When news broke in 2008 that John Edwards had been having extramartial fun times and subsequent child with Rielle Hunter, I was working for the anti-war organization CodePink in Venice Beach, California. I worked directly under one of the co-founders of the group, a hard-working and passionate activist who acted as Jerry Brown’s right-hand woman during his first term as governor of California. Like many Americans, having had the pants charmed off of me by Edwards’s Kennedy-esque looks, humble beginnings, adorable family, and ambitious political goals, I was crestfallen when word got out about his infidelity. After all that he and his wife Elizabeth had been through- losing a son, her cancer, his political career- how could he boink some Jay McInerney character and cheat on his sweet and supportive spouse of 30 years?
Due to her time in California politics, I assumed that my boss was privy to the inner thoughts of politicians. As we sat there watching the news of Edwards unfold on the television, I came up with what I thought was one of the most profound questions never asked: “Are politicians born bad or do they become bad once they’re politicians?” I was secretly hoping that she was going to say that all politicians were born from the fire-encrusted vaginas of Satan’s whores, but instead she said she felt that most politicians started out wanting to do good things- they wanted to make the world a better place– but that power and fame eventually went to their heads.
When news came out this week about Weinergate (Media! Quit putting “-gate” at the end of every scandal! Aren’t you more clever than that?!) I don’t think anyone was surprised. “Oh my God! A successful politician who is married to a beautiful and supportive wife who likes to poke his pickle in any orifice he can find?
That’s unheard of!”
Completely unheard of!
Politicians are truthful and moral servants to society!
They don’t cheat on their wives!
What are you talking about it?!
Sadly, what now comes as a surprise is when a politician doesn’t cheat on his partner.
Before my time at CodePink, I worked in Hollywood- the only other industry outside of politics that turns a blind eye to cheating. Being from a small town and naive to the ways of the world, I was surprised time after time when married or committed men in the business would hit on me or my friends. And I’m not saying I’m some hot piece of ass here. They liked me because I was young and I was naive. The more virginal the better. Politicians and Hollywood people love preying on the interns, the assistants, or the help. If I were Freud, I would guess it has something to do with these men getting pinned down and farted on when they were children and now that they’re big bad powerful adults, they try to dominate everything that comes in their path. But what do I know?
Having not grown up in a family where infidelity was prevalent (only abandonment), I couldn’t understand why men were acting this way. “Because every man cheats”, my cheating Hollywood friend said to me. I took offense to his statement. “My Dad never cheated!” I said to him. He just looked at me and rolled his eyes. It’s true. My Dad never cheated. And I have never been cheated on -as far as I know. However, I will never forget that statement my friend said to me. He said it with such assurance and with each media story that comes to light about a married man cheating on his wife, I’ve begun to think, maybe he’s sort of right?
I still believe that there are many men who do not cheat for a plethora of reasons- they only have eyes for their partner, they don’t want to hurt the kids, their religion, insecurity, they’re too lazy to pursue or continue an affair, their parents raised them better than that. But with religion becoming less of a foundation in American families, the media’s attention to infidelity that makes it almost seem the norm, and the anonymity that the Internet can create, I think people who would have been less likely to cheat may feel more comfortable doing it now.
We should not forget that cheating runs more rampant in industries where men and women are in positions of power, where constant adulation goes to their head, and they feel as thought they’re invincible to being held accountable to their actions. Pure and unadulterated narcissism. I’m sure Anthony Weiner loves his wife. I’m sure he loves himself a lot too. Enough not to think about how his actions could hurt his pregnant wife if word got out. The Internet and social media makes it easier to cheat- it takes minimal effort to shoot a raunchy text or Twitter message in between meetings- but it’s also opening up the cheater to a greater risk of exposure. Especially when they don’t know how to use the friggin’ platform that they’re cheating on.
In Hollywood, I recall hearing of affairs that almost solely took place via text or instant messaging. The anticipation of sending a message to another and waiting for the response is what keeps these guys and gals bustling through the day. Signing deals, meeting with big players, and winning awards is not enough. They’ve become fixed on keeping the excitement in their lives at full throttle. I wonder what would happen if they actually had a minute with themselves. And the same can be said for politicians.
Maybe I’m jaded. Maybe my experiences and the stories I’ve heard has made me into a disenchanted old boob. It’s easy to become indifferent when our leaders, our heroes, or our friends and family let us down and break the example. In a way, the media has made us desensitized to these reports of infidelity. Maybe it is the norm? I’d like to think that infidelity is not the reality we’re going to have to learn to deal with, but I can’t help but feel that it is. That every relationship runs the risk of one or both partner cheating and unless the lines of communication stay open, heartache and big ol’ ugly media attention is the inevitable.
Do you think infidelity is epidemic? Have you been cheated on?
GREAT POST—-after arnie's wayward ways became public in the media a few weeks ago, i've thought the very same thing…everyone does it, right?
everyone's selfish, egotistical, robotic, and apathetic.
cheating is a thought-out choice. you think about it before you act upon it, (in most cases).
Is it an epidemic? I just don't know. Sometimes I think the epidemic is really of 'smartest guy in the room' syndrome. You know what I mean?
Sure, those other guys got caught, but I won't; I'm too smart for that.
I think that had to be Eliot Spitzer's thinking.
You worked for Code Pink? Gawd, you just made yourself appear 10 times hotter! 😉
I was also a backer AND a contributor to John Edwards' campaigns. That whole episode really angered me– not for moral or ethical reasons or his failure to live up to somebody else's standards– but for political reasons and questions of 'trust'…
The particular 'trust' I had in him, as a contributor, that he, as a candidate during a campaign, would not engage in behavior so incredibly STUPID right in the middle of a presidential campaign, and on MY dime. He not only endangered his own prospects but those of the Democratic Party as well. If he'd become the nominee… well, we'd be in FOUR or Five wars now instead of three.
John, I'd like my money back! It wasn't that much, but it was quite a bit to me!
Edwards has TONS of money– so why get others to pay for hiding his girlfriend? Pathetic.
Infidelity is the WORST. Blech.
My dad cheated on my mom. My mom's first serious boyfriend after her divorce cheated, too. Every boyfriend I have ever had has cheated on me. My first serious boyfriend slept with other men, then he came out. I don't really blame him for cheating since he figured out who he truly is but it still sucked.
I've become increasingly paranoid and crazy when it comes to dating. I'm probably on my way to crazy cat lady days. Sigh.
@girluntitled- Yeah, it's hard not to ask that question over and over when these stories come to light. Sad thing is, I'm sure a lot of people in Arnold's camp already knew about it.
@Dentenista- Epidemic is a strong word, I realize, but I couldn't think of another word! And I think you're right. They just think they're smarter than the rest!
@JohnPoet- Ha! Thanks! I was upset with Edwards for both reasons. It was a really shitty thing to do to his family and his supporters. It makes me sad just thinking about it. I can only imagine how much more upset you were having backed him.
@Kelly- Yikes! I had a girlfriend who discovered her fiance soliciting sex to men on Craigslist. I felt so bad for her. I'm all about not bringing baggage to the table, but shit, when you've had terrible things happen to you, they make an impression and they stick with you!
"I still believe that there are many men who do not cheat for a plethora of reasons . . . "
The most common reason (I'm tempted to say "only reason") a man doesn't cheat is "lack of opportunity." All the other reasons you list get thrown overboard all the time, even (especially?) religion.
Heck, in my own case, I do indeed love my wife very much, I don't want to hurt my kids, and I was raised well. Yet here I am. Why? Opportunity, baby! A dog just can't help but be a dog. Provided he's the kind of dog that the girl dogs like.
My advice if you want to marry a faithful guy? Marry what we call a "Beta Provider." This is a nice guy with a good job and all that good stuff. Provides for his family, but very milquetoast. Completely unattractive to other women because he's so "beta." (As opposed to being the bad boy alpha male. And yes, alpha males are ALWAYS bad boys.)
All the other ladies will remark what a great guy you married. So attentive. So solid. But you'll have no fears of them messing with him, because although women like that kind of guy, they don't want to have sex with them. That means no "opportunity" for him. So you're safe.
Then, in a few years, when you get bored, well . . . you know where to find me. 😉
L., I questioned this myself late last year (
here). Not with politicians, but the question of fidelity in general. I come from a male-dominated culture where cheating is just considered what men do (and thus, totally dismissed as okay). I fucking hate that mentality. Maybe it's naive, but I just refuse to believe all people lack character in that way. There's gotta be someone else in the world like me (and you), right? Here's hoping.
No matter how old I get, or how many times I see someone get raked across the media coals for cheating, it's something I'll never become numbed to. My thoughts will always go to the spouse who's locked in a bathroom trying to figure out how to face the world with any sort of dignity after such a humiliating blow while simultaneously hoping her Prince Charming didn't leave her with some sort of STD he picked up from one of his encounters.
RiffDog, cheaters are liars and self-serving cowards. I worked with men like you in the stock market for years. You all think you're such slick Casanovas, but I'll bet you don't know that the rest sit around and talk about what pathetic scumbags and losers you are. You're no alpha males, because I've known plenty of them and they weren't cheaters.
You may profess to love your wife, but in reality you'll never love anyone more than yourself.
This is a constant thing on my mind. I hate to say it – I've willingly been the other woman. But I also diluted myself with thoughts that he loved me and will leave her for me and that it wasn't "that bad" because he wasn't married just dating her.
If you look around it's rampant. It's in all sorts of music, movies, books and politics. Sooooo depressing. Apparently falling in love for ever is falling in lust for now.
Lauren, I have a theory about cheating men. They only do so when the opportunity is shoved down their throats. Most men are emotional cowards and never connect completely with their mates. Then, the opportunity presents itself and they follow their dicks. My husband was a sexy, desirable, incredibly intelligent man who attracted women like nothing you have ever seen, BUT, he was loyal and had a sense of dignity that he would not sacrifice in order to have a little piece of strange. He appreciated the fact that he had a wife who was more than a vagina suspended from her medulla oblongata. There are men out there who are alpha and loyal. I had my very own.
Take that, Riff Dog.
Lol at the title. I actually did a piece on Weiner recently. It's called "Weiner shows his weiner." I guess it's a matter of. "I'm this bigshot and I can go do as I please." Sad, but it seems infidelity is fast becoming the norm amongst the elites.
Great post. I've been on both ends and will say — it's just a symptom of what's wrong in the relationship. That, and complete immaturity.
I don't think it's anything new. But media makes us think it's hot press. Especially with a name like Weiner.
Carol said…"Liars . . . self-serving cowards . . . pathetic scumbags . . . "
Does this mean we won't be having sex?
Emily Ann said…"Apparently falling in love for ever is falling in lust for now."
I won't deny that men are dogs, but this doesn't have much to do with whether he is still in love or not. Granted, sometimes a guy strays because the love is gone, but generally it's simple biology. "Spreading the seed" is hardwired into our brains through eons of evolution. It's this lust that's temporary, as opposed to the love. This is why women usually take their man back when he gets caught. They understand (unless they're still in their idealistic 20's) that he still loves her and is just "doing what men do."
Riff Dog — where is your blog, Ashley and Me? Has it been deleted forever? I enjoyed reading about your escapades.. 🙁
I definitely agree that men reveal their true colours with power. However, men without power cheat too – probably because they have nothing to lose. All in all, men will always be too selfish to stick to one woman. That's what I think anyway.
Make it stop! I am so over this story.
agreed. I think your right about needing more excitement and having that last. They are afraid of the end and wont give themselves in full in a "committed relationship".
considering how many people have chimed in on this story, thank you for writing this compelling, personal an thoughtful post. the whole thing makes me ill. i understand that people are broken and they make bad choices all the time, but cheating is a major deal breaker in the world of thingswecanendureforlove. the whole "boys will be boys" thing just makes me angry. thank god the world is now a place where i can just say "no thank you" if a man treats me like shit and live a perfectly healthy life as a single woman. if it really is becoming easier and more ubiquitous, we're pretty lucky to be women at this time and in this place – we no longer have to put up with it.
Weiner is a weiner. Anyone stupid enough to flirt with underage women via Twitter deserves whatever he gets (and knowing these scandals, he'll probably next show up hosting a show on FOX News).
But as for men who cheat on women? They're doing it because they can. Because they want to. Because they're narcissists. Because they think they DESERVE it. Because, at bottom, they are small, sad little pieces of shit that need their egos boosted by these affairs, even though they may have wonderful, loving wives at home.
Do women cheat? Of course. I've done it myself. But it's a choice, and one I would never make again, because I've seen its destructive power, and I've hated myself for making that choice.
Ego drives cheaters. They always think the grass is greener. Marry a Buddhist instead.
Is it possible politicians don't really cheat more than the rest of us? They are about a thousand times more likely to get caught if they DO cheat because they are so much in the public eye. We like to think all these wives are loving and supportive but what do we really know about what is happening in their home when the cameras aren't rolling?
Why get married in the first place?
I can understand the need for variety or excitement, and getting unique needs met by more than one person. Ok then.
But it strikes me as disingenuous — at the very least — to have men and women consider themselves rebels as they sneak around on their spouse, justifying that it’s ok because hey, we’re hard-wired that way and society just doesn’t get it.
So why get married? Validation? The spouse you love so much would have left? So?
Be novel. If you plan to break the “rules” don’t subscribe to them in the first place.