“Why does having a sexting affair with a married man or even doing porn make someone a bad person? Give me a break. I’m not a war criminal. I’m a human being who has made certain choices, some of which involve my sexuality…Yes, I’ve made thousands of dollars from sugar daddies. So?” begins Sydney Leathers in her xoJane piece, “10 Secrets For Seducing A Politician.”
Before we go any further here, I will say that I agree with this statement. Doing porn or using your sexuality in a way that feels empowering to earn money is not wrong. Lots of people do it and that doesn’t make them bad people. I have no problem with sex work. Until this moment, I was happy to defend Sydney Leathers. And then she goes on to say: “To Maureen Dowd and every other woman who thinks she knows anything about me — or anything about feminism for that matter — you don’t.”
And now, I have no choice but to have an opinion about her. Telling a group of (mostly female, many feminist-identified) readers that they don’t know shit about shit is obviously going to alienate them and put them on the defensive. Just read the comments section on the piece, and you’ll have all the confirmation you need.
“I can think of so many interesting angles that xo could have gone with for this story. This? The bottom of the barrel, lowest of the low,” commenter Smize remarks.
As a person who blogs on the internet, I completely understand why xoJane would publish a piece about Sydney Leathers. Her name is practically the top search term on the web right now. As much as we’d like to pretend like blogging isn’t a business, it is. And Sydney Leathers is good for business. Plus, in theory, it’s important to let her — Anthony Weiner’s 23-year-old sexting mistress whose name is getting dragged through the mud — have a chance to explain herself.
So, back to Sydney’s assertion that no one knows anything about her or anything about feminism — that’s not entirely true. At this point, I know a lot about Sydney. I’ve read her sexts with Anthony Weiner, seen her sexy photos, watched her porn and read her step-by-step guide for seducing a politician. I might not know everything about feminism (there’s much I don’t know for certain), but I do feel that one of the
tenants tenets of the movement is empowerment. That’s where Sydney’s understanding of feminism seems to have taken a strange turn. In her piece, her attempts to make the world believe that she is “owning it” are misguided. It reeks of low self-esteem. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing empowering about manipulating anyone, whether or not they’re a pathetic human being, which she certainly paints Weiner as. “Basically, pretend like you’re dating the middle school version of yourself,” she instructs in tip #1.
Please make no mistake: I’m not defending Anthony Weiner, but that’s another piece altogether. As Sydney’s politician seduction tips go on, she vacillates between being manipulative, condescending and insecure. She contradicts herself from one sentence to the next and, I’m sorry, underneath it all she sounds spurned:
For me, Anthony Weiner was a weird science experiment. I wanted to see how far it could go. How far could I push it? How long could it go on? … Looking back, my secret was a strange one to keep. I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing. My affair with Anthony was almost like my best friend. I started to alienate people.
To be quite honest, when we were talking and sexting multiple times a day, I did end up planning my days around him. Pathetic, but at least he never knew this … Yes, Anthony is married with a child. So you have to be comfortable that some people are going to brand you as an evil home wrecker. Don’t read the negative comments or tweets. You just kind of have to own it and be honest and keep your head up no matter what people think of you.
And these are just a couple of examples where her devil-may-care attitude is transparent and inauthentic. Underneath it all, she seems angry and hurt — like bragging about how she manipulates men and doesn’t feel bad about it makes her feel more powerful. It’s hard for me to believe that anyone feels empowered by using human beings as science experiments. That’s the opposite of my understanding of feminism. I’m sorry, I’m not buying it.