Why Petraeus And Other Powerful Men Cheat

Add General David H. Petraeus to the list of the powerful and high-profile who have gotten into very public trouble because they have cheated on their spouses.

Now take a look at that list. Notice anything?

Bill Clinton, impeached because of Monica Lewinsky. Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered child with housekeeper. Mark Sanford gave new meaning to "walking the Appalacian trail". Anthony Weiner who displayed his on Twitter, Elliott Spitzer whose preference was call girls, Newt Gingrich and John Edwards, both stepping out on ailing wives.

What is it about powerful men and sex?

As writer Anne Lamott tweeted soon after news broke that the head of the CIA, and an architect of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan had resigned because of an extra-marital affair, reportedly with Paula Broadwell, who wrote a book about him:

Later, Lamott added:

It's not that there has never been a political sex scandal involving a woman politician. Historically we have Cleopatra and Catherine the Great. More recently, Helen Chenoweth, who was the first woman to represent Idaho in Congress, had a six-year-long fling that only became public after she ran an ad calling for Clinton's resignation. And, in Ireland, MP Iris Robinson -- I know, Mrs. Robinson, but that really happens to be her name -- financed her 19-year-old lover's cafe with money from contractors who stood to benefit from her votes.

But these two are such outliers against the panoply of cheating men that they prove the rule. Powerful men use sex in ways that powerful women don't.

What is unclear is why. Is sex so fundamentally different for each gender that men see it as exerting their influence, while women somehow succumb to it? Have we simply not reached the point where there are enough women in positions of power, a critical mass that will make cheating an equal opportunity perk of office -- men do this because they can, and women don't because they can't...yet? Or are women just more moral than men?

The answer is probably all of the above, none of the above, and it is much more complicated than that. If -- when -- the scales balance (the last election was a good start) we will likely learn that it isn't just sex that means different things to men and women, but also power.

Until then, the parade of cheating men will inevitably march on.

American Politicians Who Admitted To Extra-Marital Affairs