“Fallen” Politicians and Puritan Fundamentalism

Congressmen, senators, governors, presidents, mayors ā€” politicians at all levels keep starring in this familiar and non-partisan soap opera rerun. They engage in clandestine sexual entanglements, commonly cloaked in the tawdry textures of hotel pseudonyms and airport bathrooms and pay-by-the-hour copulation. All too often, their stealthy frolics then poison their political careers.

Politics, and Scandal, as Usual

Another political sex scandal. This one involving the governor of Nwq York’s use of the services of a high-priced prostitute. So far as I cam recall, all these scandalous politicians are male, but I suspect that, unless centain conditions change, we will see female politicians in the ranks of the scandalous before too long, and not as the aggrieved spouse either.

What conditions need to change?

We need to stop being so concerned about the private sexual lives of politicians. Maybe Gov. Spitzer had good reason to need the services of a prostitute. Maybe Bill Clinton needed the services of Monica Lewinsky.

Why? Well, to put it as delicately as I can, maybe they weren’t getting any at home.

We Americans are very Puritanical about sex. We equate sex with love, but as Tina Turner said a few years ago, “What’s love got to do with it?” Znc that goes for equating sex and marriage. The reality of sex outside of marriage is that it is a fairly common practice. But politics is the only profession in which extra-marital sex will cost you your career. Well, include clergyman in that.

I’m nit advicatung widespread licentiousness – we already have that. What I am advocating is leaving a person’s sex life private. There are a very limited number of circumstances where there would be a need for public disclosure, but we seem to love to read about these sexual peccadillos – the media is like a shark on a feeding frenzy. And for no really valid reason. Our repressive Puritanical morality has turned us into a nation of voyeurs. Or witch huners. Or both. Have you ever noticed that a lot of these “fallen” politicans come from the high end of the fundamentalist spectrum?

And that takes us to the real root of this problem of illicit sex by politicians. We have allowed the fundamentalists, both political and/or religious, to try to force us back to the morality of 250 years ago, all in the name of “family” or “American” values.

Values are socio-cultural phenomena, and like all socio-cultural phenomena, they change over time. The values of 1658 are no longer the values of 2008. They may be based on the same cultural ideals, but they are expressed differently at the social level. Believing in the sanctity of marriage can allow for sex outside the marriage bed without destroying the love between the two individuals who are married to each other. I can think of a number of situations where I would more than understand my wife having sex with someone else. But that would not destroy the love we have for each other. If it did, we did not have much love in our relationship to start with.

Sex is one of the few animal instincts we have left. Very few animals mate for life, geese and wolves come to mind. But is that love? I don’t think of it as love. Love between an unrelated male and female is something purely human, something we learned as we evolved from an earlier ape ancestor. Love became the bond that provided the female with food and protection during the early years of her offspring.

But it has developed far beyond that. It has become, in its highest form, a spiritual bond between two people. And that spiritual bond continues to flourish with or without children present. There is no reason it cannot flourish without sex or with extramarital sex. Just as the presence of children is irrelevant to love, so is the sexual activities of the partners irrelevant, to a certain degree at present and probably even more so as we evolve culturally.

To finish up, let me reprise something I said a little earler in this article. I believe that the reason we put such an emphasis on the sexual lives of politicians is because they are living out our own repressed fantasies and our fascination with these activites allows us to participate vicariously in those fantasies made real. It’s like phone sex, in a way. We get to indulge our repressed fantasies without actually, unless you are a real hard core Puritan, doing anything “immoral” as defined by our Puritan morality.

And the media knows, as well as having their own repressed fantasies, that we love it and want more of it. That is why the tabloids are so popular, why there are so many papparazzi, and why we all get so self-righteous about the “sins” of othhers. As if we don’t do it already or would do it if we had the opportunity and/or the gumptiom.


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