American news outlets have been aflutter with conversations and questions about the messy relationship between power and sex, catalyzed by the coinciding revelations about Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's and former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn's sexual indiscretions. Although the two cases are categorically different—Strauss-Kahn is accused of assaulting a hotel maid, whereas Schwarzenegger's misdeeds, though morally repugnant, are nevertheless legal—both men compel us to look closely at the potentially combustible mix of sex and power.
Sadly, Strauss-Kahn and Schwarzenegger are only two of many powerful men to come before them. Following the likes of John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and John Edwards, Strauss-Kahn and Schwarzenegger perpetuate a sick pattern in which powerful men live as though the rules don't apply to them. Given this trend, cultural analysts have been asking two key questions. First, what is the cause of this pattern? Why are so many men in power sexual cads? And second, how should we classify these sexual relationships between powerful men and powerless women? When a woman is economically or socially dependent on a man, is the relationship every truly consensual?
On a recent episode of NPR's On Point, Time magazine executive editor Nancy Gibbs responded to these questions by citing a new study on the effects of power in a business setting. According to the yet-to-be-released study, "The higher they rose, men or women, the more likely they were to consider or commit adultery." Social scientists theorize that this trend could be due, in part, to increased opportunity, but they also suspect power breeds a particularly blinding arrogance that borders on entitlement.
As these scandals ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more