At least she wasn’t droning on and on. (Atta Kenare/Getty Images)

The Daily Beast reported that Avril Haines, the new pick for the number-two post at the CIA, used to run something called “Between the Covers” erotica nights way back almost 20 years ago when she was co-owner of a bookstore in Baltimore. What does this mean?

Well, nothing, but that’s just what no one will guess.

This is less embarrassing than if she had been a big Rand fan back in college. (“Then he approached. He lifted her without effort. She let her teeth sink into his hand and felt blood on the tip of her tongue. He pulled her head back and he forced her mouth open against his.”) Yeergh, for both writing and content.

It’s all about the context, again. After all, most great books include sex scenes that if quoted out of context by strangers on the Metro would make you feel uncomfortable. Erotica has the dubious distinction of only containing those scenes without going through the added bore and burden of being a great book.

You could argue that it’s proof that even before Facebook, there is nothing you can do in the secret chamber that you will not, one day, have to cry aloud on the housetops, as Oscar Wilde put it, although this mostly applies to people whose jobs require Senate clearance. You could argue that it’s completely irrelevant. When Bill Clinton says that “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” is one of his favorite books, you don’t see headlines highlighting that uncomfortable passage on page 75.

I hope it doesn’t come up during the confirmation, but if it does I hope that the senators raising it will feel obligated to read large chunks of fairy-tale erotica into the record. “And then,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) will read, avoiding eye contact with the rest of the delegation, “he, uh, he, uh parted her white, uh, white thighs and uh — well you see the gist of it. Do we want someone who has read this sort of thing aloud, even a single time, holding a position of public trust? Er, wait.”

Giving a writing assignment to attendees at the evening of erotica described by the Baltimore Sun, Haines told them, “It doesn’t have to be serious; nothing in here has to be serious.”

And in keeping with that thought, surely there is some way of incorporating erotica into the CIA curriculum.

Espionage ain’t what it used to be. James Bond-style derring-do in trim, tailored suits may still happen, but definitely what happens is a lot of sorting through Big Data for information on the secret daily movements of those who mean us harm. And the secret daily movements of most people are — well, pretty dull. Just adding a Webcam doesn’t make your day worth watching. The simple fact that there might be an audience for it doesn’t make your dialogue any more inspired.

Maybe the CIA should start Between the Covers up again. They’d only need to change the title to Under Covers and it would work just fine.

Then again, it seems hardly fair to expect people to retain interest in something that they did 20-odd years ago. If that were the case, people would expect me to be wildly excited about plastic dinosaurs, losing baby teeth, and wandering around in ill-fitting hand-me-downs banging pans together. Maybe we should just move on.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.