Like most of us I suspect I was drawn to the Petraeus affair when it first broke. Why on earth did the two principal players risk communicating by email and possibly breaching security. And isn’t it long past time we stopped prying into private lives and indiscretions? With one exception: if the players – usually men who once hid behind what was so tastefully described as ‘a gentleman’s agreement’ with the press – are downright hypocrites who can vote and exercise considerable influence to retain or advance laws that punish others for being less observant of conservative sexual codes.
One story indicated there was a risk to national security but it hasn’t been entirely verified. Can such risk be accurately determined? Why were the parties so naive? Communicating about sexual intimacy by email or celllphone if you are seriously important or a celebrity is surely crackers. How could adults (thousands of emails?) be so unrelentingly lacking in judgment? Or have the spare time come to think of it.
A woman commentator points to narcissism in Petraeus’s case. The older man seeks to regain youth, the younger woman provides the mirror image he wants to believe in. It is only in my dotage that I realised men are huge and compulsive narcissists and highly emotional. They can bawl their eyes out if ‘betrayed’ or rejected and are more likely to enact violent revenge. Women’s alleged vanity and emotions seem to pale into insignificance by comparison. Our efforts at allurement-come-near nudity today, and in the past, still reflect mainly male needs/desires. We had the excuse wayback that a woman’s imperative was to belong to a man to avoid ridicule and starvation status – often quite literally – in the food chain. We were not equals in any sphere in theory or practice.
Perhaps increasing equality, hooray, and our highly sexualised celebrity culture is changing this and women’s narcissism increasing? Longer time in the workforce increases sexual contact and is socially disruptive. A recent family theorist argues that is why eastern women in days of patriarchs and internecine tribal disputes were confined to separate living quarters and full coverage clothes. Ambitious wives and mistresses were as good at scheming for their own and their children’s advancement as men and socially and politically destabilising. Internecine warfare didn’t seem to cease however.
Another issue of discomfit is today’s betrayed wife standing by her man. This probably means the man and his money, as money can be a big concern for older women. I’m quite taken with mistresses who have been promised marriage and a child speaking out while simultaneously thinking no mistress should be silly enough to rely on what all too often turns out to be blandishment only. I did like Tiger Woods’ wife making her displeasure known and bolting out of media range.
But is our own and the media gaze free of harm? Alas no. There may be young and vulnerable children involved. For the media there is gold in gossip. An article on Tiger Woods’ escapades suggested it may be more than that: instead it is a forum for public debate about codes of conduct. I confess I fancy a more dignified approach to sexual etiquette generally and a great deal more honesty before exposure wreaks havoc.
However in the Petraeus story my concerns about prurience may be quite misplaced. The true story may be about politics. It is no surprise that the FBI have it in for the CIA. But the real story might be that Obama wanted neocon Petraeus out of the way in order to work towards talks and a sensible solution to Middle East issues. So alleged an ex-CIA public relations to Mark Sainsbury on Close Up. This makes me even more uneasy, even though I would like to see sanity guide America’s foreign policy.
And what about an earlier letter letter to The New York Times from an aggrieved husband wanting to expose his wife’s affair with a seriously important public figure. What I think can be agreed is that the story is now irresistible, and the two parties daft.