General David Petraeus' resignation and admission of an extramarital affair bloody the waters and the news media are in a feeding frenzy. Another powerful man been brought down by having inappropriate sexual behavior with a beautiful younger woman. The answers cover a broad range of speculations from man will be men to powerful men are over sexed. The response that caught my attention is that power is an aphrodisiac. To accept that conclusion tends to indict all powerful men who are loyal to their marriage.
I believe there is another answer that far more powerful and more profound than the need to satisfy an overactive sex drives. To suggest that so many powerful men would risk everything they had achieved solely for sex is a gross over-simplification. The political, social, family and often financial cost at stake just do not make good sense. These powerful men did not reach positions of importance by making senseless decisions and poor judgment.
If we examine this behavior from a wider and a more profound position, other than the surface view of power and sex, we may reach a different conclusion. To understand this behavior as a psycho-dynamic of two individuals in a symbiotic attachment, each living out some unresolved childhood psychological issue may be more productive. The literatures are full with incidences in which sexual activity used to ease hidden and unresolved issues, many from childhood. For instance, we can agree that rape has nothing to do with sex, but everything to do with control and aggression.
Whenever we notice a sexual deviation in adults--such as perversion and fetishism further examination will reveal some experience in the area of fixation in childhood (Freud, 1924). To make the connection I must quote from Freud's principle of psychic determinism or causality which states "consciousness is an exceptional rather than a regular attribute of psychic processes." In other words, we are too often driven by unconscious desires and less by conscious understanding. We all at, one time or another promised ourselves that we will never again do this or that" and find that we repeat the undesirable behavior again and again. Why? It may serve some unconscious needs. Therefore, we should, at least, entertain the idea that the knowledge received by the consciousness of what is happening in daily lives, including sexual behavior, liable to be incomplete, full of gaps, or driven by unconscious (childhood) needs.
In this instance, instead of power and sex, I see it as a symbiotic relationship, an unspoken (unconscious) agreement between two individuals. Symbiosis understood as a disguised representation of a repressed wish or impulse, or a close, often neurotic, attachment of one individual to another. The position that I take on this subject based on certain facts of daily life. For example, it is easy to show that value the mind places on erotic needs instantly diminishes as soon as satisfaction becomes readily obtainable; any dispute about this died long ago. Certain school of psychology accepted the belief that a husband is never anything but a proxy. The husband is never the right man, the first claim upon the feeling of love in a woman belongs to someone else; her father. The husband is at best a second. Rather the husband rejected or not depends upon the strength of this fixation (Freud, 1924). To experience a fully and normal attitude in love two emotion have to unite; the tender, affectionate feelings and the sensual feeling. Psychology inform us to be free and happy in love one must set aside his deferential approach for women, and embrace the blinding light of the incest taboo.
I believe, I have set the foundation in which to try and answer several questions that part of the conversation since general Petraeus' extramarital affair. (1) Why do women prefer powerful men when it comes to relationships? Why do powerful men engage in extramarital affairs more than powerful women?
First, we must accept the position that power indicates authority, The President of the United States, an army general, the policeman on the block, teacher in the classroom, or the father in the home. These are all position of power and authority.
Power and authority play no role. The individual participates in the relationships to live out a childhood wish, or an unresolved childhood conflict. In adulthood, sex is, often, the vehicle used to act out the forbidden wish.
Extramarital affairs the men involved are older women are often younger and unmarried. Now, if one can look beyond the glaring hot light of society's strong taboo against incest one will see the father/daughter relationship.
In the symbiotic attachment, the younger woman (daughter) finally gained the upper hand on the older woman (mother) the daughter now have her first love (father) the older man. The childhood wish is now complete. However, there is a price to pay for violating society's taboo against (father/daughter) incest. Often it is the man who must pay in the form of political, social, personal, and family embarrassments and public disgrace. A great price to pay: and a form of punishment for being on the wrong side of the incest taboo. Sometime the wayward individual themselves start the dominoes that exposes the behavior.
As for women of power and women who seek out powerful men, both are dancing to the same tune. But sex or power is not the driving force the goal is to gain the love of the "father." However, the woman who is powerful and the woman who seek powerful men take separate path to accomplish their goals. The personality of the individual and the child within determine which path taken.
The woman who seek powerful men most likely was "daddy's little girl" as a child, she put her father on a pedestal, if there is tension between mother and father she takes her father's position. However, deeply repressed is her anger with your father for choosing another woman (mother) over her but the hostility is unconscious she fear that if daddy learn her true feeling he would reject her.
The women who seek power in her own right do not place men (father) on pedestals or worship them in any significant way. Women who seek power instead of powerful men do not have a strong desire for approval from men (father) they are more comfortable competing with men. These women are not "daddy's little girl" they attitude toward father-figure is more aggressive and competitive.
However, do not be misled these women of power are also seeking the love of the father. These women also feel rejected and must compete with mother for father's love, but they take a different approach. The women of power, as a child, reject the "good girl, obedience mother" approach as a way to gain father's love. Instead, they become more like the father, aggressive, demanding, authoritative, and seek power as a tool to control and to achieve immediate gratification. These women become their fathers.
Women with power, unlike men with power, seldom involved in highly publicized sexual embarrassment. In fact, this behavior mirrors society in general in which older women have little appetite for the seduction of younger men. Women of power are not involved in public sexual embarrassment involving younger men. Women who are motivate to achieve power and authority as the ultimate goal of success may not see sex as a premium to reach their goals.
S. Freud, 1924, The Passing of the Oedipus-Complex
This article is not broad brush to paint all relationship between older men and younger women or women with power as neurotic in nature. This article main goal is to offer another way to examine relationships between people with power other than through the lens of sex and power.