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Judith TImson

We're trapped in sex-scandal hell Add to ...

Here's a headline I hope not to read any time soon: "Sandra Bullock reveals all." Poor Oscar-winning Sandra - gorgeous, accomplished, likeable and now, of course, the heartbroken betrayed wife of that tattooed motorcycle guy whose name never fails to confuse me.

I keep hoping "Jesse James" will go back in my mind to being a handsome Wild West outlaw from the 1800s instead of an allegedly Nazi-saluting, sexually harassing, sex-addicted (yeah, right) creep who nicknamed himself the "vanilla gorilla" because of his qualities as a sex partner.

Sex, sex, sex. We're trapped in sex-scandal hell, and the story of Sandra Bullock - who has, as the cliché goes, "remained tight-lipped" about her troubles even as she's mobbed everywhere by concerned citizens - is the latest manifestation.

The Internet has turned these private and painful tales of sexual betrayal into a multi-platform nightmare: blogs, voice mails, pictures, texts. The cycle starts with whispers and revelations, proceeds to widespread shock and outrage, and ends up with late-show jokes and op-eds in The New York Times .

We say, "No, we're better than this," but we don't really mean it.

Tiger Woods, anyone? On the eve of his Masters comeback, Vanity Fair magazine was hoping that our appetite for disgusting details and cheesy photos was, well, bottomless, as it released a 14-page spread featuring four of Tiger's "mistresses." One story involves a quickie in a parking lot and a used tampon, and prompted this online comment from one disgusted reader: "There is more dumbing of America in this issue than the Jersey Shore and Tea Baggers put together."

It may be dumb, yes, but we are all addicted to sex these days, and increasingly not our own. It's everyone else's half-literate sexts and breathy voice mails that have us panting for more.

I participated in a live chat this week about Tiger Woods in which most of us - writers and readers alike - fervidly agreed we were "Tigered out" when it came to his monster sex scandal. Okay, if we really mean that, the Vanity Fair issue won't be a newsstand blockbuster. And how likely is that?

It used to be that crime sold newspapers - "If it bleeds, it leads." Now we're on to "If he cheats, it tweets." The problem is the whole world is reeling from TMI.

One day soon, given the saturation coverage of every public penis that goes wandering, we're going to have to decide whether sexual infidelity involving celebrities is necessarily a big story. Is this really what we want? Is this who we are?

The fact that a self-proclaimed serious person would click on a news item on a respected news site about "Jennifer Aniston's bush" suggests we've all become hard-wired for dirty details - any and all, no matter how squirm-inducing, no matter how banal.

In fact, as a society we've become "banal retentive."

Witness Vanity Fair's promotional video of writer Mark Seal smirking about how enjoyable it was to spendtime with Tiger Woods's women, proclaiming that he learned from this that (ta da!) "temptation is all around us." Oh, shut up.

That's not to say there aren't important sex scandals - ones that we need to talk about.

In a far more dangerous and damaging sexual landscape, the Vatican is trying desperately to keep the Pope away from the enveloping stench of a priestly sexual abuse scandal that appears to be engulfing the globe. Now, there's a sex scandal we shouldn't let out of our sights - or off our sites, for that matter. It demands both moral outrage and more digging - not for dirt, but for truth.

On Monday, the U.S. Pulitzer Prizes will be announced and it will be instructive to see whether the National Enquirer gets a nod for breaking the news of former presidential hopeful John Edwards's scandalous affair, complete with dying wife, New Age mistress and little love child, not to mention persistent news of a sex tape.

For the first time, the nominations committee ruled that the tabloid was eligible for consideration after being the first to report this politically explosive and significant story. I say it was significant with no irony - there's no question, it mattered. Imagine if the Democrats had gone ahead and chosen Mr. Edwards as their nominee, and then … Rielle!

In these sex-saturated times, we need to make decisions constantly about what really matters as we wade through the muck.

Of course, some people take the high road and just decline to notice or discuss these tawdry tales.

But most of us are only human. After all, "temptation is all around us."

That's why I hope Sandra Bullock continues on her dignified, discreet way, firmly rejecting the notion that we the people need to be any more deeply informed about her marital nightmare.

Because, of course, if the headline "Sandra Bullock reveals all" appears, I will have to read the story, and I'll be back here again, stuck in sex-scandal hell.

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