Sex and Power

by | Feb 15, 2012

by Nancy Travers,LCSW

According to a recent study by a group of investigators from the Universities of Tilburg and Groningen, power is a stronger predictor of infidelity than gender. They found the incidence of infidelity to be relatively equal among men and women in similarly-powered positions. The reason we hear more about men committing sex scandals is there are many more men in powerful positions than women.

Studies indicate that celebrities are no more likely to have affairs than the average person. But they live in a world that commonly presents opportunities for casual sex, making it easier and less risky and sometimes, even enabled. Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT, Director of Clinical Programming at Life Healing Center in Santa Fe says that public figures feed off the constant attention and validation from others. On the other hand, Ronald F. Levant, a psychologist at the University of Akron says that power facilitates bad behavior; it doesn’t cause it.

In addition, powerful people often receive little to no honest feedback. Most everyone in their circle is dependent on them for something. This results in making them less likely to receive truthful analysis or criticism. They’re often protected from suffering the consequences of their transgressions, which causes them to feel invincible. Thus, they never learn from their mistakes. Sometimes, the feeling of invincibility leads directly to powerful people thinking they’ll never get caught. Their feelings of strength and fearlessness coupled with not suffering consequences often creates great, powerful leaders, but problems may arise when these leaders no longer see themselves as human.

Successful, powerful people, namely politicians, celebrities and sports stars, usually need to take more risks than the average citizen. The qualities that make them good at what they do, including confidence, charm and charisma, and high risk-taking personalities, also increase their likelihood for infidelity. Often, instead of caring for themselves by slowing down and attending to their emotional needs, powerful people may become maladjusted and engage in temporary, superficially satisfying practices as a means for entertainment, stimulation or stress release. The less their emotional needs are being met, the more prone they are to look for immediate, but largely empty, comfort to feel good. They may not even realize, or acknowledge, that anything is missing from their lives. This could lead to feelings of emptiness. Then, their feelings of entitlement and invincibility can lead to poor decisions and over-indulgence.

Regrettably, celebrities resist seeking treatment for sexual or relationship problems due to societal stigmas and/or publicity damage. This is, in part, an unfortunate result of today’s information age. However, untreated sex-related disorders, whether physical or psychological, could eventually lead to serious consequences: broken relationships, arrest and disease, and even destruction of careers and financial ruin, and should not be ignored or minimized. Sometimes even a heartfelt apology at a well-time press conference won’t do.


Nancy Travers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She specializes in all types of relationships; We all want them, We all need them; How to get em and Keep them. Nancy’s office is located at 1600 Dove Street, Suite 260, Newport Beach, CA 92660.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 949-510- 9423 or contact us.
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As seen in The Blade magazine June 2005.

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