Another day, another sex scandal

How much do we really want to know about the sex lives of our political leaders?

By Catherine Price
Published March 18, 2008 5:30PM (EDT)

Oh man. Here I was, hoping to write about the sex lives of sleep-deprived fruit flies (stay tuned, I'm getting to it) -- and we get hit with two more crazy stories about the sex lives of politicians (who are probably sleep-deprived, too, considering all they've been up to). First, the Daily News breaks the story, confirmed by the New York Times, that David Paterson, the new governor of New York, and his wife, Michelle, both admitted to having extramarital affairs. In a touch of class, they appear not to have used taxpayer money to fund their liaisons -- but nonetheless, it's a bold way to step into office, especially on the heels of a guy who got kicked out for ... what was it again? Oh yeah. Having sex with a prostitute. (Another touch of class for Paterson: His partner in crime does not seem to have been a hooker.)

Then, as Rebecca Traister points out in her video post, the New York Post runs a story in which a former driver and aide to former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey claims that McGreevey's wife, Dina, must have known her husband was gay because the driver, Teddy Pedersen, says he was their partner in "three-way sex romps."

It's times like these when I begin to wonder if I am a prude. Because here are some things that don't make me happy to think about: Extramarital affairs. Three-ways in the New Jersey governor's mansion. David Paterson naked. And yet, read the papers, and that's what you've got. I'm sorry, but I thought these people rose to fame because they were politicians, not contestants on Temptation Island.

The response on the Broadsheet e-mail list has been mixed, especially in regard to the ladies in question. Is Michelle Paterson representative of a silent minority of political wives who get back at their philandering husbands by having some fun of their own? Are the Patersons to be commended for coming clean? Will this "no shame," you-heard-it-from-us-first approach make it easier for Paterson, in this case, to get on with his job? Or is this a classic case of (way) too much information? Personally, I think Sports Daily's King Kaufman hit the nail on the head. "Please, have your elected officials spayed and neutered," he wrote. "It's the most important thing you can do for them."

It makes me wonder where the next shocker is going to come from. Who is the politician you'd think would be least likely to be engaged in a sex scandal? Ralph Nader? Barack Obama? Ralph Nader with Barack Obama? Ralph Nader with Barack Obama and Ron Paul, while Joe Lieberman gives a lap dance to Condoleezza Rice? Until a week and a half ago the most unlikely candidate for a sex scandal might have been Eliot Spitzer. But these days, I'd say all bets are off.

Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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