I’ve been avoiding writing about Tiger Woods, in part because so many other people are already writing about him, and in part because I think his so-called scandal is really a tempest in a teakettle. As this cheeky chart so ably demonstrates, Tiger Woods never promised us anything, and so he also owes us nothing. His wife? Sure. He owes her big time, probably more than he can ever repay. But us, the viewing public? Why should we care about whether or not a great golfer has broken his wedding vows?
Still, the story has reared its ugly head (sorry!) yet again, this time due to Woods’ recent carefully-crafted public apology. And all the chatter that’s followed has reminded me that, if we’re going to keep talking about it and talking about it, there are at least a few important points to be made about this marginally meaningful case:
We need to have a serious, for reals talk about marriage and monogamy. Once and for all: there’s nothing wrong with sleeping with lots of women (or men, for that matter). What’s wrong is lying about it, and doing it without practicing safe sex. If Tiger wanted to sleep around, he just need to a) use condoms and b) not enter into a monogamous marriage. But if he didn’t have the perfect wife and kids, would he have been such a marketable hero? Would he have had all those endorsements? Our culture equates monogamy and marriage with being a respectable citizen. Isn’t it time we, well, divorced our moral judgments from whether or not a person has a life partner to whom they’ve promised sexual exclusivity? What matters is not what promises a person makes, but whether or not ze keeps them.
The era of standing by your man may be ending. First, Jenny Sanford refused to appear at her husband’s press conference when he, governor of South Carolina, got caught in an affair with a woman in Argentina. One woman does not a trend make, but two? We could be on to something. Kudos to Elin Nordegren for declining to appear at Tiger’s side during his public apology. Wives who’ve been dragged into a public scandal by their lying husbands have suffered enough – they certainly don’t need to pretend it’s all OK for the cameras.
I’m not sure I believe in "sex addiction." One of the ways Woods is trying to redeem himself in the public eye is by undergoing treatment for "sex addiction." But the whole frame of "sex addiction" is troubling, as it can both be used to a) excuse men who lie, cheat and use women in the pursuit of sex, and b) pathologize women who have higher than average sex drives. It seems to me the focus shouldn’t be on how much sex an individual wants to have, but rather, on how ethical and respectful they are (or aren’t) in pursuit of sexual interactions. As Anna N. at Jezebel puts it – that’s not a sex addiction per se: that’s an intimacy disorder:
Perhaps the focus when we talk about such problems should be how the sufferer treats others. After all, a "healthy sexuality" looks different to everyone — it may not be "normal heterosexual sex" or even "a loving relationship." And for many people, sex involves a certain measure of darkness, darkness that shouldn’t necessarily be washed away. The problem comes when an appetite for transgression makes someone feel entitled to harm other people — and it seems like any successful therapy would have to address not just the appetite but the entitlement as well.
This is no "post-racial" society. Charmingly, PETA unveiled this billboard in Florida, Woods’ home state:
Comparing a hypersexual black man to an animal? Stay klassy, PETA.