Photo: Getty

I’d rather watch my own cremation by way of a Crock-Pot than look at Donald Trump’s presumably squash-colored dick, but in 2018, it’s not implausible to believe that such a sight might find its way onto a social media feed near you.

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That’s why this since debunked tweet about the existence of a Trump dick pic quickly spread across Twitter and into my inbox. We live in a political era in which no scandal is too inconceivable—certainly not when the president in question is a reality TV star who has spent much of his public life crafting a sleazy playboy image.

It’s gradually being revealed that lots of money was spent to tamp down that image during the campaign: Stephanie Clifford, otherwise known as Stormy Daniels, was paid $130,000 for her silence during Trump’s campaign by the president’s personal lawyer. And just this week, former Playboy model Karen McDougal filed suit against the parent company of the The National Enquirer, claiming its chief executive, a friend of Trump, paid her $150,000 to prevent her from speaking about her affair with the then-presidential candidate.

Trump’s use of non-disclosure agreements and payoffs might violate election laws, and we should all be concerned that a media executive is using company money to silence women in order to cover for a politician. But these troubling facts don’t appear to be driving much of our national fixation, so much as the perceived tawdriness of the affairs themselves. Have we learned nothing from the Bill Clinton days? Not to excuse the actions of Trump and his friends, but if we didn’t appear to care so much about affairs and dick pics, perhaps these cover-ups would have never happened in the first place.

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Trump will be fine, but there are less powerful, less wealthy politicians falling victim to similar puritanical attitudes that ought to concern the rest of us. Such is the case for Cross Coburn, a 19-year-old city councilman from Groves, Texas who has been speaking out after his nude Grindr photos were mailed to City Hall and local media outlets in an effort to shame him.

The Port Arthur News recently reported that it received an envelope—no return address—with photos of Cross clothed and shirtless, an exchange between him and another Grindr user (who apparently went by the name “very horny”), and dick pics. The cover letter, which included Cross’ contact information, asked: “Is this in any way proper behavior of a councilman to represent himself online or a ‘dating’ app? I felt the city council should be made aware of the situation.”

A similar packet was sent to Groves Mayor Brad Bailey, which led to a meeting between Coburn, his attorney, and a representative of the city’s human resource office. “It will be an issue,” Bailey told the paper. “Personally I think it’s unbecoming of a public official, regardless of age.”

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In response, Cross explained: “I am 19, still very young. The reason I want this position (on city council) is to learn.”

In a separate statement, Coburn said to local television station KFDM : “I felt like I was being harassed, being discriminated against because I’m a young gay man on city council…I’m sorry if anyone took it the wrong way but it’s really nothing more complex than this is my personal life.”

I agree with Coburn. What, exactly, is “unbecoming” about a young man trying to fuck? He may work for his community, and he could arguably be more selective about whom he shows his dick to, but he has every right to get it in as he sees fit.

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Coburn is not the only Texas politician garnering headlines over crotch shots. Last November, Joe Barton, a Republican congressman from Texas’s 6th district, apologized by way of a written statement after a photo (and more) of his penis spread across social media. There was also a screen-capped message attached to it: “I want u soo bad. Right now. Deep and hard.”

“While separated from my second wife, prior to the divorce, I had sexual relationships with other mature adult women,” Barton revealed in his statement. “Each was consensual. Those relationships have ended. I am sorry I did not use better judgment during those days. I am sorry that I let my constituents down.”

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When the story surfaced, my immediate reaction to Barton, who is in his late sixties and a champion of “family values,” was, Girl, I didn’t know you could get down like that. While I found the story somewhat hypocritical given his condemnation of say, the LGBTQ community, I didn’t find it disqualifying. I didn’t feel “let down.” I’m not in the habit of defending old white men who harbor bigoted views about folks like me, but I’m also not into the notion of punishing him for trying to have a consensual adult time with a Blanche Devereaux in the heat of the night.

Much like Yung Coburn, there were calls for Barton to resign. Barton refused, and such was his right. In the age of Tinder, Grindr, Jack’d, Chappy, Bumble, and countless other dating apps I’m forgetting, plenty of people are exchanging fuck faces (shout out to Scarface) and pictures of their private parts. Some of those people may either want a career in public office or already have one.

They are being human by seeking connection on a romantic or sexual level—why must we all make this out to be a bigger deal than it needs to be? To shame people for their dick pics and sexually explicit conversations is to buy into some seriously anti-sex, anti-reality viewpoints. And in select cases like that of Cross Coburn, it is also homophobic to put him on blast for trying to get a nut.

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We should only care about someone’s private life if it teeters into matters that tamper with professional lives a la President Trump. Anything else is just needless smearing. Let these thots do what we all do and only concern ourselves when they dick around with the law. It’s best for us all this way.