Why Did Eliot Spitzer Risk Everything To Pay For Sex?

Yesterday we looked at the Spitzer scandal from the prostitutes' point of view, and now we ask the question: why did Eliot risk everything to bone a hooker in the first place? One possibility, according to the Times of London, is that he's addicted to sex. An anonymous columnist writes in today's paper, "My desire for sex was so overwhelming that I had difficulty breathing." This "John X" says that he was a sex addict because "I wanted to feel nothing; oblivion feels good when you've had a bad day at work, or are hung-over." (It all stemmed from a basic inability to communicate with the opposite sex.) "It's a mistake to associate paid sex with feelings. Better to associate it with a lack of feelings, a big frightening void, an inability to communicate sexually and emotionally with a partner."

But by all accounts, Silda and Eliot had a decent marriage before the deluge. Newsweek offers some alternative theories. Susannah Breslin, a writer who is soliciting "Letters from Johns" on an eponymous website writes about some of the letters she received, and most of the prostitute-frequenting married men she's talked to went to hookers because their wives no longer had sex with them or because they got their rocks off on the taboo of it all. "For some men, especially those who are seen as particularly moral or righteous in their public lives (think of all those fallen preachers)," Breslin notes, "Part of the appeal is the fact that it is illegal and a moral transgression in their eyes."

It could be an honest-to-goodness kink, or maybe it's Spitzer's biology! According to Newsweek, men who cheat are "sensation seekers" who have "lower levels of monoamine oxidase A," the chemical that regulates dopamine, the "pleasure" neurotransmitter. Also, the kind of person who is a politician is often incredibly egocentric. Says University of Washington political scientist John Gastil: "For high-profile offices... you have to have a kind of personality where you are very interested in yourself and your personal needs, as well as the needs of others... When the gratification of your desire for social change becomes the justification for so much of what you do in your career, it's not a leap to then say, 'Well, my other desires and needs are equally justified.' You come up with elaborate justifications. 'Hey, 23 hours day I'm working hard for the people of New York. Time for a little me time!'"

And Spitzer will have a ton of "me" time now that he's resigned. The oft-heard moral of this story — to me, at least — is be wary of anyone who goes around crowing about how moral and ethical they are. If Spitzer hadn't claimed to be such a paragon of virtue, the people of New York would probably be more forgiving. Look at former Providence mayor Buddy Cianci or former D.C. mayor Marion Barry. Both left office "disgraced" but returned after a couple years. People forgave them because they never expected them to be particularly moral in the first place. If Spitzer had been honest with himself about his true moral fiber, maybe we wouldn't have seen poor Silda's destroyed visage on our television screens yesterday. She — and we — would have known better.

Dear John [Newsweek]
His Cheating Brain [Newsweek]

Earlier: Enough About Eliot. What About The Hookers?