The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (May 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
A sex scandal is a scandal involving allegations or information about possibly-immoral sexual activities being made public. Sex scandals are often associated with the sexual affairs of film stars, politicians, famous athletes or others in the public eye. Sex scandals receive attention if a prominent figure is involved, if there is a perception of hypocrisy, if a public figure's sexuality is non-normative, or if it involves non-consensual acts. A scandal may be based on reality, the product of false allegations, or a mixture of both. Whether the scandal is based in fact or not, it may lead to the celebrity disappearing from the public eye or to the resignation of prominent political figures.
Sex scandals involving politicians often become political scandals, particularly when there is an attempt at a cover-up or suspicions of illegality. Attempts at coverups include payoffs, threats, or, in extreme cases, murder.
While some commentators see sex scandals as irrelevant to politics, particularly where "professional performance [does] not seem to be impaired", Gene Healy of the Cato Institute views them as not just "great fun", but a reminder "that we should think twice before we cede more power to these fools." An increase in the prevalence of morally questionable expressions of sexuality is sometimes referred to as a sexidemic.
The Hamilton–Reynolds affair which involved Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, who had a one-year affair with Maria Reynolds during George Washington's presidency, is considered as one of the first sex scandals in American political history.
Sex scandals, in relation to political and public figures, often lead to questions of one's own ethics and moral code. A politician who is caught in a sex scandal is more likely to resign than a public figure in the face of a sex scandal.
Scandals have been a part of history in major declarations, false truces, when political or celebrity figures need to pay someone off to protect their legacy and more. Scandals can involve bribery, immoral action, shame, slander, misdoing etc. Political sex scandals in the U.S. have included the first sex scandal of Alexander Hamilton to three major national political figures, Newt Gingrich, John Edwards, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Men and women have to face scrutiny of their career or life in the field of politics by the media looking for scandals.
Sex scandals involve sexual affairs which usually, but not always, involve infidelity. Infidelity has many definitions, either based on experience or research done on people who have been involved in the act of disloyalty and trust. To some, infidelity "is a complex phenomenon with multiple reasons driving people to cheat on their partners". "It has existed for as long as people have united as couples, married or otherwise." Marriage counselors and research prove that affairs occur with both men and women have insufficiently satisfying relationships. Relationships can break down because of issues including financial pressure, ridicule of occupation, decrease in libido, aging, etc. Based on a New York Times' article, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, national surveys states "that 15 percent of married women and 25 percent of married men have had extramarital affairs".
Gender stereotypes in scandals
Sex scandals tend to include a bias when it comes to men and women who are caught and then need evidence to explain their situation. Based on the journal When Women attack : Sex scandals, Gender stereotypes, and Candidate evaluations, gender stereotypes are "refer(ed) to the meanings that individuals and societies ascribe to males and females". Most people would believe a male politician being involved in a sex scandal would deem him as masculine, but in some cases that is not true. During a political sex scandal, a woman who stays on the aggressive side and fights for the truth, or with her political spouse, is seen as a valuable, intelligent, favorable woman. A famous study of a sex scandal that "proved" women are more open to an apology, understanding, and faithfulness, was during the Bill Clinton affair that involved Monica Lewinsky. Hillary Clinton steadily denied accusations against her husband, stating that they were personal attacks, part of an agenda against her husband. While unavoidable evidence began to surface, she still remained composed and did not speak of her anger unless it was in private. Various women praised Hilary for being the "man" in the situation and remaining strong and hopeful when their private life was exposed to the public by the media. As a result, women were seen in a more favorable light in terms of being assigned positions in the political system because of Hillary's cognitive choices; fighting against the stereotype women cannot be masculine and control their emotions in a state of chaos or when given position of power, and proving femininity can be publicly relatable. Although Bill Clinton was being attacked by the media and his political adversaries, he did not receive positive feedback and a pass for his actions; he was still safe momentarily because of his faithful wife Hillary. A substantial number of Republican attacks trying to crush Clinton's presidency were seen as weak and "self-interested and transparently partisan". This whole sex scandal caused an uproar and made Congress, media, and citizens look at male candidates and politicians in a different light by "normalizing public discussion of sex acts." John Edwards, David Petraeus, Anthony Weiner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Herman Cain, are other examples of men involved in sex scandals that have caused the public not to give men the benefit of the doubt. This has caused the debate between politics and sex scandals to be seen in a different light. It has allowed gender-shifting and the role of gender to become more unbiased in the selection of candidates during their evaluation and allowing more power for women fighting against stereotypes due to scandals, and men being seen as more skeptical.
A year after the 2017 Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse cases was first reported, leading to the viral spread of the #MeToo movement, New York Times published a list of 201 names of prominent men in the United States who had lost their jobs following public allegations of sexual harassment.
Social attitudes have traditionally been less forgiving when minors are involved. In France, for example, the scandal surrounding Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier and former call girl Zahia Dehar – for whom Bouvier allegedly acted as pimp in the late 2000s, paying her to appear at dinners for entertainment when she was 17 years old – has caused outrage and opened a debate about powerful men in society abusing their power. The fall from grace and imprisonment of Anthony Weiner, following his sexting of explicit pictures to a 15-year old girl, is another notable example of the pre-#MeToo era.
- Casting couch
- Celebrity sex tape
- Deviancy amplification spiral
- List of federal political sex scandals in the United States
- Category:Sex scandals
- Dagnes, Alison. "Stand By Your Man: Political Sex Scandals in American Pop Culture" (PDF). wpsa.research.pdx.udu. Retrieved June 22, 2019.
- Juliet A. Williams (May 21, 2011). "Why the Strauss-Kahn and Schwarzenegger scandals don't go together". Washington Post.
- Phillips, Amber (April 28, 2018). "Nine members of Congress have lost their jobs over sex in six months". washingtonpost.com. Retrieved June 22, 2019.
- David Lamb (August 1, 1976). "Sex and scandal are old partners in Washington". The Tuscaloosa News. p. 23, Section D3.
- Gene Healy (June 6, 2011). "Weinergate reminds us not to give these clowns more power". Washington Examiner.
- Samuel, Lawrence R. (June 3, 2013). "America's 'Sexidemic'". Psychology Today.
- "The Sex Scandal That Ruined Alexander Hamilton's Chances of Becoming President". history.com. Retrieved June 22, 2019.
- "Scandals". HISTORY.
- "Meaning of scandal in English". dictionary.cambridge.org. Retrieved June 22, 2019.
- "The Value of Outside Support for Male and Female Politicians Involved in a Political Sex Scandal". Cite journal requires
- Apostolou, Menelaos (2019). Why Greek-Cypriots cheat? The evolutionary origins of the Big-Five of infidelity. pp. 71–83.
- Brody, Jane E. (January 22, 2018). "When a Partner Cheats". The New York Times.
- McLaughlin, Bryan; Davis, Catasha; Coppini, David; Kim, Young Mie; Knisely, Sandra; McLeod, Douglas (2015). "When women attack: Sex scandals, gender stereotypes, and candidate evaluations". Politics and the Life Sciences. 34 (1): 44–56. doi:10.1017/pls.2015.1. ISSN 0730-9384. JSTOR 26372745. PMID 26399945.
- Williams, Juliet. "20 years since America's shock over Clinton-Lewinsky affair, public discussions on sexual harassment are changing". The Conversation. Retrieved October 27, 2020.
- Carlsen, Audrey; Salam, Maya; Miller, Claire Cain; Lu, Denise; Ngu, Ash; Patel, Jugal K.; Wichter, Zach (October 23, 2018). "#MeToo Brought Down 201 Powerful Men. Nearly Half of Their Replacements Are Women". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
- "Affaire Zahia: l'homme condamné pour proxénétisme veut faire rouvrir l'enquête". BFMTV (in French). Retrieved October 27, 2020.
- "La justice, Yves Bouvier et l'ex-call-girl Zahia Dehar - 13 janvier 2017 - lejournaldesarts.fr". Le Journal Des Arts (in French). Retrieved October 27, 2020.
- "Anthony Weiner sentenced to nearly two years in prison for sexting scandal". NBC News. Retrieved October 27, 2020.
- Beaucoup B.S. - Christopher Hitchens