With great power and wealth come … ‘hot girls’?

On the evening of Eliot Spitzer’s resignation, a friend of mine — a doctoral candidate in neurophysiology — asked a question point-blank: “So, he got hot girls. Isn’t that what rich and powerful guys are supposed to do?”

Despite the question’s scoffing delivery, the answer, scientifically at least, is “yes.”

Wherever hierarchy is found in nature, the most fit individuals traditionally exercise their dominance by commandeering their most desired mates. The precise image of desirability may fluctuate, but the ability of the powerful to acquire it has remained remarkably stable across species and throughout history.

While civilization attempts to filter out such base animal instincts, this one has slipped through the cracks. The right of dominant individuals to the most desirable mates is not just intact, but routinely glorified.

Pop culture offers several examples.

ABC’s reality show “The Bachelor” returned for its 12th season last week to celebrate, once again, the entitlement of anointed alphas to stay in rented mansions and drive Maseratis while simultaneously dating two dozen women. The show’s abysmal record of forging successful relationships suggests that these men are probably just flexing their status muscle before settling down later on. (The clearest evidence of this was offered last season by bachelor Brad Womack, the scruffy Texan who drank the champagne and absorbed the attention before rejecting all the women and leaving the program alone.) Though it is tough to take “The Bachelor” seriously, it does enact in puppet-show form the mate-choice ritual to which successful men are allegedly privy.

After these alphas mature, their next step is Bravo TV’s “Millionaire Matchmaker” — a program which answers the call of self-made men with rudimentary social skills who are drunk on one-nighters yet (mysteriously) unfulfilled. In this series, a relationship expert aims to break these wild horses and teach them the virtues of monogamy. In typical fashion, the goal is accomplished by presenting each with a room full of unfailingly beautiful women in cocktail gowns who have all expressed an interest in meeting a man of means. For these privileged men, marriage is merely the final course of the smorgasbord of “The Bachelor.”

The same game is rehearsed by countless college kids each spring, when short-lived flings with attractive partners are cast as exercises in confidence-building. Spring break is increasingly a time when students play sex-object — demonstrating their ability to win desirable mates, if only for a single, tequila-fueled night. Term-time book-learning is thus supplemented with the crucial real-world lesson that sex is a strong currency: Go long on hotness and you’ll reap tangible rewards.

So those at the top of the chain have their pick of the rest. But my colleague’s stark question remains: If society accepts, even endorses, the rights of the fittest to amass desirable partners, then why are we shocked when Eliot Spitzer does precisely that?

Our instinctive reply is that Spitzer is married, and as much as we may glamorize juvenile toe-dipping, mate choice is a one-shot gun. But while many would classify adultery as evidence of moral turpitude, and in many cases rightly so, for public figures the revelation of infidelity is simply another storm to be weathered. Spitzer’s successor and his wife both acknowledge straying in the past, evidently to no ill effect; Bill Clinton showed just how raunchy the oval office could get while Hillary slept next door. Whatever adultery may be to a politician, it is certainly not fatal.

The real sticking point is Spitzer’s hypocrisy — busting prostitution rings while secretly sampling their wares — and his sullying of a respected public office with illicit criminal activity. This suggests, however, that had he not paid for his trysts Spitzer might still be on the job. In other words, his appetite for seven-diamond women needs no explanation — just paying for them does.

We know where that leaves him. But where does it leave us?

The phenomenon of powerful public officials taking private sexual liberties is unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Paying for sex may be illegal, but buying mates with status is an age-old transaction. Humans will always covet desirable partners, and those in power will often be best situated to get them.

Nonetheless, from a cultural standpoint, glamorizing this basic animal truth seems unnecessary and unhelpful. If we really care about discouraging philandering among our leaders, we should also stop cheering when televised beaus date a dozen models at once. Boycotting “The Bachelor” might not thwart future Spitzers, but when the time comes to condemn their transgressions, at least we won’t seem so insincere.

And Yalies take heed, lest we forget Spitzer’s academic pedigree. In the ongoing battle between Elihu Yale and John Harvard, this much is clear: Being an Eli still beats being a John.

Michael Seringhaus is a first-year student at Yale Law School. He is an occasional columnist for the News.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    I'm not sure the problem is that Gov. Spitzer "got" hot girls so much as he paid for them. If he'd had a hot mistress instead, he might very well still be in office right now.

    Our new leader, Gov. Paterson, is perhaps even more worthy of study on this particular topic, since he has demonstrated resoundingly that blindness has not precluded him from getting hot girls, be it his wife or *many* mistresses.

    One might imagine that Gov. Paterson would be equally satisfied with semi-hot or not-hot girls considering his inability to see them clearly, but alas, Gov. Paterson gets hot girls, too, and apparently for free. Perhaps we're making progress.

  • weak argument

    You are blurring a very important line: this "hot girl" was a whore, and not euphemistically.

  • Li Z

    He's probably been kidnapped and detained in Guantanamo Bay. Of course the Pentagon would not tell you that.

  • ac

    I believe #2 did not read the entire article. Michael quite clearly stated "The real sticking point is Spitzer’s hypocrisy — busting prostitution rings while secretly sampling their wares — and his sullying of a respected public office with illicit criminal activity. This suggests, however, that had he not paid for his trysts Spitzer might still be on the job."

    Michael wrote a great article.

  • weak argument

    “So, he got hot girls. Isn’t that what rich and powerful guys are supposed to do?” Despite the question’s scoffing delivery, the answer, scientifically at least, is “yes.”

    ---

    Her being a hooker disqualifies Spitzer as an example of the described phenomenon. It's not like he's some rock star getting his "money for nothing and chicks for free." Anyone could save up $4,000 and order the Spitzer Special, without being anyone special. That doesn't qualify as "[getting] hot girls."

  • Come Now

    Come on #1. Read through to the end. The points you raise are right there in the article.

    As for #2 -- this is a line that is blurred, but not by the author. It's blurred by those who marry for money.

  • Anonymous

    I wonder if #1 and #2 understand that they are "arguing" against this column by echoing exactly what is said in it. It's about how money/power/status give men both the access to many women but also implicit public permission to access many women.

    In short, that we permit, even support, the kind of behavior in powerful men that we would societally not permit to frumpy, poor, and boring Average Joe. Powerful women certainly do not get the same free pass. Could you imagine Hillary Clinton running a successful national campaign if it had been her tryst with an intern in the news?

  • Anonymous

    I'm not so sure that "the right of the fittest to amass desirable partners" and the "basic animal truth" proposed by this article should be taken for granted. Aren't those just coded, apologist terms for misogyny?

  • Anonymous

    Uhh…I wrote the first comment and wasn't "arguing" against anything.

    Also, I'm accepting the premise of the column at face value, whether or not Seringhaus intends it in jest, and merely sought to add to the discussion.

    Thanks, though, Luis, for explaining it to me. My simple, misogynistic mind couldn't comprehend anything before your enlightening clarification.

  • Anonymous

    i just KNEW luis m was going to post. he had to. he must get frequent flier miles for it or something.

  • Come Now

    #7: Not necessarily. In a "patriarchy," whatever that term actually means today, then yes. But males routinely compete for females, and in much of the natural world, mate choice is mainly females selecting males.

  • ANother Gir's Gone Wild

    The woman that got with Spitzer was not pretty at all. She was giving it up for anybody who could pay for it, and God knows what kinds of diseases she's spread to how many men and their families. She lost out on capitalizing on her 15 minutes of fame because she had done it for a bus ticket home for Girl's GOne Wild. Amazing how guys are fixated on the so-called hotness of a woman who spread her legs for the highest bidder. No better than the women on the w**** stroll.

  • Anonymous

    I believe the "hot girl" Spitzer got by having "high status" was actually his Harvard law school classmate Silda Wall. He would be unlikely to even have met her without having been accepted to a top law school, and I suspect that she would not have been much interested in marrying someone who did not have indicia of future success.

  • Anonymous

    What does the phrase "doctoral candidate in neurophysiology" of the very first line of the article add? In what sense does one studying neurophysiology have any insight from studying a neurophysiology (where one presumably is studying nervous system function, not questions like whether the "powerful" get "hot chicks") into "the answer, scientifically at least," being “yes.” No science is cited as support for the conclusion, not supported by "science," but is a sociological conjecture. "Rich"band "powerful" are fatally indefinite as defining characteristics. So one might read the perhaps look at the first line as bad proto-lawyer argument, a telling attempt to give an aura of scientific authenticity to an otherwise undocumented claim about the conclusions of science.

  • R

    #13: How much science would you like? Mate choice is pretty uncontroversial, scientifically.