Monica Lewinsky. Rielle Hunter. I’d haul out the tired old Marx quote about history repeating itself as farce, but l’affaire Lewinsky was pretty farcical to begin with. As I looked at images of Hunter and Lewinsky, though, I was struck by a question:
If power is, as is so often claimed, the ultimate aphrodisiac, why aren’t these women sexier?
I’m not being gratuitously nasty, this genuinely puzzles me. And I don’t think it’s a trivial question, either. Evolutionary bio says women ought to be competing to mate with high-status males who can afford to support even the offspring from the casual fucks. Fine, I believe that — but in this game women compete mainly on good looks because that’s a fitness-to-bear signal, and you’d expect the ones who get caught in flagrante with powerful politicians to be successful competitors. That is, generally pretty hot.
But they’re not. And in the last half century the quality of politicians’ bimbos seems to have been steadily degrading, at least in the U.S. Compare Marilyn Monroe (c.1962) with Donna Rice (1984) with Monica Lewinsky (c.1996) with Reille Hunter (2008). The trend line runs from archetypal sex goddess (Monroe) to outright skank (Hunter) with, in the middle, stops at a fairly attractive woman (Rice) and a pudgy girl-child (Lewinsky) who might have had a good moment or three before way too many trips to the refrigerator.
Is there something wrong with the conventional theory of sexual selection? I’m inclined to doubt it, because there are plenty of examples that actually fit the theory. For a recent one, consider the
Prime Minister President of France: bagging, extramaritally, the smokin’ hot Carla Bruni. He later chucked his wife and married Bruni, of course, but that if anything makes the bodacious Bruni a better example of a more successful competitor. Bruni even one-upped Lola Montez; I think we have not quite seen her like since the Empress Theodora.
So, what, is it just American politicians who let skanky women get at them? And why has the trend gotten worse over time?
My wife Cathy thinks it might be that American politicians tend to be prudes who boff ugly women as an expression of their conflicts about sex, but I’m not buying it; if that were the driver, you’d expect these women to have gotten better-looking over time as sexual Puritanism lost its hold, not worse.
I don’t actually have any answers to propose, I’m blogging because I think the question is interesting. Perhaps one of my commenters will suggest a predictive theory.