Gibson’s Scandal, But For Whom?

According to her campaign mailer, she’s a nurse practitioner and mother of two kids running as a Democrat for the 57th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. According to the New York Times, she’s the victim of the illegal violation of her privacy.

But according to the Washington Post, this candidate for office has a side hustle doing internet porn with her husband, a lawyer.

A Democrat running for a crucial seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates performed sex acts with her husband for a live online audience and encouraged viewers to pay them with “tips” for specific requests, according to online videos viewed by The Washington Post.

Susanna Gibson, a nurse practitioner and mother of two young children running in a highly competitive suburban Richmond district, streamed sex acts on Chaturbate, a platform that says it takes its name from “the act of masturbating while chatting online.”

This raises a stunning host of issues on many levels, most of which are “answered” with nothing more than a disingenuous political litmus test. On the twitters, I asked if this was a matter of legitimate public concern.

Is a candidate running for office who has a side hustle doing internet porn with her husband a matter of legitimate public concern?

— Scott Greenfield (@ScottGreenfield) September 12, 2023

The replies were curious mostly for the wrong reasons. Was this a referendum on Dems, women, porn, sex work, or the general dishonesty and whorishness of politicians? While none of that addresses the question posed, it was nonetheless where almost everyone went, each according to their own personal priorities and values.

In certain quarters, this was immediately chalked up to revenge porn, although it’s a huge stretch to analogize a person who is a candidate for public office, then revealed to intentionally perform online sex acts for money, with a person whose girlfriend put his dick pics online to make him pay for breaking up with her. But this is why it matters whether this video, now available to some extent publicly if you care to look for it, is fair game for a candidate for public office.

For her part, Gibson is taking the position that she’s the victim of a sex scandal. Not that it wasn’t of her own making, but she never expected to have it publicly know.

Susanna Gibson, a nurse practitioner running in her first election cycle, said in a statement that the leaks about the online activity were “an illegal invasion of my privacy designed to humiliate me and my family.”

On her campaign website, she promotes herself as a public health expert, wearing scrubs. Has she put her occupation(s) into issue? According to her lawyer, it’s being pursued as a crime.

Daniel P. Watkins, a lawyer for Ms. Gibson, said it was unlawful in the state to record someone in a state of undress and distribute it to a third party without that person’s consent.

“It’s illegal and it’s disgusting to disseminate this kind of material, and we’re working closely with the F.B.I. and local prosecutors to bring the wrongdoers to justice,” Mr. Watkins said.

Of course, that’s not remotely the scenario and it’s almost certainly not criminal. Watkins’ claim that they’re “working closely” with the FBI and local prosecutors is almost certainly puffery, if not an outright lie. Even more to the point, if Gibson claims its revelation was designed to “humiliate” her, then this fact is clearly something that potential voters would want to know.

Indeed, the contention that it would be illegal to reveal truthful information about a candidate for public office that would influence voters is a reflection of the unconstitutionality of revenge porn laws. If it would matter to voters, whether as a reflection of her judgment, her morals, or her exposure to extortion, wouldn’t that make it critical information about a candidate?

Many of those responding took the position that a person’s sex life and legal selling it online for money is nobody’s business but her own. The argument is “so what” for those who see this as a non-issue. But that it may be a non-issue to some, whether because of their feelings about sex or online porn doesn’t make it a non-issue to others, also with the same right to vote based on whatever values they hold. Perhaps it won’t change their vote. Perhaps it will. But that’s up to each voter to decide, and just because some find it a “nothing burger” doesn’t mean others can’t find it a whopper.

But even for those dismissing this as a non-issue, there is an element of disingenuousness about it. Would it be a non-issue if it turned out to be someone they despised, a MTG or Gaetz for example? Is this mere partisanship when the taboo of porn is dismissed as to their candidate but an outrage if it were Boebert in the video?

The issue isn’t whether porn is good or bad, or whether it’s better worse than things other candidates for public office do. The issue is whether the public has a legitimate interest in knowing that a candidate for office is doing this, whether it’s right or wrong.

To a significant extent, the extent of “disgust” about it is a matter of Gibson’s response. She could have owned it, claiming she does it, there’s nothing wrong with it, and it has no bearing on her ability to serve in the Virginia House of Delegates. In some quarters, she would have been a hero for doing so, bold and fierce, unashamed by engaging in a natural act that should no longer be hidden behind drawn curtains.

But she didn’t take that position, instead making it a sordid scandal. Granted, a bold stance by Gibson may not have persuaded voters to see it her way, but at least she would have maintained her online porn side hustle with dignity. Instead, she labeled it humiliating, and argued voters should never have known. If she was ashamed of its revelation, then it’s impossible to deny that it’s a matter of legitimate public concern. What becomes of it is up to the voters to decide.

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