Penn prof defends Jeffrey Toobin’s Zoom mishap

  • Jonathan Zimmerman, a University of Pennsylvania education school professor, defended New Yorker writer and CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin’s accidental self-exposure during a Zoom call.
  • He argued that these act of self-pleasure are unwarrantedly taboo, and that the event was a “pseudo-scandal.”

University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education professor Jonathan Zimmerman argued that New Yorker columnist and CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin’s accidental self-exposure during a work video conference call was a “pseudo-scandal” rooted in Americans’ “collective unease with masturbation.”

Toobin was suspended from the New Yorker after he left his camera on while engaging in an act of self-pleasure during a Zoom meeting with colleagues. He said he believed that he had turned off his camera.

"You might say that he shouldn’t have been pleasuring himself during a work call, but that’s his business rather than yours."   

“We Americans love to talk — and talk, and talk — about sex,” noted Zimmerman while discussing the incident in the New York Daily News. “But there’s one topic that remains taboo, and Toobin is paying the price for it.”

[RELATED: Penn Law deletes RBG statement after quoting conservative professor]

Zimmerman argued that masturbation embodies the fears that arose as a result of the Enlightenment idea of the “autonomous individual, endowed with natural rights” — namely, the propensity for free individuals to “descend into corruption and vice.”

“You might say that he shouldn’t have been pleasuring himself during a work call, but that’s his business rather than yours,” said Zimmerman, noting that Toobin’s exposure was not intentional. “Inadvertently, he let the rest of us know about it. And now we can’t forgive him for it.”

Zimmerman concluded his argument by noting that most Americans masturbate: “News flash: Toobin masturbates. 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.”

[RELATED: Trump impeachment witness joins UPenn as visiting fellow]

According to Zimmerman’s faculty biography, he is a “former Peace Corps volunteer and high school teacher” who “has authored books about sex and alcohol education.” 

Campus Reform spoke with two UPenn students, both of whom asked to remain anonymous  due to the scandalous nature of the story. 

"I do not understand why someone would not be suspended for exposing their genitals to their colleagues while engaging in a private sexual act. Because masturbation, whether it's right or wrong, is not an activity for the workplace," one student said. "If one thing should remain taboo in this society it is engaging in sexual activity of any nature on a workplace video call. I’d think most of us have the willpower to wait an hour."

Another student commented, "The fact that Zimmerman has written books on the subject and claims to be an expert on sex does not mean that vulgar indecency in the work place should be met without consequences and treated lightly. He might see it as normal and have no problem with it but the rest of America should not be forced to witness it in what is meant to be a professional environment."

Campus Reform reached out to Zimmerman for comment and will update this article accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft



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Ben Zeisloft
Benjamin Zeisloft | Pennsylvania Senior Campus Correspondent

Benjamin Zeisloft is a Pennsylvania Senior Campus Correspondent, reporting on liberal bias and abuse for Campus Reform. He is studying Finance and Marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Benjamin also writes for The UPenn Statesman and the Wharton International Business Review.

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