Senator David Vitter of Louisiana has been caught frequenting prostitutes. His behavior stands in stark contrast to the conservative “family values” and harsh sex-negative positions he relentlessly championed in the Senate and state legislature.
Vitter says he has “received forgiveness from God” for his “sins.” Thus conveniently cleansed, he now accuses “political enemies” of undermining his future work. Yesterday his wife criticized the news media for “following us every day last week,” as if Vitter had merely been caught with an overdue library book.
That’s the problem with conceptualizing one’s free choices as “sin”—you can simply admit you’re not perfect, claim that God forgives you, and take absolutely no responsibility for yourself. This is particularly repulsive in political figures like Newt Gingrich, Ted Haggard, and now Vitter—who make a living blasting tens of millions of American adults following their own vision of sexual morality, when Vitter and colleagues can’t follow their own. Or can’t admit what their own sexual code really is.
The average adult into S/M, swinging, premarital sex, or porn doesn’t try to force these choices on others. She or he certainly doesn’t demand legislation requiring others to expand their sexual repertoire.
But “decency” advocates like Vitter aggressively attempt—often successfully—to force every American to live according to a single, rigid set of ideas—which only the “decency” crowd gets to formulate. This power, and the confidence with which they wield it, is what’s truly immoral.
And Vitter’s going to get away with it. He’s going to walk with his head high, because he won’t be held to any adult standard of responsibility. He won’t be challenged to feel the guilt and shame you’re supposed to feel when you lie in public. He won’t be challenged to explain how he could demand laws punishing others who do what he was doing. He won’t be challenged to halt his attacks on the private sexual choices that he personally knows are the product of simple human desire, not some perverse, destructive impulse.
Vitter’s behavior has been profoundly immoral. Calling it “sin” —meaning he need take no responsibility for it—guarantees he’ll learn nothing, change nothing, and continue exploiting others. He’s the perfect Senator for those who can’t face their own sexual feelings, and need someone to denounce and exorcise them.
It’s people like Vitter who give “morality” a bad name.