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An Epidemic of Politicians' Sex Scandals from Anthony Weiner to DSK, & Women Wonder "Why?"

06/13/2011 04:08 pm ET | Updated Aug 11, 2011

It's been quite the season for public spectacle, thanks to the penile peccadilloes of powerful politicos. In fact, it's beginning to feel like there's an epidemic of politician's sex scandals.

This past week the public's been treated, if that's the word, to a series of often hilarious if disastrous reports about explicit photos sent through Twitter by the feisty New York Congressman, Anthony of the Unfortunate Name Weiner.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, of course, fessed up under pressure and admitted that he had a hidden second family with his housekeeper, whom he kept in his employ for a decade. Former Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards is being prosecuted for using campaign money to keep his mistress with whom he had an illegitimate child. Former NY Governor Elliot Spitzer's old habit of hiring hookers to service and sooth hangs over him like a shadow, even as he's recycled himself into a TV pundit.

This isn't an American phenomenon. Last month's headlines carried the extraordinary story of a naked would-be president of France, the 62 year old socialist financer Dominique Strauss-Kahn, chasing and then allegedly sexually attacking a hotel maid whose only come-on was, reportedly, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For Europeans, DSK's womanizing was hardly news. After all, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's exploits with young women play on like constant background music to serious political discussion of such central issues as unemployment and the financial crisis in the EU.

The world's a mess, with wars, threats of terrorism, global warming, a rift between rich and poor, sluggish economies, aging societies with inadequate money for pensioners, and a hundred other problems. Yet the very people who are supposed to be picking their way through the policy minefields, and leading their societies through these challenging times are....doing what? Sending images of their private parts on Twitter? Arranging trists with hookers?

Why Do They Do What They Do?
Why do these successful, powerful, competent, high profile men behave like the kind of men we don't want our daughters to marry?

There are no easy answers as to motive. An unscientific survey of a dozen highly-educated, worldly New York women has elicited nothing much more insightful than a sarcastic roll of the eyes and a perplexed shake of the head. Among the memorable replies:

  • The nose-ringed girl in the supermarket check out line simply said, "They're pigs."

  • My 82-year old auntie said, "All men are children."
  • A friend who is a dedicated Democrat said she doesn't give a hoot what anyone does in bed with whom, or how many naked pictures they send on the Internet as long as their politics are good.
  • A neighbor, whose years on the couch has made her psychologically sophisticated, said, the risqué frolics of male politicians is related to their craving for power, which itself is rooted in an underlying insecurity that drives them to subjugate others, yadda-yadda-ydada.
  • A Republican acquaintance predictably blamed it all on Bill Clinton. "He wasn't the first, but he was one of the highest profile political philanders since Kennedy," she sniffed. Sure, blame it on the Democrats.
  • A gynecologist friend reasoned that high-profile political males work in high-stress positions, and ejaculation is a form of stress reduction. Therefore, she posited with a certain clinical clarity, sex, like yoga, is a sure-fire way to relax. Except of course that sex is a more pleasurable -- and doubtless faster -- form of relaxation than, say, downward dog .
  • In a nutshell, women don't have a clue about the libidinal lives of men. Vive la Difference ? Feminists or not, all are quick to point out the obvious: Women could never get away with this. Reverse the genders, but keep the story lines, and the scandal factor would multiply exponentially.

    Imagine a leading, married female politician in any of these scenarios--nakedly chasing the bellboy through the hotel suite! Tweeting naked pictures of herself to constituents! Supporting her boy toy with campaign money! Hiring multiple intimate masseuses! It's the stuff of comedy.

    And, none of the resultant scandals would possibly be tampened down by a short course of disappearing from public view into "rehabilitative treatment," which is the means by which Congressman Weiner is hoping to buy time until some other scandal breaks and the circus moves on.

    Maybe the French were onto something when they said vive le difference, though one suspects that it was men who coined that term to toss off wifely jealousies and accusations.

    I thought, if you want to know why these politicians are having such flagrantly active sex lives, ask a man, not a woman. I asked my neighbor, the kind of a guy-guy, and here's what he answered, with that so-what's-the-big-mystery shrug:

    They do it because they can.
    They get away with it as long as possible.
    When it's over, it's over.
    And meanwhile, they're having a good time.

    Vive la difference. Indeed.