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Sex & politics not such strange bedfellows

June 24, 2009
Bill Clinton & Monica Lewinsky

Bill Clinton & Monica Lewinsky

The public confession of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford that he had an affair with an Argentinian woman shouldn’t really be a surprise. Sanford becomes latest in a recent series of politicos to confess to extra-marital activities, joining Nevada Senator John Ensign, former North Carolina senator and presidential candidate John Edwards and former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.   And it is the same thing that drives these men to successful careers that drives them into adulterous affairs, says Temple psychologist Frank Farley, an expert in risk-taking and thrill seeking personalities.

“It is the nature of the people who chose politics as a career; a career with a lot of risk, no job security, no set rules for success,” he says.  “They are risk takers, they’re pushing the envelop, living for the intense life and it’s challenges.  These people are often innovative and creative, qualities that attract people of the oppositie sex.

“Look at the adulation many politicians get.  In quite a few, probably more than we know, the

Frank Farley

Frank Farley

T-factor overflows and they let their guard down and take advantage of opportunities that arise and they have affairs,” adds, former president of the American Psychological Association.

Farley says that the public doesn’t want its politicians to be wallflowers, it wants them to be leaders.  But the sometimes, he says, the price we pay is that along the way is that there’s a negative side to risk-taking such as extra-marital affairs, which can be very exciting because of the danger element and the novelty.

“We admire many of these ‘Big-T’ people.  Bill Clinton left office with high approval ratings.  FDR had affairs.  JFK wrote the book on it,” he says.  “So we shouldn’t be surprised when it happens when it happens to the governor of South Carolina.”


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