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Russian Spies, Sex and Love

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Accused Russian spy Anna Chapman, aka Anna Kushchenko, proves a few things about the world: Russia continues to view the United States as a threat to its long-term interests, and a beautiful woman has the potential to gain access to the hearts and minds of men as can few other forces in the world.

Both these ideas may seem obvious, but the second of them is worth dwelling on here. A female with a nice body is still one of the weapons of choice for espionage. This has been the case again and again throughout history. Xi Shi (said to have contributed to the fall of King Fuchai in ancient China) and Mata Hari (a successful courtesan executed as a World War I double agent) are legendary examples.

Why? Why would a romantic-sexual-emotional relationship with a woman have the potential to lead men possessed of secrets that safeguard the lives of thousands or millions of people to reveal any of them? What is so powerful about male-female interactions that, in an age of nuclear weapons and Predator drones, the female form could overwhelm the best intentions of powerful financial and political figures?

Obviously, the answer to this question would help us better understand the actions of men like former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and former President Bill Clinton and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, just as it would shed light on the behavior of Tiger Woods and Jesse James.

I think the answer is that the human mind (male and female, by the way) is unable to fully disconnect sex from emotional connectedness, except in rare circumstances. The desire for sex is, ultimately, a desire for union. It is a desire to be understood, chosen and accepted. Even in the case of those who frequent prostitutes, even for those who insist that they are only interested in physical “release,” their motivation (however misguided) is actually, in some extremely important sense, the desire to be loved.This is why those who question whether they are truly worthwhile or whether they were ever really loved in their families of origin are most vulnerable to beautiful Russian spies or sexy strippers. They have an exaggerated need for love. So they go looking for it in the wrong places — sometimes, again and again.

The very same desire to prove oneself “valuable” or “lovable” may be one of the forces that propels someone into public life or an entertainment career, to begin with. It may fuel one’s competitive spirit to become dominant on the football field. It may even lead someone to an Olympic gold medal or the Nobel Prize.

In short, some of the great achievements of civilization and some of the most unfortunate moments of public figures may relate to the fact that the desire for love and the desire for sex are intimately intertwined. It is no different for governors or presidents or football players or leaders of industry and finance. And that’s why the Russians understood what we understand just as well: Anna Chapman was a dangerous weapon.