How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything (Or, Why Political Sex Scandals Matter)

How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything (Or, Why Political Sex Scandals Matter) June 25, 2016

Sex scandals don’t bother me because of the sex. Here’s why.

"Allegorie des Schweigens Weimar" from Wikimedia Commons (CC license).
“Allegorie des Schweigens Weimar” from Wikimedia Commons (CC license).

I enjoy the writing of Kate Bornstein, gender outlaw and activist, and in this blog post, she describes a Zen koan that she lives by: the way you do anything is the way you do everything.

Bornstein explains:

In other words, I can look at everything I do in my life through the lens of “this is just a rehearsal for everything else I have to do in life.” I look at gender that way. There’s a meta in gender that can be applied to other cultural binaries like race, age, class, and citizenship, among others. I wonder how much of what I’ve learned in postmodern gender theory will apply to the binary of life & death.

I love this insight. It applies to relationships, sexuality, politics, and so much more – not in a shamey, judgey way, but rather in a way that’s about integrity and ethics.

So, when I see people acting in ways that are disrespectful or boundary-violating, even if they’re not necessarily illegal, I get concerned. Because if you think it’s okay to do something in a fashion that lacks integrity/ethics, how do I know you don’t feel that way about everything else in your life, including how you relate to me? For instance, I understand that infidelity in relationships happens for a lot of reasons, and as Esther Perel has noted, it’s not always the ultimate betrayal that it’s made out to be. But do I want to start a business with someone who has a long history of infidelity? Maybe not, since there’s no guarantee that their lackluster relationship ethics wouldn’t trickle into other parts of their life.

Similarly, I find the attempts to dismiss repeated affairs that politicians have confounding, as Ann Coulter attempts to do for Donald Trump. If we can’t trust politicians to have healthy, consensual relationships, why would we trust them to run businesses or national institutions?

I also have trouble trusting folks who claim to represent a religion and then do awful things, like this youth pastor who was caught soliciting a minor. That’s one example of many, where a highly rigid, dualistic belief system ends up yielding people who are so conflicted about what they feel and need that they end up living extremely hypocritical lives.

As someone with a sex-positive orientation, I’m not interested in shaming people for their mistakes or sexual expressions (so long as they’re consensual… and infidelity usually isn’t, unfortunately). So I’m not trying to drag these people through the mud and say what terrible, broken humans they are. Rather, I’m saying that if – as Bornstein says – how we do anything is how we do everything, these people have messed up a particular “anything” and so now I’m suspicious of their “everything.” Nobody’s perfect, but if you’ve got compromised ethics in one arena of life, I’m going to give you some serious side-eye in other areas of life too.

I’m talking serious side-eye. We can do better, folks.

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