notion that she has somehow exposed something about him that will forever harm him, when the truth is that countless asses get smacked every day. Ask your neighbors, co-workers, and friends if they've ever been spanked (or wanted to be); see how many share blushing, enthusiastic confidences; and then reconsider who this "reasonable person" really is.
Why is sex both public and private? As much as we talk, write, and educate about it, on the phone and in blogs, in whispered bar conversations and columns like mine, there is still a private, interpersonal aspect of sex. Whatever Cutler and Steinbuch shareda passionate affair, kinky experimentationthey still shared, even if one's now suing the other. We may know, technically, their actions, but we don't know everything. I get this all the time: People assume that by writing about my sexual encounters, I'm diluting them, pimping out my private pleasures for mass consumption. Yet writing about my sex life is a means of celebrating, exploring, and reacting to sex while still allowing for emotional, spiritual, and physical connections that exist solely between my lovers and me.
I have no pity for Steinbuch, because his lawsuit smacks of desperation. He wants the last word or, more likely, to cash in on the big bucks Cutler's raked in by posing for Playboy and inking a reported six-figure book deal with Hyperion (can the movie version be far behind?). While her actions were selfish to the extreme, Cutler is a symbol of women's precarious place within the world of political power. All women have felt, at one time or another, that our only power and worth lie in our pussies, and Cutler used this knowledge to full advantage. I pity her because nowhere in her novel or blog does she seem to get any pleasure, never mind orgasms, out of her sexual encounters. Yet who am I to judge? Maybe she got exactly what she was looking for, spanking and hair pulling included.