Analysis: Paddling Politicians for Hypocrisy is Pleasurable Pasttime Too

It reads like a rap sheet -- the list of politicians who couldn't keep their pants on.

With Mark Sanford now the center of attention, it's hard to remember the scandalous days of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Florida Rep. Mark Foley, former Govs. Jim McGreevey and Elliot Spitzer and former Sen. John Edwards.

Yet are we being hasty in chocking up Sanford's affair as just another sex scandal?

Embroiled in society's latest sexual smear campaign, Sanford -- much to his press handlers' chagrin -- isn't abiding the political playbook when it comes to handling his infidelities. Instead, he's throwing the pundits for a loop -- one which may not be a political tactic so much as the appropriate plot twist to this telenovela-style soap opera.

You see, Sanford's affair with Argentine journalist Maria Belen Chapur isn't just any sexual tryst. It isn't like all the ones before. In letting it all hang out, Sanford explained his affair as a love story -- a forbidden, tragic one at that. His liaisons with Chapur haven't been about sex, but love.

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And who can help falling in love? Who can fault it?

Sanford's critics can.

Enraged by Sanford's condemnation of other politicians' passion pursuits, most notably, President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, critics see this scandal as Sanford getting a taste of his own medicine.

With the tables turned, Sanford's opponents, and much of the public, are relishing the power that comes with sexual scrutiny. People are beside themselves that a politician so critical of others' sexual wrongdoings is himself wrought with uncontrollable libidinal impulses.

Now it's their turn to don the leather with some "you've been a bad, bad boy" whipping-post action. They feel better for it. They feel empowered and bonded for it. And they're doing so mercilessly.

As Carnal Nation blogger and sex expert Marty Klein writes: "It takes no skill whatsoever to make fun of somebody caught with his pants down while he's standing on the Bible."

Despite Sanford arranging his public confessional, most are not ready to forgive and forget. It's hard to believe that this was a love versus sexual affair when Sanford admits to having "crossed lines" with other women as well.

It seems foolish to take him at his word given Sanford has used $12,000 of taxpayers' monies last year in affording the occasional rendezvous with Chapur. He furthermore had his staff unknowingly lying for him in the process.

Hence his press peoples are left with a PR nightmare, knowing that the situation has gone from applying Bandaids to needing Cling wrap to stop the bleed.

Sanford's admissions to his faults may have him feeling better, however. It may be his hope that telling all is the first step in healing, in righting his wrongs, especially to those dearest to him.

But instead of allowing this to be a private matter, one handled by Sanford and his wife and his family, the masses are enjoying this public spectacle. Ironically, some are breathing a sigh of "better him than me" in all of this.

After all, lets not forget that it's not only politicians who have affairs. Their dirty laundry is simply for everyone to see.

Perhaps we'd be more willing to turn the other cheek if Sanford himself had afforded others the same pardon; if he had not made our private affairs so public; if he had acknowledged that, as humans, we're all sexual, and sometimes imperfectly at that. Instead, his "holier than thou" efforts have come back to bite him, even if his involved a woman he calls his "soulmate."

As many European countries have long known, politicians have sexual desires, adventures, and missteps too. But on the other side of the pond, thanks to sexual moralizing efforts, we don't expect politicians to have sexual feelings or experiences. We don't expect them to have sex outside of marriage for love when they do.

True to our Puritanical roots, they're supposed to be asexual examples of proper social conduct. Politics has no room for infallible human beings. Your time in power is to be used for the people, not penile pleasures.

Compare this attitude to that of the Italians, who are awe-inspired by their Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's sex scandals. Many can't blame him for using his power for pleasure, including parties with dozens of beautiful, topless young girls in g-strings.

Perhaps the difference in cultural attitudes comes down to how we relate to our politicians. Despite being a powerful billionaire, Berlusconi's countrymen consider him quite your "average Joe" in his love of sex and money. It's his "no excuses" sexual exploits and love of women that have made him a man of the people.

Americans, on the other hand, are grappling with one family values phony after the next. We're incensed that leaders who preached purity in our private lives turn out to be such hypocrites. Every time it happens, we feel as though we've been cheated on too.

That's why there's something incredibly satisfying about seeing the once-powerful wriggling and full of apologies.

"It's so gratifying to see these people who are so morally outspoken and leading sexual smear-campaigns themselves in the hot seat," explains a Washington, D.C., socialite, who asked to keep her name withheld.

"It's karma coming back at you. We should see it as a warning not to do this to others." contributor Dr. Yvonne Kristín Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of Sexuality Source Inc. She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hands-On Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."