The John Edwards Effect: As We Become Less Prudish, We Freak Out More About Politicians Having Affairs

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This is what I don’t get regarding the whole John Edward thing. And the Bill Clinton thing. And the Bob Livingston, Larry Craig, Eliot Spitzer thing. (And so on.)

We spend a lot of time talking about politicians who cheat.


Let’s go back fifty years ago or so. It was the 1950s, and you couldn’t get a diaphragm unless you were married (and sometimes not even then), you couldn’t say “pregnant” on television, and if someone said you were gay, you were cheerful and nothing more.

We were, without a doubt, more prudish, repressed, and close-minded about sex than we are today. Yet when JFK, RFK, and any other politico got his rocks off with some campaign worker or stewardess in hot pants, nobody said anything. The media didn’t report it, people didn’t talk about it, and it wasn’t an issue.

Was it because we were so repressed that we couldn’t talk about sex at all, not even to condemn adultery? Or was it because the mostly male-dominated media of the 50s and 60s dismissed the affairs committed by their fellow men with a wink and a nod?

Not that we’re crazy progressive now, of course. America is still a land of prudes with its abstinence-only sex education and its Superbowl Nipplegate. Still, you gotta admit we’re a lot more comfortable with pushing the boundaries than we were a few decades back. You’ve got a growing number of couples living together before marriage (or who never marry), gay people are on sitcoms and reality shows and no one really bats an eye, and girl on girl action in “The Real World” hot tub is getting seriously passé.

So why does the media go into 24-hours news alert freak out and collectively get their panties in a knot when they find out politicians are doing the dirty dirty with someone other than their spouse? Are we all really that surprised? Are we all actually offended? Like we didn’t think this was going on? (Come on, people. Look at John Edwards. If that man flashed his Dentyne teeth and talked about his daddy working in a mill one more time I was gonna puke.)

I don’t understand this media/sex/politician phenomenon that seems to suggest that as we become more relaxed about doin’ it, we become more freaked out by cheating politicians. But I do know one thing. John Edwards is a sneaky little bastard, isn’t he? -- Jennifer Mathieu

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