Women in Power: Where are the Scandals?

by Nancy Travers,LCSW

Political scandals with racy details and sexual deviance aren’t a new topic these days. There’s enough relationship drama in politics to fulfill everyone’s need for soap opera style drama. Anthony Weiner has revealed himself via Twitter. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a love child. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund, was charged with sexually assaulting a hotel maid. And who can forget the infamous Bill Clinton tryst with Monica Lewinsky?

No, we certainly aren’t seeing any shortage in badly behaving politician. There is, however, a very noticeable trend in these political sex scandals: Most of them involve a man in power, not a woman. This begs the question: Does power affect everyone’s behavior? Or is it only men in power who are swayed to act on their sexual impulses?

Several scientific studies suggest that gender does not, in fact, have a large role in sexual behavior, including infidelity and other inappropriate sexual actions. The author of one such study on sexual behavior and power explains, “People in power are more confident, self-assured, assertive, and impulsive than people low in power.” These traits encourage their powerful possessors, male or female, to act. When they are attracted to someone, they easily assume that the person is interested, and act on their assumption knowing that they will win over the object of their desire.

But if this is true, and women are just as guilty as men in these power plays for sex, where are all the female driven sexual scandals?

The easy answer is that there simply aren’t enough women in political office. How can women be expected to hold the limelight when they’re so outnumbered? In 2009, women made up 16.4% of Congress, and 12% of the nation’s governors. Women also only accounted for one out of fifty-three instances of an affair in office! That’s less than 2% of the scandals! As Lane Wallace once stated, “Women aren’t even holding up their fair percentage of scandals!”

While numbers may be an easy culprit, the real reason for fewer political scandals might lie with our perception of the ideal man versus the ideal woman. When you ask a woman or a man to describe the ideal man, it wouldn’t be uncommon for them to mention a man’s power, his status, and his competency. The more power and competence a man possesses, the more attractive he will seem to women at large! From an evolutionary stand-point, women are looking for a man that can be a protector and a provider; political power is one modern aspect that can translate to meet these needs. In a more modern sense, women might still simply be looking for the perfect husband: one in control, one in a position to raise their social status, and one with enough wealth to provide the perfect life.

On the other hand, politically powerful women haven’t been known to set men’s hearts aflutter. In fact, women with high levels of perceived power and competence can actually be threatening and less appealing to men! Historically, a woman was valued for her looks before anything else (except, perhaps her dowry). Our culture simply isn’t congratulating female politicians on their competence in the same way it congratulates its males; the affairs and office trysts only seem to go to the men.

The way that we value women is, thankfully, beginning to change. More and more men are recognizing the value of a competent, powerful woman. However, the change has not brought an increased amount of scandal for female politicians. There must be another difference that separates the men from the women in this matter. Many psychologists point to a sense of entitlement as the second gap in the sex scandal link.

In general, men have a sense of entitlement about sex that women do not appear to possess. Men view sex as their reward for achieving power, and many subconsciously use sex as a way to reassure themselves of their position and strength. Not only do powerful men view sex as a right, women continue to reward this idea! Thanks to our perception of an attractive man, many women perpetuate this sense of entitlement and sexual misconduct by giving into advances and engaging in affairs!

Again, women view sex and power in a remarkably different light. While men almost demand sex as they gain power, women perceive power in withholding sex! Perhaps another hold over from days when women could be little more than housewives, women neither chase sexual opportunities nor demand them as frequently as their male counterparts. If anything, the link between sex and power for women deters them from engaging in sexual misconduct! Women who are old enough to hold positions of power are generally more concerned with being taken seriously, not being seen as attractive by their secretaries of the opposite sex.

So where are the sexual scandals of women in power? The female politicians exposing themselves online? The female governor having a love child with the hotel attendant? It’s simply not happening. Some things will remain part of a man’s world.


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 2212 Dupont Dr., Suite I, Irvine, Ca. 92612.

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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