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May 26, 2011

Men Behaving Badly

Patricia A. Kelly

Again, it happens. Two, not one, powerful, accomplished men have behaved disappointingly again. As Time implied on a recent cover, we would say they were behaving like pigs, but we are reluctant to offend the pigs.


Both former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, recently resigned head of the International Monetary Fund, made the news within the week. One is now out on bail awaiting trial, and one is busy apologizing, having lost his family. The stories are different, philandering and lying versus assault of an unwilling victim. Male sexual aggression underlies both stories, though.


What's up? Are men hard-wired to this behavior, and unable to help themselves? Are they narcissists, concerned only with their own desires, convinced that they won't be caught? Do they think they deserve free sex as a reward for their accomplishments? Do they need validation? Is strong sexual drive tied to personal accomplishment?


Are they simply unable to quiet down their "little heads" and follow the “big ones??”


Internet research and some reading on the subject, inspired largely by the peccadilloes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, have kept me busy this week. All the reasons herein given are included, along with enabling and protection by those surrounding them in many cases, as they wend their ways through life and women. Certainly, in the case of former President Bill Clinton, he appeared to be protected for years, thus tacitly encouraged to think he could get away with anything.


Some people interviewed for this piece have said that it doesn't matter or count for anything. "If he votes the way I want, then I'm happy with him."


Cokie Roberts, on Sunday talk television expressed my view: "If he's running for president, everything about him counts."


I thought better of Arnold Schwarzenegger. He had come from a modest life and accomplished a lot after immigrating here. He had chosen, not a gorgeous bimbo, but a very attractive woman of quality and intelligence, one who would go on to accomplish a lot in the public arena, share the raising of four children, and then give up her job to support him in his position as governor of California.  They always, when appearing together, appeared to be a real couple, who loved and enjoyed each other.


I get that someone, male or female, can slip into a quick affair, stop it and keep it to themselves, rather than cause more hurt by confessing. It may be wrong, but people are human, and imperfect.


What I cannot get is exposing someone you supposedly love to sexually transmitted disease, allowing your lover to remain in your home, violating your wife's personal space, making your family life a lie, and allowing your wife to publicly defend and support you, when you know you have an out of wedlock child.


Lie, cheat, violate, humiliate. I'm not feeling the love.


As for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, innocent until proven guilty, he reportedly has forced himself on a woman more than once without being reported. Maybe he didn't do it, and maybe he was set up, but things are not looking good for him. If he did it, it's quite unlikely at the age of 62 that this is the first time. His wife was quoted as saying about him: "If he can seduce me and I can seduce him, that's enough." She is supporting him at a cost of millions of dollars.


Newt Gingrich actually served his wife with divorce papers while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery, then married his lover, only to cheat on her and end up marrying someone else. John Edwards, as we know, not only cheated, but concocted a story that his love child belonged to another man.


A female friend recently told me that research indicates that men are hard-wired to stray. A male friend said that some men are so selfish, whether they even know it or not, that they will do anything including lie, cheat and steal to have sex. He said that he asked some of his friends why they are even married, after observing their behavior. He also talked about the strength of the male drive, especially from about age 18 to the mid-20s. His big disappointment in Bill Clinton was that he didn't resign from office when caught in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. According to him, in any military or corporate job, one would have been fired for having sexual relations with an underling. He says men can help it if they so choose, but many aren't even conscious of their own selfishness.


In my view, there's a combination of things contributing: sexual drive, an innate need for conquest, a touch of entitlement or narcissism, and life in a society that secretly supports and condones the behavior that leads up to the most egregious offenses. Men can help it. Animals may not be able to resist their instincts, but men can. Very angry human beings can resist murder. A person can choose to exercise, and to avoid overeating. Some of these choices can be very difficult, but they can be made.


It's not just the sex anyway. It's the lying and dishonoring of others, people whom one has sworn to love and honor. It's the lying under oath in front of your country. In the case of Newt Gingrich, it was the extreme hypocrisy of publicly condemning President Clinton for having an affair while in the midst of an affair himself.


Boys will be boys, and their youthful hot-bloodedness is a very charming manifestation of their manliness. I even find it charming in more mature men! But these egregious sexual peccadilloes among those who would lead us are about character and honor, not manliness. It's time for our society to get that.


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