Stop Slut-Shaming the Women of the Petraeus Affair

Chuck Todd on Twitter this morning:


So yesterday it was Paula Broadwell who was the Evil Temptress Femme Fatale without whom none of this would have happened. Now it's Kelley, who enraged an otherwise perfectly proper Broadwell, made an FBI agent send her shirtless photos against his will, and forced General John Allen, commander of America's NATO troops in Afghanistan, to exchange tens of thousands of e-mails with her. None of these people had the potential to do any of these things until she came along! She twisted their arms! (Or some other body parts.)

A pundit I've repeatedly criticized, Frank Bruni, is actually good on this. He wrote today's column back when Paula Broadwell was the Demonic Temptress of this story (her role until, I guess, a few hours ago), but what he says applies equally to the new slut-shaming of Kelley:

There were remarks galore about her unusually toned arms and the way she dressed to show them off. I even spotted a comment about how much of her armpits one of her outfits revealed, as if underarm exhibitionism were some sort of sexual sorcery, some aphrodisiac, the key to it all.

What else could explain his transgression? Why else would a man of such outward discipline and outsize achievement risk so much? The temptress must have been devious. The temptation must have been epic.

That was the tired tone of some of the initial coverage of, and reaction to, the affair between David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell....

Broadwell has just 13 percent body fat, according to a recent measurement. Did you know that? Did you need to? It came up nonetheless. And like so much else about her -- her long-ago coronation as homecoming queen, her six-minute mile -- it was presented not merely as a matter of accomplishment, but as something a bit titillating, perhaps a part of the trap she laid.

...the anecdotes and chatter that implicitly or explicitly wonder at the spidery wiles she must have used to throw the mighty man off his path are laughably ignorant of history, which suggests that mighty men are all too ready to tumble, loins first.

And, I'd add, not-so-mighty men, like Shirtless FBI Guy.

Quite a bit of this is specific to the circumstances -- powerful older men flattered by younger women. That's the point of the rest of Bruni's column -- that powerful men (Clinton, Gingrich, Edwards) cheat with women who are "fonts of gushing reverence." That's true. But ultimately what's going on is just sex. Horny people aren't behaving admirably, and some of the horny people are people we've been told are morally better than we are. We're naive if we believe that.

"Drive folks to do dumb things"? For all of these people, that was obviously a very short drive.

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