Zoom Zoom Zoom - Conference Calls from Home are Exposing what We Do In Private
New Yorker staff writer and popular legal analyst on CNN, Jeffrey Toobin is in some hot water after masturbating during a work conference call on zoom. After the main meeting went to breakout sessions, Toobin moved to a second call but his camera was still on and he was visible to the main group. Toobin has declined to clarify what that second call was, which leads one to believe it was some sort of sexual meetup. In any event, his camera was still on and many people in the conference call observed him wanking. Once it became clear, after the meeting, that people had seen him, Toobin immediately apologized and said that he thought the camera was off.
There has been largely two responses to this in the media. 1. Pearl clutching about how terribly awful and inappropriate this was and calls for punishment. 2. Laughter and derision. Both are coming from a sex negative place. So although much has been said about this, I felt the need to add my opinion.
The first thing I would say about this is that people are sexual! Most people have a need to, at least once in awhile, satisfy their urges. This is not only normal, it's healthy. Suppressing sexual urges is never healthy. It's okay to want to masturbate, to want to have sex, to want to indulge in and explore your fetishes and interests. It's not only okay, it's necessary, and it's good for your physical, emotional and mental health. So let's stop shaming this already! I'm sick to death of it. Toobin had an urge or a need that he needed to fulfill, no big deal!
Having said that though, masturbating in front of somebody without their express consent to do so is absolutely not okay! In fact, it is harassment. For some people, witnessing something like that can be incredibly upsetting and traumatizing. There are many people who have experienced all kinds of unwanted sexual contact in their lives. For them, seeing something like what happened with Toobin, even if he didn't mean for them to see it, can trigger flashbacks including intense feelings of fear. This kind of exposure is often framed as funny by our culture at large. Examples of this in tv shows and movies are plentiful. But, it is rarely funny to the person who was surprised by it and had no choice not to see it. We need to start being respectful of that and stop joking about it. So, if Toobin did know that his camera was on and was actually getting off on the idea that people could see him, that is not okay in any way. I think it will be impossible for us to know whether that is the case, and given his response, which seems to indicate that he is quite embarrassed by this, it's likely that he truly did not realize that people could see him. If it is true that he didn't know the camera was on, then it was a terrible mistake, If he understands the damage he may have caused, apologizes sincerely, and makes sure it never happens again, we should just let it go.
But let's take Toobin's example to heart here and change the way we are doing things. Now that so many people are working from home and video conferencing from home, we can see that people do a lot of stuff in their private lives that people in their work life had absolutely no idea about. It used to be much easier to keep our personal and private lives separate. Now we have to be mindful and intentional about it. Toobin could have easily set up a personal computer in an another room to take that other call. If he really had to satisfy that urge at that time, he could have stepped out, did what he needed to do, and stepped back in. I don't think we should shame people about being human beings and wanting to take care of themselves sexually, but we should all be respectful and not subject our work colleagues to having to watch it.