The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, March 25, 2008. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.
Sex Addicts Anonymous Meeting, Politicians' Division
Press reports are that former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who resigned recently when his habit of meeting with prostitutes was revealed, has entered therapy to discover whether he is a sex addict. The logic is that a power-hungry politician who engages in extramarital hanky-panky must be addicted. Why else would he risk all the hard-earned perks he has acquired?
But Spitzer will have to hurry to reserve a place at the special sex addicts meeting for elected officials. Otherwise, he'll lose the last spot to Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who was charged Monday with perjury, obstruction, and conspiracy. The Wayne County prosecutor, Kym Worthy, found that Kilpatrick lied about his affair with his former chief of staff, Christine Beatty, in a civil suit brought by three police officers who claimed they were fired for investigating Kilpatrick's shenanigans.
I recently attended this SAA meeting to get a feeling for what public figures encounter there. The first thing I noticed when I entered the large, poorly-lit church basement suffused with cigarette smoke was just how crowded it was. I revised the words in Dante's Inferno in my mind - "I had not thought sex had undone so many!"
The first figure who caught my attention was former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry. Barry was captured on a surveillance camera smoking crack cocaine during a sting operation. More important, the camera showed that he only turned to the drug as a consolation after the woman he was wheedling for sex refused. Clearly, this sex addiction is strong when crack is only a poor second choice!
Barry was in the middle of a clique of old-timers, politicians who engaged in extracurricular sex before everyone realized they were merely dupes to their addictions. Alongside Barry was Ted Kennedy, of Chappaquiddick fame. I heard Kennedy and Barry discussing nostalgically other long-lost sex addicts - like Arkansas Congressman Wilbur Mills, who ended his career with a drunken episode that saw his companion, a stripper known as Fanne Foxe, dive into Washington's Tidal Basin.
They were also lamenting the absence of deceased Oregon Senator Robert Packwood, who repeatedly fondled and propositioned legislative aides. Both Packwood and Mills were also Alcoholics Anonymous members in good standing, having indulged their sexual urges primarily when drinking.
Of course, younger legislators were well represented around the room. Louisiana Senator David Vitter, whose name was also discovered on a list of "escort service" clients, was standing self-consciously in a corner. I overheard him mutter - "I don't belong here with reprobates like Kennedy!"
Actually, there were many other men you would recognize, but I was sworn to secrecy - this is an anonymous meeting, after all. I confessed to one powerful politician that I sometimes wondered if all of this was a sham, and these men were merely seeking a cover story for their lust. Most of us have learned to rein our libidos in since we were in college (and, frankly, there are a lot fewer available women).
"Absolutely not," he thundered in the stentorian tones that often reverberated through Congress. "I only solicited women because the devil made me do it." This was actually close to the explanation moralistic former Congressional leader Tom DeLay gave for his earlier adultery in his memoir, No Retreat, No Surrender. He made clear he was morally superior to Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was conducting one of his affairs while leading Bill Clinton's impeachment.
As for Gingrich, he announced he was morally superior to Clinton since Gingrich was only cheating and didn't lie about his adultery under oath. Perhaps because of their clear moral underpinnings, neither DeLay nor Gingrich was "in the house."
All of the sudden, I noticed excitement sweep through the basement, as I saw one politician after another turn to his neighbor, saying, "the chief is here!" We all looked up to see the smiling face of the best-known political sex addict of all.
If it is so commonplace for a group of people to translate power into sex, can we really label it a disease and treat it?