It's been a big week for high-profile sex scandals. And in the cases of both Arnold Schwarzenegger's love child and former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn's sexual assault charges, the leading role is played by a man — as usual. Why is that? asks Lane Wallace in The Atlantic. Sure, there are fewer women in lofty positions, but they're still statistically underrepresented in sex scandals. To understand why heavy-hitter women don't engage in scandalous affairs, consider the complicated dynamics of sex and power. Not only are powerful men often thought of as sexier (while powerful women typically are not), says Wallace, but men also see sex as "a way of reassuring themselves about their hold on that power." Here, an excerpt:
The link [between sex and power] undoubtedly dates back to the days of conquering, raping and pillaging all being lumped together in the spoils of warrior combat. Win the battle, gain the power, and take the sex you want. That's not acceptable in today's more civilized society, of course, but a piece of it endures and surfaces more often than we'd like to admit....
The link between power and sex for women, on the other hand, has been to withhold it, not to force it. The plot of the Greek play Lysistrata even revolves around an agreement the women of Athens make with the women of Sparta to withhold sex from their husbands until both armies agree to stop fighting each other. So if anything, the power/sex link for women, if there is one, is a deterrent, not a catalyst. But most women in positions of power are also still far more concerned with being taken seriously than being seen as sexually attractive individuals. For men, the two go together. For women, the equation still involves opposite pulls —especially for women old enough to be in positions of political power.
Read the entire article in The Atlantic.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 4 simple steaks you can cook in a pan
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- 7 tips for keeping your man (from the 1950s)
- Why does Fareed Zakaria still have a job?
- Save the world... by changing how you pee
- Does solar energy have a battery problem?
Subscribe to the Week