the horny dilemma


BY FRED BRANFMAN | Let's try a thought-experiment. Is it in the national interest to have a satisfied, relaxed, loose president making decisions as to whether and how to bomb Iraq? Or do we prefer a frustrated, irritable, snappish commander-in-chief determining who will live and who will die?

Is our nation best served by a chief executive who regularly engages in towering fits that reduce his aides to cowering children because of sexually frustrating nights spent in the presidential boudoir? Or are we and the president's hard-pressed staff better off if the chief's sexual needs are better met, even if that means allowing him more sexual freedom than most of us who live lives of quiet desperation?

It is curious how little examination has been given to the real issue underlying the Clinton sex scandal -- how to remain faithful to a loved spouse when it so often requires a lifetime of sexual frustration. One wonders how useful it is to force people into this Procrustean bed where millions either give up satisfying sex or cheat and lie in order to stay married to the one they love.

I happened to be directing presidential candidate Gary Hart's think tank in 1984 when Donna Rice came into our lives and such questions first had such a profound effect on the nation's politics. What struck me most at the time was that Hart had both behaved badly and that he had been driven to it for a decent reason: an unwillingness to leave his wife.

His friend Jack Nicholson's observation of Hart's behavior at the time -- "Gary likes to fuck" -- provided only a partial explanation. Hart also felt a real love and/or old-fashioned loyalty toward his wife, or at least that's what sources close to them told me. Faced with living a life of sexual frustration or leaving the wife he loved, he tried to find a compromise both could live with. But, in the glare of publicity, he failed.

This dilemma bedevils millions of Americans of both sexes, but the president has raised it to a new level of awareness. If he does survive in the White House for the next three years, it is difficult to imagine that even he will be enjoying the kind of sexual release he has been accustomed to (assuming Monica Lewinsky's alleged allegations have some truth to them).

In that case, America may be led by a president, possibly the first in the nation's history, who is denied the kind of release he craves to help soothe the tensions of his office. It's hard to believe that's good for the nation, however much it may satisfy those who want our man to be punished for his sins, or to provide a "role model" so that millions of young people can grow up to face the same frustration.

The world of the married is divided into three basic groups:

  • The few who are able over the years to experience sustained sexual pleasure with each other;
  • A larger number who accept the absence of long-term sexual satisfaction in return for other benefits, such as children, companionship, security, non-sexual love;
  • Those with high sex drives who have periodic relations with partners outside of marriage -- often lying about it to their spouses -- who also happen often to be among the more high-achieving and successful of the population.
  • Clinton, by all accounts, belongs in the last category, as do many of our senior politicians, including recent presidential candidates, as well as artists, business leaders and journalists (including those who apparently see no contradiction in criticizing the president for the same infidelity they have engaged in). And this is not just a guy thing: Polls indicate that almost as many women as men experience sexual frustration in marriage, and act out accordingly.