University of Pennsylvania Education Professor Jonathan Zimmerman defended CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin against charges he exposed his penis to co-workers on a Zoom call, arguing masturbation should be de-stigmatized in modern America.
In a New York Daily News essay, Zimmerman said Toobin’s decision to pleasure himself during a work call is “his business rather than yours,” noting Toobin has said the incident was an accident.
Last week, Toobin was on a video call with coworkers from The New Yorker Magazine, and while they were preparing for election night coverage, Toobin switched to another video-sex call and began masturbating. Toobin says the incident took place during a pause and that he didn’t realize his camera was on.
“I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera,” Toobin said in a statement. “I apologize to my wife, family, friends and co-workers.”
Zimmerman suggests the primary reason Toobin is being mocked is because he was engaging in self-love, the discussion of which remains taboo.
“So let’s suppose Jeffrey Toobin had been caught on camera having sex with a partner instead of touching himself,” writes Zimmerman. “Would he be the most mocked man in the United States right now?”
Calling it a “pseudo-scandal,” Zimmerman says the incident is “really about” Americans’ “collective unease with masturbation.”
“We Americans love to talk — and talk, and talk — about sex,” writes Zimmerman. “But there’s one topic that remains taboo, and Toobin is paying the price for it.”
Zimmerman goes on to provide a history of “self-abuse,” but then notes the most salacious tale in the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky remains the allegation Clinton used a cigar to sexually gratify Lewinsky – a slight shift in the “masturbation” as “self-pleasuring” sense Zimmerman describes in the rest of the column.
“News flash: Toobin masturbates,” writes Zimmerman, adding, “But I’m guessing that you do the same, dear reader. Maybe you should stop feeling weird and guilty about that. Then we can all stop making fun of Jeffrey Toobin.”
Yet the condemnation of Toobin hasn’t been because he masturbated – it is because he decided to masturbate with his camera on while taking part in a video conference call with his co-workers, many of them female. For many, the ridicule has been for his judgment rather than his libido.
No, pretty sure our unease is with him *doing this while on a Zoom call with his coworkers.
— Write Girl Problems (@WriteGrlProbs) October 21, 2020
On Zimmerman’s website, he lists one of his areas of expertise as “Sex, sexuality, and schools.” In 2018, he notably stood up for the free speech rights of Penn Professor Amy Wax, writing elsewhere in support of free expression on college campuses.
In the wake of the Toobin scandal, others have found unique ways to condemn the CNN legal expert. A feminist bookstore in Madison, Wis. complained that that there was a “consent issue” at play, saying “no one on that call agreed to be masturbated (potentially) about or to share space with someone who was having a sexual experience.”
It also feels like a consent issue. Like, no one on that call agreed to be masturbated (potentially) about or to share space with someone who was having a sexual experience.
— Room of One's Own Bookstore (@RoomofOnesOwn) October 20, 2020
This is the very argument dreamed up by Portland State Professor Peter Boghossian and colleagues when they purposely wrote a number of ridiculous social justice-related academic papers and tried to get them published in academic journals. One of the papers drafted in the so-called “Sokal Squared” hoax was entitled “Rubbing One Out: Defining Metasexual Violence of Objectification Through Nonconsensual Masturbation,” in which the author argues that men who masturbate while thinking about a woman without her consent are guilty of “sexual violence”
This isn’t the first time Toobin has been involved in a sexual scandal. In 2008, he reportedly fathered a child out of wedlock and offered to pay to have the child aborted. The pregnant woman, who happened to be the daughter of a colleague, went ahead with the pregnancy. Toobin has been married to his wife for 34 years.
Toobin has been suspended from The New Yorker pending an investigation, and CNN has granted him some “time off” to deal with a “personal issue.”