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Are women politicians faithful or discreet?

Are women politicians faithful or discreet?
Are women politicians faithful or discreet?
Are women politicians faithful or discreet?

Originally published St. Petersburg Times –

By Ernest Hooper, Metro Columnist

Published Friday, July 3, 2009

I posed a question to my friends this week: Why do so few, if any, women politicians fall into the trap of infidelity?

I received varied answers, but the consensus surprised me: Women in general, and specifically some women politicians, do have extramarital affairs but are more discreet about them.

And most of the people who shared this opinion were women, not men.

“Women are like cats,” one said. “They do dirt on the sly. Men are like puppies. They knock and drag the trash all over the yard and then look at you like, ‘What!?’ ”

It’s easy to rattle off the names of male politicians who have gone astray, but you have to search hard to find a woman leader who has created the kind of controversy we’ve seen most recently with South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, Nevada Sen. John Ensign and former presidential candidate John Edwards.

I’m not ready, however, to embrace the idea that women politicians simply do a better job of not getting caught.

Maybe I’m naive. But I think there are deeper factors that have led male politicians to create the only exclusive club women aren’t fighting to get into.

For one thing, there are fewer women holding public office than men. And I’m reminded of what comedian Chris Rock once said, “A man is only as faithful as his options.”

Is it possible that male politicians have more options?

Patrick Wanis, a Miami human behavior and relationship expert, doesn’t condone affairs. But in theorizing about the trend, he says women — generally speaking — are drawn to powerful men while men are not drawn to powerful women.

“When a man is in a position of power, that power is a great aphrodisiac to women,” Wanis said. “But men are generally threatened and emasculated by women in power. They’re not turned on by it. They’re quite frightened by it because they can’t compete.

“I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just saying that’s how it is.”

Wanis also noted that power fuels in some men a “warrior mentality” of conquering and dominating. It not only makes them more apt to have affairs, it creates a sense of invincibility that they won’t get caught and that the rules are different for them.

But let’s give our women politicians some credit. Maybe they don’t have men throwing themselves at them and maybe they don’t become intoxicated with power. But I also believe women focus more on making a difference and shattering the glass ceiling.

Because they are women, they feel more scrutiny. So they try harder to be above reproach.

Does that mean no woman politician has ever cheated?

I’m sure some have strayed and remained discreet — because that’s their nature. Plus, if they tell a friend, they’re probably not going to get a high-five or slapped on the back.

In the final analysis, can we say these generalities mean women make better politicians? That may be going too far.

More honest? Perhaps, but if you compiled a list of great presidents and a list of presidents who had mistresses, they would look pretty similar.

Whether you’re talking about men or women, you have to assess how they lead, how they handle power and how they conduct their personal lives.

There are no easy conclusions or absolutes.

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