The Sex Change Our Society Needs
When will men caught in sex scandals not drag their wives to the podium, too?
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Just once I’d like to see a male politician caught in a sex scandal stand up there at the news conference by himself. You want to be an alpha male with extra helpings of testosterone and appetites that cannot be denied? Fine, but if you get caught: Be. A. Man. Don’t drag your wife in front of the cameras to prove how strong your marriage is. Practice saying these words: “No, darling, I could never live with myself if I let you humiliate yourself in public to help my career. I know people always want to blame the wife, but this is all my fault. Besides, I don’t want our children to think marriage means wives have to put up with their husband’s crap – that’s what prostitutes are for! No, wait…”
Silda Wall Spitzer looked so sad and stricken standing next to her husband, now-former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, as he issued a brief statement apologizing to his “family” and “the public” – in effect acknowledging the truth of revelations that he was Client 9, who had paid a prostitution ring called the Emperors Club VIP for sex.
Has nothing changed since 1969, when Joan Kennedy faced reporters with Ted after Chappaquiddick? In just the past decade we’ve had, among others, Suzanne Craig, Wendy Vitter, Dina McGreevey – and, of course, Hillary Clinton. I’m not saying the wife must divorce her ethically challenged spouse, although that would make a change. But just once I’d like to see her skip the news conference and fly to Paris instead. And then I’d like to see a political husband stand by his wife when she’s caught, oh, I don’t know, giving a no-show job to her tennis instructor. Except that particular shoe never does end up on the masculine foot, does it? Because female politicians don’t go to whorehouses, or troll for sex in public toilets, or give a top job to their completely unqualified lesbian girlfriend while pretending to have the perfect white-bread family. But if the roles were reversed, do you think her husband would stand up there, bravely, nobly, silently, as Cuckold 1? No, he’d be in the corner bar – or at his lawyer’s.
I’D LIKE TO SEE A POLITICAL HUSBAND STAND BY HIS WIFE WHEN SHE’S CAUGHT, OH, I DON’T KNOW, GIVING A NO-SHOW JOB TO HER TENNIS INSTRUCTOR.
People may use words like “stoic” and “dignified” to describe the stand-by-your-man act, but really what they’re thinking is either “doormat” or “enabler.” (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, on the “Today” show, to a startled Meredith Vieira: “When the wife does not focus in on the needs and the feelings sexually, personally, to make him feel like a man, to make him feel like a success, to make him feel like her hero, he’s very susceptible to the charm of some other woman making him feel what he needs. And these days, women don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how they can give their men what they need.” This of Silda Spitzer, who gave up her career to facilitate her husband’s political ambitions!)
With Silda’s ashen face still vividly in the public mind, this might not be the best moment for male bon vivants like Alan Dershowitz and Bill Maher to pooh-pooh prostitution as a trivial private matter that no one really cares about – it’s just how men are. And probably I would be more sympathetic another time to the notion, expressed by some young feminists and professional sex workers, that the real victim of this scandal is “Kristen.”
“Whether or not she will face prison time,” reads an e-mail from a coalition of sex workers, ‘Kristen’ has been dragged into the spotlight and will be subjected to public humiliation.” Prison? Public humiliation? More likely, a spread in Playboy, a book deal and a new career teaching New Jersey housewives how to empower themselves through pole dancing.
There are a lot of things I don’t understand about Spitzer’s behavior. Like, why didn’t he just take a few hundred extra dollars from his personal checking account every few days and pay for his $4,000 good times that way, instead of channeling funds into exactly the kind of shell account he, as New York attorney general, encouraged banks to monitor? And what was he thinking, this famously arrogant and rigid scourge of Wall Street wrongdoers, when he busted a high-end escort service in 2004, during the same period that he was reportedly a john himself?
Some have described Spitzer’s fall as Shakespearean, but the character he most resembles is not a tragic hero like Lear or Macbeth; it’s the puritanical zealot Angelo from Measure for Measure, who sets out to enforce Vienna’s long-disused death penalty for extramarital sex.
Angelo is a lustful hypocrite, far worse than the trollops and roisterers and young lovers he condemns, and he’s eventually caught in a sting operation. Since the play is a comedy, his only punishment is loss of office, and marriage to the woman he jilted and who loves him despite all. Spitzer, who resigned, with his wife once more appearing by his side, could do a lot worse. Hillary Clinton loses a superdelegate but perhaps picks up some votes from women fed up with male politicians.