General Question

wundayatta's avatar

What do sexual ethics have to do with fitness as a legislator?

Asked by wundayatta (58663points) August 1st, 2011

So a politician has a little affair with a staffer. How does that impact that politician’s ability to pursue the interests of his or her constituents?

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30 Answers

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

It shouldn’t. It’s utterly stupid that it does. Then again, politics (specifically in the US), tend to rest heavily on religious affiliations… which probably has a huge influence on why it is such a big deal.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Well, it depends on what they’re trying to legislate. If they’re trying to legislate tax codes and national parks and health care, then nothing. If they’re trying to legislate morality and how families should look and what consenting adults are legally able to do in their own bedrooms, then quite a bit; most people don’t care for hypocrites.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I agree that it shouldn’t. But in this day and age if a politician engages in any activity that might be called into question s/he’s just dumb for thinking s/he won’t get “caught”. The consensual sexual acts that the person engages in don’t matter to me, the fact that the person didn’t consider the ramifications of same does, as it indicates that maybe they’re not very bright.

ragingloli's avatar

It depends on how they stand on the issue in public.
If they rail all the time against homosexuality and then turn out to be gay themselves, hypocrite.
If they rail against raising the debt limit saying that “they won’t put another dollar of debt on the backs of my children” and it then turns out they owe over 170000 dollars in child support, hypocrite.
Apart from that, I care more about my socks getting raped by a pink unicorn.

Blondesjon's avatar

It’s has nothing to do with it.

It has everything to do with the smug feeling that you are morally superior to a figure of authority. It also allows for knee-jerk self righteousness.

I don’t care who their fucking as long as it’s not me.

cazzie's avatar

It allows the ‘holier-than-thou’ band to use that high horse they always carry around with them. How else do they get to take their pointing finger and wag it around?

picante's avatar

Interesting question. For me, one’s personal ethics or code of conduct can be kept at a distance from one’s legislative competency (within certain generally accepted codes of conduct, of course—I wouldn’t want a child molester at the helm). That said, discretion and personal dignity play into this, too.

We have greatly confused our national “morality” with our governance model, and there is very little separation of church and state at present. Others have great responses here.

Blackberry's avatar

It shouldn’t and doesn’t, but I think it’s a way for opponents to demonize them, and it’s also society shunning them because we all know you’re morally superior if you’ve been with the same person for 50 years and have 8 kids.

josie's avatar

Since when were they ethical in any area of their lives? If ethics was a requirement to be a politician, there wouldn’t be any politicians. The real question is -Why do people seem surprised when they discover that politicians are ethically bankrupt.

LostInParadise's avatar

Apart from the hypocrisy issue, there is another factor. It is a serious ethical matter if an employer uses his position of power to get women working for him to provide sexual favors.

syz's avatar

I suppose that it has to do with the fact that we want to look up to and respect our leaders, that we hold them to a high standard. And we should strive to have leaders that are smarter, better, more ethical and more committed. It just doesn’t seem to work out that way.

Personally, I think that it does matter. If an elected official is willing to cheat on a spouse, have a dalliance with an underage page, have bathroom hookups, or any of the myriad other ways in which our leaders disappoint us, then it shows that they’re 1) stupid enough to think that they won’t get caught in spite of being a public figure and 2) are willing to lie and/or cheat.

Sure, they’re human. Everyone makes mistakes. But I want a leader doesn’t make me question their intelligence and moral fiber. And these “slip ups” are even more egregious when the elected official has railed against lax morals, decaying society, or a threat to marriage – so many are so clearly hypocritical.

choreplay's avatar

Well I think it all hinges on what they do and:
what it says about whether they are loyal to their commitments,
considerate of other people’s feelings
not using other people
considerate of families they may have, and
what does it say about whether they are honest or dishonest.

If what they do doesn’t violate these than I’m not going to judge anyone.

YoBob's avatar

It all boils down to a matter of character.

While it might not be such a big deal on a personal level if a politician has an affair, nor is a persons private life the business of anybody else, how one conducts oneself in their private life is an indicator of the character of the individual. If one is unable to keep the most basic of their commitments to their spouse/life partner, is that really the person you want in a leadership/decision making position?

CWOTUS's avatar

On its face it’s a non-issue, but how a person responds to any ethical issue reveals a lot about what governs their thought processes and judgment. Also, maybe not so much these days, but in the past simply being homosexual (to use one example) was something that could make a person susceptible to blackmail or extortion, and we don’t want people making public policy decisions to be influenced by those who would blackmail or extort them, do we?

In addition, depending on the age of the other person, then it may be a criminal matter – regardless of how we might feel about whether or not it should be or not. When a prima facie crime is committed, we can’t excuse the behavior “because he’s so good at what he does”, can we?

El_Cadejo's avatar

Whats even worse imo than making a big deal out of politician affairs is the big deal over other famous peoples affairs. I mean seriously who gives a flying fuck

Schroedes13's avatar

I think it is the same issue as the one with Tiger Woods and other pro athletes. I don’t care what they moral lives are like. They are there to do one thing. In sport, it is to play well. In politics, it is to debate the shit out of things and make ridiculous redundancies throughout the government…:P! Either way, their morality has very little to do with it. However, I agree with many others with the idea that they shouldn’t be hypocrites!

JLeslie's avatar

Very little. But, the one thing about your example is I would guess there are rules about managament and lower levels fraternizing so to speak. Many companies have this rule, and probably so does the government I am guessing? So, breaking that rule is a big deal, not because of the sex, but because of various other reasons.

I also agree with @Aethelflaed. As long as my politician isn’t out there telling people who they can have sex with or what their family should look like amd how it should function, then he is free to have his own personal life also. If he is holier than thou, he better not fuck up or he is out. Politicians are not clergy, I wish they would get off this kick of legislating morality.

Maximillian's avatar

Many people say that sex life should not have anything to do with politics. Well, the thing is, politics is not just the understanding of a bureaucracy and system. It’s the ability to gain votes and support. So the sex life of a statesman is just as integral a part as a platform is.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Sexual proclivities speak to character, which is really the only thing a politician has to offer. Sadly, the quality of character in our political figures these days is woefully deficient.

Then again, we get the government we deserve, so go figure. : ((

SpatzieLover's avatar

If the politician ran on “family values”, it says a lot about his/her dishonesty and character. If the politician never made a claim about any such thing, then I could care less.

Nullo's avatar

Sexual ethics are part of a larger ethics system, and are visible enough to be a telltale. You want your candidate to have your same ethics system. A great many people want their candidates to be the morally-upstanding sorts.

fundevogel's avatar

@Blondesjon “It has everything to do with the smug feeling that you are morally superior to a figure of authority. It also allows for knee-jerk self righteousness.”

I think that probably qualifies as schadenfreude. Nasty emotion, it ought not come into play in politics. But people can be more petty and vindictive than thoughtful can’t they?

gorillapaws's avatar

@Maximillian your argument uses circular logic…

martianspringtime's avatar

I think some people link it to their trustworthiness in general, but then, these people also must be forgetting that they’re judging the trustworthiness of a politician, quite a joke in itself.

YoBob's avatar

@martianspringtime – Quite true. However, knowing that I am voting for a smiley weasel, I would expect at minimum (s)he be good enough at being a slimy weasel to not get caught with his/her pants down.

fundevogel's avatar

It would be discrimination to fire Joe Blow for his sexual indiscretions, I submit that it’s just as discriminatory to make electoral decisions (or expect resignation or impeachment) based on them. With the exception of when said indiscretions contradict the politician’s advertized politics.

cazzie's avatar

Voters love a repentant man, but despise a hypocrite. Frankly, there seems enough hypocrisy to go around on all sides.

CaptainHarley's avatar


Indeed! Indeed! GA!

Maximillian's avatar

@gorillapaws My apologies if my message was unclear to you. @Nullo has a much more eloquent answer.

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