John Edwards

It may be hip, detached and cynical, as befits the Third Wave, to deny that marital affairs are relevant in evaluating a politician.

But being burdened by none of those particular attributes, I disagree. I think there are some fine presidents who’ve had affairs. But I disagree it’s not a factor that should be considered, especially where accompanied by other factors.

Bill Clinton and JFK, two presidents rumored to have had large numbers of affairs in addition to those we know about, were consistent in their views of the privacy of human relationships. Edwards, on the other hand?

In late December 2006, in an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News, Edwards said, “Do I believe they should have the right to marry? I’m just not there yet…” (This was during the same time period as his affair with Rielle Hunter).

This seems more reminiscent of Ted Haggard or Larry Craig, taking positions on family values and then specifically contradicting those.

It’s important, in my opinion, for a representative to actually represent her or his stated values. Whether it’s an anti-choice politician who puts his female relatives in a different class from poor women with less access to abortion, or an anti-gay-marriage politician who behaves as if “family values” are important for … others. (Of course, I vociferously disagree with Edwards that gay marriage is not in keeping with family values).

Additionally, Edwards himself stated, regarding Bill Clinton, that “the moral dimensions” were relevant to the role as President:

“I think this President has shown a remarkable disrespect for his office, for the moral dimensions of leadership, for his friends, for his wife, for his precious daughter. It is breathtaking to me the level to which that disrespect has risen.”

He also speculated about the possibility that Clinton was trying to obstruct justice.

Finally, as we in the legal biz know, commingling or misappropriating client assets is one of the most critical ethical rules. Campaign contributors, as well as all Americans, are the candidates’ clients. Hunter got paid over $100,000 allegedly for work on the campaign, without clients being informed of a conflict of interest or the possibility that the funds were being directed elsewhere.

Edwards’ behavior, then, is specifically at odds with his articulated beliefs about “family values,” monetary integrity and rights to sexual privacy. To the extent governing well is proportionate to transparency with constituents about what that means, then I think the circumstances of this affair are indeed relevant.

Finally, the specifically feminist issue in all of this.

Based on the various articles cited on Edwards’ wiki page scrubbing his background, it appears that this affair was not part of a sex addiction (as Bill Clinton was rumored to have suffered from), but a unique or fairly unique circumstance. It occurred while his wife, who was similar in age to him, was suffering (and continues to suffer) from cancer. The woman with whom it took place is seventeen years younger than Elizabeth Edwards. It appears likely from statements of Elizabeth’s that they were not in an open marriage, in which other sexual interactions would be legitimate.

We all know, without my citing chapter line and verse, that May-September relationships are far, far more likely to tilt in a certain gender direction. We can also speculate that there is more likelihood that even in high profile relationships (eg, Tracy Pollan and Michael J. Fox, Dana and Christopher Reeve) that women may not be as likely to stray when spouses are ill. Admittedly my data points here are very anecdotal, so I’ll focus on the first point.

Why are female Septembers statistically more prominent? Well, sure, biology and evolution play a role. It’s inescapable that infertility in women can be more problematic sooner, although male age contributes significantly to miscarriage. But we see female Septembers even where the parties aren’t planning children.

A big component is that women are still expected to dominate the decorative role. Accomplishment and providing can be aphrodisiacs (or pure matters of practicality) in attraction to men. Much less so in women.

But often in couples in which the woman is an equal or larger contributor to economic support, the ages tend to be closer. We can all point to examples in which the woman is by far the larger contributor in which the man may be younger.

We know The Gaze (I wish I could remember who coined this, it wasn’t me) isn’t limited to men. But security is attractive too, and cognitive dissonance is pretty natural.

If women were closer to equally likely to contribute equally or more to support, I believe accomplishment and economic contribution in women would become more of an aphrodisiac. And if women were less in need, relative to men, for security, I believe we’d be more likely to incorporate Gaze factors in to our own analysis. Thereby evening out the May-Sept statistic some.

It’s one more reason, to me, why women’s economic equity is so important.

Update: I was delinquent in being a day behind on my Feministe reading before posting this. Lauren has a great take on this here, with a number of interesting observations, including re Elizabeth Edwards’ role in the “confession.”


Similar Posts (automatically generated):

58 comments for “John Edwards

  1. August 10, 2008 at 10:26 am

    I don’t think that a politician’s intra-marital affairs are completely irrelevant, they’re just not on the short list for job qualifications. Where I completely agree with you is the hypocrisy angle — I expect that public figures will represent their morals in belief and act, and as Cara said in the other thread, a mutual promise of monogamy is, to many of us, immoral to break. That’s partially where my disappointment comes from, in addition to EE being a badass.

    One other thing that I’d like to add to your feminist analysis: that men can achieve success on their own resumes, whereas many of our prominent political women have had to use their marriage, and husband’s power or money, as a jumping off point for their own political ambitions. This is a real problem, and one so entrenched that I don’t see any immediate solution to it.

  2. Kristin
    August 10, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Octo–Great post. Thanks for underscoring the likelihood of fiscal misconduct. This is, in my opinion, the most troublesome aspect of the revelations. He was, as you know, a politician who railed against corporate greed and government corruption. I hope that Rielle Hunter’s salary–as well as the money his friend Baron has been funneling for her livelihood–will be investigated. I don’t believe for a moment that Edwards knew nothing about the latter.

    You are right that his comments about Bill Clinton and his position on gay marriage make him a hypocrite whose personal conduct put him at odds with his political platform. And his sanctimonious attitude about the sanctity of het marriage–at a time when he was engaged in an extramarital affair–is off-putting at best.

    Ultimately, on the question as to whether or not any of this is politically relevant: I come down as something of a realist. The fact of the matter is that these sorts of revelations are politically relevant in the United States. We saw what they can do to public opinion when we watched the Clintons deal with allegations about personal conduct. I don’t think these things *should* matter when it comes to national politics, but they do. And that is why politicians state puritanical positions on these matters in which–yes, personal behavior is often at odds with stated policy. And the Edwardses–both of them–should have recognized that these kinds of allegations would have seriously diminished his chances of winning a general election if he had become the nominee. That they took the risk by continuing to campaign for his presidency–that is what I find unconscionable.

  3. Kristin
    August 10, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Ooops, and this part should have read as follows: “Ultimately, on the question as to whether or not *personal sexual conduct* is politically relevant: I come down as something of a realist. The fact of the matter is that these sorts of revelations are politically relevant in the United States.”

    I think that allegations of fiscal misconduct are and should be relevant without question.

  4. Betsy
    August 10, 2008 at 10:47 am

    I disagree with your statement that Bill Clinton was “consistent” in his belief in the privacy of human relationships, at least insofar as you contrast it with Edwards declared unreadiness for same-sex marriage. Bill Clinton was the one who SIGNED the freakin’ Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. I realize that might not have much bearing on your larger points, but jeez.

  5. August 10, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Isn’t it predictable with men that temptation seems to bring them all down. :) I just wish Edwards wasn’t such a hypocrite. However, there will always be people against equality. Marriage is a basic civil right that should be attainable by all Americans if they choose. For those who are uncomfortable with this check out our short produced to educate & defuse the controversy. It has a way of opening closed minds & provides some sanity on the issue:) http://www.OUTTAKEonline.com

  6. Kristin
    August 10, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Betsy–I agree. The comparison to Bill Clinton is not a very apt one.

  7. Metonym
    August 10, 2008 at 10:57 am

    I’m a little unclear on whether you’re saying that marital affairs are always relevant in evaluating a politician? The circumstances surrounding Edwards’ infidelities – hypocrisy in light of previous claims about Clinton and his stances on intimate relationships, and the horrible fact about his wife’s health at the time – make this worth knowing about, absolutely, and do affect how I see him as a political figure.

    But when the affair doesn’t clash with their political views, why should we care?

  8. August 10, 2008 at 11:15 am

    Betsy already made the main point of disagreement I have with what is an otherwise apt post–Bill Clinton was not really consistent, especially since, if memory serves, he signed DOMA while having the affair with M. Lewinsky.

    To Lauren’s comment about men achieving success based on their own resumes whereas women have to use their husbands’ power as a jumping off point: I think men are getting way too much of a free pass on this one. Many men in politics get their feet in the door based on their fathers’ or uncles’ past political glories. Just a few examples: Erskine Bowles (son of a prominent state politician); Chris Dodd (son of a senator); the Kennedys (true, both men and women in the dynasty have benefited); Bob Taft (OH gov., son of a Congressman); GWB; Jesse Jackson, Jr., Robert Casey, Jr. (PA senator, son of the former gov. of PA); the Rockefeller family….

  9. elgoose
    August 10, 2008 at 11:25 am

    The Male Gaze is from the work of Laura Mulvey, a feminist theorist of cinema.

    The more you know!

  10. August 10, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Ah yeah, Carisa, you’re right.

  11. bleh
    August 10, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Laura Mulvey coined “the male gaze” in “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” 1775 Screen16:3 pp16-18

  12. August 10, 2008 at 11:27 am

    This seems more reminiscent of Ted Haggard or Larry Craig, taking positions on family values and then specifically contradicting those.

    Right. Because saying he’s “not there yet” is exactly the same thing as saying homosexuality is an abomination.

    Hunter got paid over $100,000 allegedly for work on the campaign, without clients being informed of a conflict of interest or the possibility that the funds were being directed elsewhere.

    There is no evidence that she didn’t do the work for which she was paid. And might the money the staffer is sending her, if he is sending her money, be…I dunno…child support?

    It occurred while his wife, who was similar in age to him, was suffering (and continues to suffer) from cancer.

    This affair happened in 2006. Elizabeth Edwards was diagnosed with cancer in March of 2007. IIRC, she’d had a previous bout of cancer but in 2006 was and had been in remission for a number of years. Having an affair is bad enough. I don’t see the need to paint him as a total monster for stepping out on his terminally ill wife when that isn’t even accurate.

  13. bleh
    August 10, 2008 at 11:28 am

    sorry Elgoose got there first

  14. Octogalore
    August 10, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Yes, the point about DOMA is well taken – thanks, Betsy and others.

    Clinton’s articulated positions, though, were much more consistently pro-gay-rights than those of Edwards. He explains here that the DOMA was not an attempt to prohibit gay marriage and was a compromise based on the political climate. One can argue whether this was smart or necessary, but it seems his heart was in the right place. Edwards did not believe gay marriage was right; Bill Clinton did.

    The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell maneuver was also a flawed but well meaning compromise. Bill was taking substantial heat for being insensitive to military life. His defenders argue that going further might have prompted the Senate to write the exclusion of gays into law, making it harder to integrate the military in the future — from his Wiki page.

    So Clinton’s policies may have been flawed, but I maintain that his articulated beliefs were more consistent with his actions than were Edwards’.

  15. Octogalore
    August 10, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Elgoose and Bleh, thanks for that!

  16. Octogalore
    August 10, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Lauren — good add re men having more of a leg up in achieving success on their own. I agree with Carisa’s modification about the amount of nepotism in male political success as well, but I agree with you — men have had an advantage. Look at most pre-president activities — law school, business school (less frequently, but eg Bloomberg), state politics, Senate — male dominated.

    So yeah — women are going to need to check those boxes in greater numbers to see a change in this area.

  17. Peter
    August 10, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    One other thing that I’d like to add to your feminist analysis: that men can achieve success on their own resumes, whereas many of our prominent political women have had to use their marriage, and husband’s power or money, as a jumping off point for their own political ambitions

    I think that’s generally true.

    But, men in national politics use family influence and inherited economic advantage to a larger degree than most people will admit.

    McCain, Evan Bayh, Lincoln Chaffe, Mitt Romney, George Bush, Al Gore: all of them came from politically prominent families.

    I think dudes like Bill Clinton, who came from economically modest backgrounds, are more the exception than the rule in national politics. Although, I could be wrong about that.

    I think there is a large degree of class-ism in national politics, as well as an inherent gender-advantage for males.

  18. Carpenter
    August 10, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    I wonder what is going to happen to the first female politician who has a huge cheating scandal break on her? I can’t imagine in our climate with current gender roles a woman politically surviving such a thing. I doubt the media would accept a cuckolded husband, or a girls would be girls attitude about infidelity. Could you imagine is Pelosi got caught with some intern? The world would end.

  19. August 10, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Great post, Octo.

    Interesting about how men don’t stay faithful to a sick/disabled partner as often as women do. (NOT SAYING none of them do, but that it is less common.)

    My ex AA-sponsor challenged women at an AA meeting once, to come up with just one non-alcoholic man who had stayed with a late-stage alcoholic female (i.e. usually older)… versus, well, roomfuls of female Al-Anon members. The women there, including me, had mostly BEEN LEFT BY husbands and boyfriends who were fed up.

    The guys, on the other hand, virtually always still had co-dependent wives and girlfriends, cleaning up their messes for them.

    The women at the meeting came up with one example: Gerald and Betty Ford. And that, my friends, was IT.

    Speaks volumes.

  20. Sailorman
    August 10, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    I agree with your post.

    I also note that there’s another feminist issue with the “look what I did but NOT at who I am” approach, which is, of course, that men are more likely to have Done Things which will make the national press. Women do equally important things but are often less recognized for the same. So if you adopt an approach that favors Doing Things Publicly you will, generally, produce results that are biased against women.

  21. harlemjd
    August 10, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    Christina – I haven’t been watching this that closely, so I can’t agree or dispute as far as the dates, but I’d be more sympathetic if he started cheating after his wife was diagnosed. That’s a pretty damn high-stress situation, and while some people handle it really badly, I have more sympathy for that than for someone who starts a affair just cause he can.

    And wouldn’t the woman be the May in the typical May-October relationship?
    you know, the young one?

  22. charles
    August 10, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    I agree totally with your opinion of Edwards. as a 47 year-old man i never cease to be amazed at how deeply men of my generation have betrayed the feminist movement with our personal actions. the personal is political.

    One thing i STRENUOUSLY disagree with is the comparison to Clinton, and what i see as an unfounded dismissal of Clinton’s sins.

    “Bill Clinton and JFK, two presidents rumored to have had large numbers of affairs in addition to those we know about, were consistent in their views of the privacy of human relationships.”

    but couldn’t this be precisely because they were covering their asses? pretty obvious for a guy who’s constantly cheating on his wife to advocate “privacy.”

    “Based on the various articles cited on Edwards’ wiki page scrubbing his background, it appears that this affair was not part of a sex addiction (as Bill Clinton was rumored to have suffered from), but a unique or fairly unique circumstance. ”

    so if you claim a ‘sex addiction” all is fair? Edwards cheating one time (if that’s the case) is worse than Clinton’s apparent constant cheating, and possibly even sexually harrassing women who work for him? i would think if you ask any married person they would prefer their spouse to have one affair instead of many.

    “The woman with whom it took place is seventeen years younger than Elizabeth Edwards.”

    that’s typically sleazy, for sure, as is the fact she was working for his campaign. but it pales in comparison to Clinton’s tryst with Lewinsky. Lewinsky was far younger, and seemed very naive. to me, it seemed Bill preyed on her for this reason.
    Add to that the fact that it was in the office, and he was the boss and she was an intern, and it is clear Clinton set office relations and the fight against workplace sexual harassment back decades. it is NOT OK for the boss the be getting BJ’s in the office from very young interns. but the reaction from too many progressive sent an unmistakable message that it is OK. our daughters will pay the price for us making this hideous mistake.

    I apologize for taking issue with what i see as a small bit of Clinton apologism in an article i totally agree with otherwise. but i am still disgusted with Clinton, and the free pass he is too often given in progressive circles. the fact that Edwards story broke on the same day Clinton was given a major speaking spot at the Convention just adds insult to my anger.

    Edwards treated his wife very badly, and for that we should be angry with him. But as far as i can tell, it was private consensual affair when he was not an office-holder. Clinton likewise treated his wife badly, but he did it as POTUS, in the office, and with a woman who seemed more like a girl. to me there is no comparison here, Clinton’s actions were far far worse, and far more damaging to the fight against male harassment and feminism in general.
    Combined with his hideous race-baiting this year it is outrageous that this man is being given a spot at the convention. we need to Move On from the sexual privilege Dems like Clinton and Edwards practice.

    I agree totally with Octagalore that Democratic, progressive, or supposedly feminist men need to hold ourselves to a MUCH higher standard.

  23. August 10, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    IIRC, I think the cheating started after his wife had been diagnosed, but while she was in remission, if that makes a difference.

    With the Edwards’ in particular, I think you also can’t leave out the effect that the loss of their teenage son had on them. A lot of marriages don’t survive the loss of a child–it’s sad but it seems to be true.

    I like (liked?) Edwards, but I also think his wife and daughter are pretty teriffic so my sympathies are in no way fully with him.

    What bothers me is the drive towards further tabloid-style media this will engender and encourage. And I’d like someone to tell me just *one* person whose life is better because this extramarital relationship was made public.

    That would seem to me to be the standard for when the public’s right to know trumps a citizen’s right to privacy. But, the man wasn’t even running for president anymore…

  24. Nekone
    August 10, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    John Berger’s book, Ways of Seeing, has similar ideas, but examines The Male Gaze in the context of art and advertisement throughout history. The website also contains essays by Mulvey and others on the subject.

  25. August 10, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    As Christina says, he did not cheat on his wife while she was sick.

    And I personally don’t think political capabilities have anything to do with how faithful one is or is not to their partner. The whole issue of marriage infidelity is far more complicated than a simple character flaw which makes the perpetrator universally untrustworthy.

  26. Octogalore
    August 10, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    Whatsername — I’m not making the argument that “a simple character flaw which makes the perpetrator universally untrustworthy.” I’ll refer you to the whole post in general and the second paragraph in particular.

  27. sam
    August 10, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    harlemjd – I believe the woman IS the May, and it was bothering me while reading the post because I wasn’t sure if I have been wrong in thinking this, OR if the post was saying something different from what I was assuming it was saying. Young like a “spring chicken,” right?

  28. Peter
    August 10, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    What bothers me is the drive towards further tabloid-style media this will engender and encourage. And I’d like someone to tell me just *one* person whose life is better because this extramarital relationship was made public.

    That would seem to me to be the standard for when the public’s right to know trumps a citizen’s right to privacy. But, the man wasn’t even running for president anymore…

    Many politicians and many presidents have had affairs. It’s true, this simple fact is not earth shattering news.

    But that’s not the core issue, to my mind. Obviously, he was a total jackass for doing that to Elizabeth Edwards.

    From a purely pragmatic standpoint, there is no way Edwards would ever have been elected, if he were the Democratic nominee and it came to light that he had an affair two years ago, when his wife was having health problems, and while he was considering running for Prez of the United States.

    That would have been the kiss of death for a presidential nominee. And Edwards must have known it. The american public, like it or not, is not going to elect a guy who did that. And so, what Edwards did, was not only betray his wife, but he put the entire Democratic and Liberal political base at risk. This year should be an historic opportunity for liberals to make significant gains across the board. And Edwards must have known his behaviour would put that at risk. At a minimum, he should have been honest with his staff and supporters, so they would be able to judge for themselves the level of risk to the progressive movement, by his candidacy.

  29. Gidget Commando
    August 10, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    The women at the meeting came up with one example: Gerald and Betty Ford. And that, my friends, was IT.

    The only other couple I can think of is Mike and Kitty Dukakis. She sought treatment for alcoholism and severe depression. They’re still together. But that’s the only other example that comes to mind. Why am I suddenly reminded of A Doll’s House?

  30. Octogalore
    August 10, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    HarlemJD and Sam — May comes before September, so the “May” is the older party. See here.

  31. Alara Rogers
    August 11, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Ocotgalore, that’s not the way it’s used in common parlance. “May” is the younger one because May represents the youth of the year, even though of two people born in the same year the older would be the May birth.

    Consider “May-December” for a relationship with an extreme age difference, usually an elderly man and a young woman.

    It’s not about who would actually be older if they were born the same year, it’s about the imagery that the months evoke. May evokes springtime and youth, September harvest and fruition and middle age, December ending and death and darkness. So “May-December” means a young person and an elderly person, and “May-September” means a young person and a middle-aged person. That’s classically the way it’s always been used.

  32. August 11, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Thanks, Alara — I’d love to see a cite if you have one.

  33. August 11, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Here is one more where May’s older: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3679116/.

  34. Alara Rogers
    August 11, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    (I apologize if this posts twice. Normally Feministe tells me “your post is awaiting moderation” if it’s in mod queue, so I think it got lost.)

    Here you go, Octogalore:

    May-December (which is the more common terminology):

    http://marriage.about.com/od/lifestylechoices/g/maydecember.htm

    http://love.ivillage.com/lnsproblems/lnscompatible/0,,logan_9v019p3s,00.html

    http://www.lingoz.com/en/dictionary/may-december%20relationship/general/5024081

    May-September:
    (This one is buried far down the page):

    http://www.amazon.com/The-meaning-of-February-Song/forum/Fx38RMU1Y5TDP9/Tx2CFDM12NSFMG2/1?_encoding=UTF8&asin=B000I5X81K

    Most sites I visited didn’t attempt to define the term as to who is May and who is September (or December).

    Also, the MSNBC link you used didn’t actually say what you thought it did — the article is about older women and younger men, so when they say “Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher are a December-May relationship” they are inverting the order of the expression to make it clear who is December (Moore, who is older) and who is May (Kutcher, who is younger.) Actually the Psychology Today link is doing the same thing — they’re inverting it because they’re talking about women being older. (The classical expression is “May-December relationship”; apparently women being the older one is such shocking news that the media has to write it as December-May relationship, or September-May relationship, to express this novel concept. :-))

  35. Alara Rogers
    August 11, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Arrgh! Is this disappering because of all the links in it?

    I have four links for you, Octogalore, but twice now Feministe has apparently eaten my post, so I’m not sure what to do to make them show up.

    I will say, though, since it doesn’t require linky, that the MSNBC link you used didn’t actually say what you thought it did — the article is about older women and younger men, so when they say “Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher are a December-May relationship” they are inverting the order of the expression to make it clear who is December (Moore, who is older) and who is May (Kutcher, who is younger.) Actually the Psychology Today link is doing the same thing — they’re inverting it because they’re talking about women being older. (The classical expression is “May-December relationship”; apparently women being the older one is such shocking news that the media has to write it as December-May relationship, or September-May relationship, to express this novel concept. :-))

    Let me try the links again:

    May-December romances (the more common version of the term)

    May-December

    A dictionary site

    The meaning of February Song (this is a discussion about a book called February Song which draws an analogy to the definition of May-September romances)

  36. Jack
    August 11, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Why is older men dating younger women a problem that needs to be fixed? Reality enters, and says that men have a biological predisposition to spread their seed. Men look for young and fertile women, whether they are seeking children or not, because it is all about evolution. Women look for successful men (oftentimes older) because resources and status signifies ability to provide for offspring. Women pretty much do have financial equality compared to men among younger people. Hell, women make MORE in many cities. But attraction is about biology. An old rich woman isn’t hot, she’s just old and rich. She can buy plenty of cats. Women will always be attracted to high-status men, and men will always be attracted to young, fertile women. Why change that?

  37. charles
    August 11, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Jack, you must have accidentally left the last three letters off your username (“-ass”).

    maybe it’s just you who needs to be “fixed” ?

  38. Alara Rogers
    August 11, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Women look for successful men (oftentimes older) because resources and status signifies ability to provide for offspring.

    It’s interesting that you put it that way, because it reflects a huge glaring problem with evolutionary psychology’s understanding of human evolution.

    See, the nuclear family where the dad provides for the kids? Didn’t exist in hunter/gatherer culture. If you stop filling your head with “Flintstones” reruns when you think about the evolutionary history of humanity, and instead look at apes and at humans in hunter/gatherer tribes, what you see is that women, as a collective, care for the children, though they emphasize care of their own kids, and bring in 80% of the food for the tribe through their gathering; men, as a collective, protect the tribe from predators, men of other tribes, and bring in about 20% of the food from their hunting. Men do this for *all* the tribe — men, women and children. They do *nothing* for their own, specific children except maybe play with them. And they play with kids that aren’t their own, too.

    In many such tribes, men raise boys after the boys hit a certain age (three, five, seven, thirteen, all popular ages), at which point it might be important to have a specific dad. But in general men contribute to the well being of the *whole* tribe, not the specific well being of the child they fathered.

    In other words there is nothing in evolution that suggests women should have any sexual interest in old men. What’s more likely is that women don’t specifically have an *uninterest* in older men the way that men have for non-reproducing women. All other things being equal, biologically women probably prefer the pretty hot young guys the same way men prefer the hot young women… because those are the healthiest people with the best genes.

    Another thing to note: ape males actually prefer older females. But apes don’t have menopause. In a society where you don’t have exclusive sexual rights to one woman and only one woman, and you don’t specifically have to take care of her, an older woman of proven fertility is probably a better choice to bear a kid than a young woman who might not be fertile at all.

    In other words, the pattern we see over and over in human society — men lust after young women, women lust after rich and established men — is probably a cultural adaptation to patriarchy. If men are only allowed to have the number of women and those women’s children that they can personally support financially, they have an interest in making sure those women don’t have any other man’s child already, and that the woman is malleable and controllable enough that they can keep her from fucking around. If women are only allowed to live if supported by a man, they will naturally prefer rich men. All of these incentives disappear in a society where everyone contributes to the well-being of everyone, which is what you see in a hunter/gatherer tribe. When women provide most of their own provisioning (and most of men’s, too), they have no need to look to men for a provider, and when men don’t have to be responsible for providing for a woman and her children, they don’t have to care who else she’s slept with.

    The world feminism is trying to achieve is actually a more natural state for humanity than patriarchy was — it is natural for men to like older, sexually experienced women (up to menopause, which probably *is* a biological stumbling block) and it’s natural for women to like hot young men. it isn’t natural for either sex to pick a love partner based on whether the partner can support them or whether they can afford to support the partner. That’s not evolution — hunter/gatherers don’t do it, apes don’t do it. Only humans in agricultural and technological societies do it.

  39. Q Grrl
    August 11, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    “Reality enters, and says that men have a biological predisposition to spread their seed. ”

    Or, conversely, reality enters and says that men don’t have seeds – the reasoning thereof being that men are indeed human and not vegetable.

  40. August 11, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Alara, thanks for the link and for inspiring my response to Jack: “what she said.”

  41. August 11, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Q Grrl — isn’t it interesting that one hears so much about how hard transcending ones “wiring” is when it comes to fucking around. But conversely, the human body wasn’t meant to become a couch potato watching other bodies play sports, and men have no problem with that, nor are men still insisting on procuring dinner the way they used to, while women watched the young. (Somehow women need to watch the young and procure dinner now, funny how we’ve gotten the worst of the evolutionary deal). Kinda coincidental that it’s only in some areas that certain men claim they just cannot transcend.

    Personally, I don’t believe in coincidence.

    But here’s one more — most of the guys saying how unnatural it would be for women to be attracted to hot younger guys… aren’t.

    Sorry, I can’t help being a bitch, it’s hard-wired.

  42. Haley
    August 11, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    “Sorry, I can’t help being a bitch, it’s hard-wired.”

    Hah! Pure gold.

  43. Lisa
    August 11, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    I was going to add for Jack: Older rich guys are not hot either – they’re just old and rich AND pathetic.

  44. August 12, 2008 at 1:15 am

    How is Elizabeth Edwards a bad-ass? I’m pretty contemptuous of her. I would admire her if she’d kicked him to the curb for his crappy behaviour. Putting up with it and apologising for him is pathetic.

  45. August 12, 2008 at 8:44 am

    I’m pretty contemptuous of her. I would admire her if she’d kicked him to the curb for his crappy behaviour.

    Oh HELL no!

    I gotta get to work, so now isn’t the time to delve into the various reasons why an individual woman would stay with a cheating husband—despite the multiple structural, institutional barriers to “just leaving” (again, remind anyone else of anything?).

    But I will leave you with this. Elizabeth Edwards has terminal cancer. She is going to need a lot of medical care and support in the time to come, even though it won’t save her life. She has enough on her damn plate. She isn’t the asshole here.

    And why does male infidelity always end up falling back on the woman? Being her problem? Why is she the one receiving any scorn, any policing of her behavior?

  46. Q Grrl
    August 12, 2008 at 9:42 am

    Yeah, Octo. I’m also pretty sure that humans weren’t “wired” to walk on the moon, but somehow we’ve transcended *that* particular obstacle.

    My partner is 12 years younger than me, but her being female and all must make me Teh Mutant. Biologically I don’t do squat for her; but judging by certain, ahem, reactions, I’m sure she finds me hot.

  47. ShelbyWoo
    August 12, 2008 at 11:59 am

    dreamsmith:

    How is Elizabeth Edwards a bad-ass? I’m pretty contemptuous of her. I would admire her if she’d kicked him to the curb for his crappy behaviour. Putting up with it and apologising for him is pathetic.

    Wow, what a judgmental ass you are. How dare you assume you understand Elizabeth Edwards and her marriage better than she does? You’re “contemptuous of her” simply because she made a personal decision about her personal relationship that contradicts what you think you might have done in the same situation? Of course, you have no idea what their situation was or is, now do you? – seeing as how it’s not something you’re involved in. Nor do you have any idea how you would react if placed in her situation.

    I get very tired of all of the judging of the injured spouse that goes on when something like this comes out. If she stays with him, she’s weak and doesn’t deserve respect. If she leaves him, she’s weak and doesn’t deserve respect. Just depends who you ask.

    No one has any right to judge Elizabeth Edwards or any other spouse in her position. She did what was best for her and that’s really all you need to concern yourself with. Her decisions about her personal relationships are none of your business nor should you judge her based on those relationships that you know absolutely nothing about. Let’s let Mr. and Mrs. Edwards worry about the health of their marriage and it’s longevity, since it is their marriage and all.

  48. August 12, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    How is Elizabeth Edwards a bad-ass? I’m pretty contemptuous of her. I would admire her if she’d kicked him to the curb for his crappy behaviour. Putting up with it and apologising for him is pathetic.

    I imagine she’s got a lot of other things to think about first.

  49. Raging Moderate
    August 12, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    “And so, what Edwards did, was not only betray his wife, but he put the entire Democratic and Liberal political base at risk.”

    Elizabeth Edwards put it at risk too. She knew about the affair, but continued to campaign for him in his bid for the Democratic nomination. Why does she get a pass?

  50. Alara Rogers
    August 12, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    What ShelbyWoo just said.

    As a person who really doesn’t personally give much of a rat’s ass about sexual infidelity — I really can’t quite comprehend sexual jealousy, it’s just like being upset because your spouse went and played Rock Band with someone else when you really like playing Rock Band with him, what’s up with that? — I am sure that if I was ever in a position where my husband was a politician who got his dick caught in the cookie jar, people would be lambasting *me* for “what a wimp! why doesn’t she leave him?”

    Whereas I would be kicking him around the house, not for sexing someone else, but for GETTING CAUGHT in this day and age of no privacy, and ruining his career thereby. But tragic stupidity is not a reason to leave your spouse, or I’d have already left him for washing the inside of my car with a hose.

    A woman whose high-profile husband got caught cheating is, at least, an innocent party, and possibly an injured one. Why does *anyone* feel the need to opine about what she should or shouldn’t do about the situation, let alone *judge* her for what she does? Me, if I were dying of breast cancer, it would take actual physical abuse, or the abuse of my kids, or total narcissism and neglect of my condition, to make me leave a guy who’d been emotionally supportive otherwise. What dying woman has the time or emotional energy to find *another* person to love her and give her emotional support when she needs it, just because the guy who was doing it literally fucked up?

    Let’s keep the focus of the discussion on John Edwards: Asshat, or asshat with possible justifiable excuse? and Media: Total empty suits, or is there a good reason for them to pursue a sex scandal about a guy who isn’t a politician anymore? Elizabeth Edwards: Why doesn’t she leave him? is not a discussion we should be having, because she’s not the one who did anything wrong and it’s none of our business.

  51. August 13, 2008 at 12:46 am

    I definitely agree with you that it’s John Edwards who’s the asshole here and not Elizabeth. She is the injured party. I also agree that it may not be that simple to leave a cheating spouse given all the institutional and structural barriers to leaving a marriage. But why do you consider her a badass? What has she done that is specially worthy of admiration? Is it just the fact that she has cancer? In that case, would you call every cancer survivor a badass? (that makes sense – just not the impression I had from the comment).

    PS – Why don’t I have the right to be judgemental if I want to be? The choices and decisions of public figures are open to scrutiny and judgement once they become public. And it is one thing to not leave a cheating spouse and another to make excuses for them and support them. I do think that is pathetic, especially from someone in a position of so much privilege.

  52. August 13, 2008 at 1:09 am

    To clarify, I definitely didn’t mean to turn this into a ‘Why did she stay/ Why doesn’t she just leave’ debate. I already know the answers to that question (in general terms, not in Elizabeth Edwards personal case). My question was not why did she stay, but ‘why does she deserve admiration?

  53. Chris
    August 13, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Raging Moderate, I think she gets a pass because she wasn’t the one doing the cheating. So what if she continued to campaign for him? What in God’s name does that have to do with anything? Does his sexual infidelity have anything to do with how good of a candidate he was?

  54. Raging Moderate
    August 13, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    “What in God’s name does that have to do with anything?”

    Some people here are rightfully criticizing Edwards for running for President with that skeleton in his closet, risking the party’s chances if he had won the nomination. She knew about the affair, and she campaigned for him. She was risking the party’s chances too. But nobody mentions that.

  55. Snoop-Diggity-DANG-Dawg
    August 19, 2008 at 10:43 am

    I’ve often heard various folks comment on how wonderfully varied, complex and diverse the English language is, effortlessly welcoming foreign words and phrases ‘into the fold’. The depth of our language is sometimes described as a ‘bottomless reservoir’ of nuance.

    I agreed with that sentiment, but no longer, thanks to John Edwards. I’ve been struggling the last two weeks for words to describe exactly how much of a douchebag he really is. And sadly, for the first time I find my native tongue wanting. The adjectives simply aren’t ‘there’ to accurately describe how much of a manipulative, calculating, reprehensible, scumbag, liar, phony, narcissistic, empty-suit, jackass he really is.

    See that? My best effort to ‘capture’ the fundamental essence of John Edwards rings completely hollow, like calling the Grand Canyon a ‘really big ravine’. I would otherwise be embarrassed by my linguistic impotence, but I really don’t think it’s my fault. He has simply re-defined the boundaries of douche-baggery, shattering the power of words to define him. It is, in wierd sort of way, a mark of greatness. A legacy, if you will.

Comments are closed.