March 15, 2011
When asked WHY he was unfaithful with White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton said, “Because I could.” If we accept that powerful men deserve more sexual liaisons, it is a sad statement on our species. Yet, that seems to be the case.
In the last few weeks we have seen other examples: Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the powerful head of IMF is facing charges of rape, sexual abuse and unlawful imprisonment for allegedly attacking a powerless hotel maid. And, after years of rumors that he was a womanizer, it came to light that Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a child with a member of his household staff. Both incidents are reflective of a betrayal of trust and an abuse of power.
Authors, Mark Van Vugt and Anjana Ahuja, who wrote the book, Selected, say that over millions of years humans have developed a desire to live in a well established group because it aids individual survival and reproduction. It’s our evolution – we are a primate species aspiring to positions of power, status and dominance because of the accompanying perks. Leaders are rewarded with the three S’s- salary, status and sex.
In fact, the authors’ research shows that, of 104 traditional societies, the more power inequality there is (as measured by one individual being immune to sanctions), the greater the number of women that are kept in harems. The authors conclude that there is a substantive positive correlation between despotism and reproductive success.
If that is true, these men maybe acting under the illusion that they aren’t being reckless at all because the rules are suspended for them. Believing that their position, power and status means that they don’t have to adhere to the restraints that govern “ordinary people,” they don’t feel morally compromised taking sexual liberties that are not available to the rest of the world.
It’s easy to be critical of these flagrant sexual acts but we need to look at our own part in endorsing them. Too often we look the other way and accept their sexual prowess as long as they maintain their winning positions.
For example, as TIME magazine points out, Bill Clinton left the office with a more than 60% approval rating, despite his transgressions with his intern (as well as women delivering pizza to Capitol Hill). Senator David Vitter was overwhelmingly re-elected last year despite phone records which show him frequenting a D.C. Madam. In Canada, we saw Jack Layton’s popularity increase almost in direct correlation to him being discovered in a massage parlor.
Maybe we, too, suffer from these archaic moulds which reward our powerful with sexual liberties? If that is true, consider whether we’d be ready to forgive Tiger Woods today if he were playing better golf?