Everyone knows all about the Petraeus scandal by now, right? The CIA director banging his biographer, the beautiful-but-nuts Tampa socialite twins, the FBI agent who sent the shirtless photos, the general who found the time to send thousands of lewd emails… If you don’t have any idea what we’re talking about, google that stuff right now. It’s a lot of fun, like an old-fashioned 60s-style sex comedy only the people involved are in charge of America’s national security. But the most shocking revelation about this whole affair is that apparently everyone—even generals and spymasters and FBI agents—is constantly sending nasty photos and emails and sexts all the time. Is this the way we are now? Are you reading this right now while typing a gchat that reads, “I WNAT YOUR PENIS BE IN MY BUTT NOW FEELS SO GOO D LIKE MEATY”? We asked some strangers if they thought it was normal to send dirty emails.
Nora, student: I think it’s weird.
Well you’re talking about a sexy email. It’s kind of like sexting; it’s weird because I don’t know how people get off on that.
How do you feel when you hear someone famous does it?
I can understand it, but I don’t get it. Everyone has the right to do and say whatever they want, but they should understand the consequences of it. I don’t think you should discriminate against peoples’ fetishes.
Would you ever send a lewd email?
It totally depends. I would be willing to try but it’s not something that I’d ask for.
Alex, writer (right): Yes, it’s normal.
Why do people send nasty emails?
Alex: Because it’s funny and the email form allows you to be more creative than you would be in real life.
David, toymaker (left): Yes, but that creativity is due to laziness. It’s a low barrier of entry. You’re just doing email, so why not?
Does the fact that emails stay online forever frighten you now?
Alex: Yeah. I think that maybe in the 90s I would have been more likely to make a sex tape or something, but I wouldn’t do that anymore. Now I might send someone a sexy letter, although paper is kind of permanent too.
Can you relate to people who are caught up in sexy email scandals?
Alex: I really don’t care about lewd, sexy stuff. If it’s not grotesque—I don’t care—have your fun.
David: Have at it, but if infidelity is in play, then the medium your infidelity takes can indict you.
Alex: Yeah, it makes public figures look stupid.
David: If they did it with something less digital it’d be a lot more badass, like Bill Clinton in the White House.
Bryce, student: I think normal people do it, but against their better judgment.
Why do you think it happens then?
I’d say because they are caught in the moment. Everybody makes mistakes; everybody has those moments when they go against their better judgments.
Would you ever do it?
Right in this moment, when I’m thinking straight, I wouldn’t, but I don’t know.
What’s the better way to share these messages?
I think you should keep it between yourself and the other person—in person. Definitely keep it off the internet; it’s more personal. It’s one thing for someone to tell someone else, but for someone to actually see it, with it being on the internet, then it’s a totally different thing.
Katrina, administrative assistant: No, no way is it normal.
I mean people can easily hack into your email; people can eavesdrop. It’s just really stupid.
Do you think technology facilitates these stupid decisions?
Yes, but the only difference is now people are getting caught. It just doesn’t make any sense. If you’re in a position of power, you shouldn’t be doing it.
So you think it’s different for people in positions of power?
I think if you’re in a position of power you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place, but it’s just so much easier to get caught because you’re using computers that don’t even belong to you.
Would you ever send lewd emails?
No. It’s completely stupid. Nobody should do it.
Nick, student (right): I feel that question answers itself. No, it’s not normal.
Why isn’t it?
Nick: To send revealing pictures of yourself through email? Isn’t it through your place of work? If so, I think it’s completely unprofessional.
Are surprised when you hear about it happening?
Anna, student (middle): I think it’s more frequent when people are having affairs. I don’t see why it would happen to people who are in stable relationships. But if you’re trying to communicate more secretly than I think it’s more prevalent.
Do you think technology is the root of the problem?
William, student (left): I think people will always find way to do this type of thing. Infidelity was hardly invented with the internet.
Do you ever see lewd messages going away?
Anna: No. I think email just facilitates the process. I think people did it before with letters and stuff and it was harder to track them, but it was always present.
Amanda, artist (right): I think if it’s your long-term partner, than yeah.
Sam, artist (left): A blanket email, no.
So a chain lewd email is not so normal?
Amanda: No. I wouldn’t send it to multiple addresses.
What do you think when you hear about a sexy email scandal?
Sarah, social worker (middle): How embarrassing.
Amanda:But serves you right.
Would you ever do it?
Amanda: I might… [laughs]
Sarah: And she would regret it!
Simon, student: Yes, because people are inherently weird. So it’s normal.
Would you ever do it?
Personally, no, but I’m not surprised by it.
Why wouldn’t you talk dirty over email?
The paper trail. If I do it in person, I don’t have to worry about anybody hearing about it. We should realize that somebody could see this shit—all the Facebook messages we share are saved.
Do you think people will continue to send lewd emails?
I mean I think it’s different when you’re the director of the CIA. More people are watching you and for good reason. The guy got a little horny; I don’t know how else to put it.