The Year of Living Dangerously


It was 1998 when Bill Clinton pounded his hand on his desk, pointed at the camera and in the most stern voice he could muster, told the American people, “I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” Of course, whether Bill Clinton is a liar or not “depends on what the meaning of the word is is,” as Clinton once told a Congressional committee.

The president’s infamous love stain on Monica Lewinsky’s little blue dress changed the course of his legacy. Nothing has been the same in the media, popular discourse or presidential politics since.

One would think that with the entire country watching, the leader of the free world could manage to keep it in his pants, but that hasn’t been the case. It wasn’t just Clinton, either. John F. Kennedy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson were all noted adulterers in their day as well.

Infidelity isn’t even a phenomenon confined to the US. England’s Prince Charles had an affair that literally broke up the royal family. His little transgression shamed not only himself, but his entire family as well. There was also the heartwarming story of the miners in Chile who were trapped underground for more than a month.

At least five of them had their wives and mistresses show up at the mine to claim them when the government announced it would offer their families monetary assistance. Those liaisons seemed tame, though, compared to some of what we’ve seen in the year of living dangerously. It seems like today’s generation of male stars are in a battle to see who can cheat on their wife in the most spectacular, outrageous and embarrassing way.

The undisputed king had to be Tiger Woods. The man was caught cheating on his wife of six years with a reported 15 different women. Worse yet, almost every single one of them claimed that they had an ongoing relationship with the golfer. The almost never-ending list of new waitresses, strippers and porn stars coming forward to say they’d been with Woods was a circus unto itself. Tiger was certainly not alone, though. Presidential candidate John Edwards, despite denial after denial, was caught on video performing oral sex on his mistress, Rielle Hunter, while she was pregnant and his wife was battling terminal cancer.

Close behind those two was tabloid favorite Jesse James, whose wife, Sandra Bullock, was coming off probably the best year any actress has ever had. James chose to cheat on her with a hideously tattooed neo-Nazi who went by the name “Bombshell.”

Both Woods and James claimed they were suffering sex addicts who simply couldn’t help themselves. They did so much damage to their public reputations that they even got a verbal flagellation from Hugh Hefner. Hef called James a “creep” and said that Woods’ sex addiction excuse was bogus and that only cheated because “he could get away with it.” A statement few would disagree with.

Edwards, James and Woods took the cake, but there were others. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford was so strung out on getting some Argentinean tail that he didn’t bother to check out his excuse about hiking the Appalachian trail before feeding it to his media staff. Apparently his wife had known about his South American seductress for years.

Then there was David Letterman, who had (and still has) a reputation for basically requiring attractive female staffers to sleep with him to keep their jobs. When the cuckolded husband of one the women he was sleeping with tried to blackmail him, Letterman simply admitted the affair on his show, noting that he’d been sleeping with “women on my staff,” meaning plural, and promptly turned the husband in to the authorities. Great work, Dave.

And how could anyone forget about Mel Gibson? Mel had reportedly been cheating on his wife for years before leaving her for Oksana Grigorieva, who he proceeded to verbally and physically assault once their relationship went public. We got to hear Mel’s mad rantings in recording after recording after recording this year.

Most of these transgressions haven’t just cost the offender the trust of their partner, though. They have often brought public scorn, loss of endorsements and public appeal, and in many cases millions and millions (hundreds of millions in Tiger’s case) of dollars. For James, it effectively ended any hope he had of a TV career. So why can’t these famous men keep it in their pants? It’s simple, really. Men aren’t meant to be monogamous. And that’s not just an opinion, it’s science.

In 2001, psychology professor and social scientist David P Barash and his wife, Judith Eve Lipton, explained in their groundbreaking book, “The Myth of Monogamy.”

“There is no question about monogamy’s being natural,” Barash wrote. “It isn’t.” And it’s not just because men are a-holes. Monogamy isn’t natural for guys because biologically it doesn’t make any sense. “Males make sperm,” Barash went on to say.

“Which are extraordinarily small, are produced in amazingly large numbers, and require essentially no biologically mandated follow-through in order for reproduction to succeed. As a result, the optimal tactic for males is typically to be easily stimulated, not terribly discriminating as to sexual partners, and generally willing – indeed eager – to fertilize as many eggs as possible.”

When the Woods/James/Sanford/Letterman/Edwards/Gibson et al. scandals broke, the question everyone asked was “why?” No one could seem to understand what would make these men go out and cheat on their beautiful, successful, talented, loving wives. The truth of the matter is, ladies, it doesn’t matter how wonderful you are. Once we’ve seen it, we’ve seen it. It’s a man’s innate psychological, biological desire to spread his seed.

There aren’t any official statistics on infidelity (probably because no one will admit to it), but unofficial numbers from Dr. Bob Lanier suggest 37 percent of men have had or are having affairs. Other studies range from as low as 24 percent to as high as 49 percent.

It seems that evolutionary human biology stills trumps fear of a woman’s scorn. This isn’t to say that monogamy is impossible or undesirable. It’s just unnatural. Men can be monogamous, the same way human beings can be vegetarians. In the way our bodies naturally desire meat, men naturally desire to screw around. It’s in our DNA.

Can men fight nature? Of course we can. But at the end of the day, when you’re a rich, successful, good-looking, powerful man, it’s a tough fight.

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