New York Governor Eliot Spitzer is the last data point I need on my mental graph of 1)men, 2)women, 3)keeping it in their pants, and 4)keeping our pants on. I'm ready to claim moral superiority, or at least the high ground on smarts. Women are either less willing to cheat on their spouse, abuse young interns and cross the double-yellow line of sexual indiscretion, or we're much better at hiding it.
Look at the modern-history laundry list: former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, Bill Clinton, Congressmen Henry Hyde, Bob Livingston, David Vitter, Mark Foley, Bill Thomas, Bob Barr, Senators Gary Hart and Larry Craig. Must I go on? Shall we go further back in history? If we made this into a parlor game for coming up with politicians' sexual sleaziness, crimes and misdemeanors it could go on all night, and which women would be on the list? If you said, Congresswomen Helen Chenoweth (deceased) and Sue Myrick had adulterous affairs, you'd win the prize.
Granted, the Congress and state houses are predominantly male. Even so, the percentage of women who have ruined their political reputation for the sake of bodily delights is pretty small compared to men. So what's going on?
Well, Gloria Steinem has said, "Women are not more moral than men. We are only uncorrupted by power." Perhaps, or at least we don't equate power with sexual liaisons. The psychology professor Alice Eagly found that women were more likely than men to support morally traditional policies. A 1999 study of men and women in the U.S. Coast Guard found a statistically significant difference showing women's greater moral judgment. Then again, as Carol Gilligan would point out, "women impose a distinctive construction on moral problems." Well, for sure, and the bottom line is we don't have a good answer on whether women are more moral than men -- especially when it comes to indiscriminate sex acts.
Without hard evidence, I'm going to wade out of the morality question, and weigh in on the side of women being not only smarter, but clearer about our priorities. It's taken us a long time to get the small amount of political power that we have. We're not going to be so frivolous, careless of the public trust or stupid enough to blow our opportunity for a chance encounter of the sexual kind. We'll leave that to Spitzer and his ilk.