Fresh Ink: Sex + Politics

What’s a guy to do once elected leader and now overseeing affairs of state, if he can’t fill his own appetite. Turns out arguing over foreign policy, coexisting alongside a parliament in opposition and standing ever erect for the national anthem can make a guy horny. Where’s the first lady when you need her? Surely the good man took a vow of faithfulness, and if he is willing to break that made under the gaze of a priest, how faithful would he be to his oath of office.

But, we can begin to suspect that the man who reaches the height of political power is not the type to humble himself too much. He deserves more, and his wife will be reserved for state dinners. For hanky panky, a mistress will be recruited. In our own recent American past, the custom was inaugurated by Bill Clinton, who might have found the one-woman policy too restricting from as far back as Arkansas. Though the French believe that romance must be brought and studied for its finer points, Nicolas Sarkozy tired of his lady-wife and managed to divorce her from the Elysee Palace.

Before long, he was courting and marrying the striking Carla Bruni. His successor, Francois Hollande, brought his long-term girlfriend with him and installed her as something close to First Lady, before being caught sneaking around with French actress, Julie Gayet.

But there was a time when the Americans held their own in this business of the extramarital affair. Despite the Puritan streak, the United States has long had political elites who kept one woman at home and another for Saturday nights. The 1960s ushered in a brief era of the presidential Casanova, and John F.
Kennedy was just the one to embody this. If his list of girlfriends were combined, it might be a long one, and a disturbing one at that— recently recounted by Mimi Alford, the 35th president had no qualms about deflowering her while Jackie was away, even though she was only a 19 year old White House intern.

Kennedy’s peccadilloes could not have been much of a secret—perhaps not even from his wife, but the press was also in on guarding such details. That was a time when men of esteem kept two households, though one was empty of children. Sensibilities have since changed, and we can be greatful for greater gender egalitarianism. A wife will no longer keep silent or look the other way as her husband dallies around town. An affair, though still a thing, is no longer the open pastime it once was. Clinton, perhaps having been too inspired by JFK, was impeached for his imitation.

The question is then twofold. Why do men seek this sort of excitement, and what compels those in positions of political power, aware of the risk, to pursue it anyway? It has been widely offered that men cheat because they can, perhaps furthered by testosterone. They do seem to lack whatever the social graces are that temper women. And as argued earlier, men in power and of influence do appear to consider themselves a different breed, removed from the codes of usual behavior. Maybe they simply want more; another trophy for the mental mantelshelf. Though these hormonal and behavioral tendencies might have remained steady, cultural values have not, and the code of silence of the JFK years that went along with the shrug of many housewives who could not find it in themselves to tell their husbands to behave, no long exist. Now, some women earn more than their men, and have no trouble at all telling them to hit the road. But that’s America— in France and Italy, heads of government still preserve the old ways. Hollande, and Silvio Berlusconi before him are paragons. DARREN GEORGE

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