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The Power, the Protégé and the Dutiful Wife

Yet more studies with sweat have explored the strongest isolated candidate so far for a human pheromone, known as androstadienone, which derives from the male hormone testosterone. The presence of this compound has been reported to make women feel more relaxed. Wysocki and his colleagues are currently seeking National Institutes of Health grants to find out just what the “magic bullet–or bullets–are in male body odor” that elicit female responses, he says. They also hope to study whether female odors can similarly influence male mood and hormonal activity. [Scientific America]

IT’S A story as old as time, only in the 21st century it requires an update. The powerful man gets seduced by an adoring female, while the wife dutifully commits her life to the mutual cause of their marriage, his career, in a modern era of energies and permissions that has obliterated traditional values and guarantees. What began with mile-long runs has now imploded the career of one of the most vaunted military patriots in modern U.S. history, and another sexual scandal is served up for political adversaries to mine for partisan gain.

It’s not all about sweat and smell and senses, but our bodies do hold a key where the questions begin, even if this latest sex scandal has far more important implications than simply the science of sexual attraction.

What we continue to learn is that no amount of potential loss and humiliation can keep a woman and man from colliding when the physical connection isn’t broken the instant it’s joined.

The cultural edition of the Petraeus affair is ugly and valid. On Veterans Day it’s a salient siren sending a message that used to be held secret. Warrior affairs are nothing new. But when you have a military industrial complex that’s now packed with both genders on missions around the world in tours that never end in a time in human history where there are fewer secrets, the danger of dalliances explodes.

Ask anyone in the Pentagon or with a connection to the military and you’ll hear this story transcends time. However, in the 21st century, women are a different corporeal animal than in centuries past, the opportunities have expanded, as have the ways in which people can get caught, even if in the Petraeus affair the oldest reason in the romance book tripped her up. Jealousy, a commodity in an extramarital affair that’s always fatal.

The details now unfolding tell one story, which you can find in the New York Times and beyond, with Fred Kaplan offering something important:

Precisely what happened next, when this mentor-protégé relationship turned into something else, is not clear. Many of Petraeus’ associates in Kabul, Afghanistan, wondered at the time if something was going on. Petraeus got along famously well with writers and journalists; he cultivated their trust, in part because he liked talking with them, in part because he saw press relations as a key ingredient of “information operations”–a classic military technique to shape the message of a campaign to civilian populations, both in the war zone and on the home front. (I was one of those reporters.) But Broadwell was allowed unusually close access. She was given a room at headquarters. On most early mornings, the two went on 5-mile runs together. Some, including myself, reasoned that this didn’t necessarily imply anything hair-raising: Petraeus went on 5-mile runs with lots of reporters and other visitors. Still, at least one of his assistants warned him to be wary of “appearances.”

Kaplan goes on to say that Petraeus was was likely “drawn more to her C.V. than to her glamour,” but then fills that in with the fundamental:

Paula Broadwell may be, among other things, a case study in the danger of getting too close to the swooning sirens of would-be intellectual protégés.

Feminists balk at talking about the is it all the woman’s fault? aspect of affairs. It’s a subject I’ve been mining for almost 2 decades. Obviously, sometimes the wife is part of the problem and many time she’s not, as I talk about in my book. However, the complexity of modern marriage makes the question impossible to ignore if you spend time exploring the subjects of sex and relationship in the era of equality, which I have, a topic that continues to fascinate.

Having dinner at a posh eatery, sitting in the bar on Friday night, a woman in the chain of the professional national security apparatus blurted out “Have you seen Petraeus’s wife?”

It’s the mistake a lot of people make. It’s not just about looks, though to deny that can be part of it is just silly. If it was just about looks pornography would be enough. It’s also about adoration from someone, a man seeing himself in a woman’s eyes anew, who thinks he’s a god. In Petraeus’s case, it’s not just about Paula Broadwell being hot, but she’s also offering something obviously rejuvenating.

And guess what, sometimes it is about the sex.

Did it begin with the release of pheromones while running, the smell and the sweat the catalyst? Does it matter?

There is the obvious allure of the strangely mysterious, but also something that can go missing when a woman, a wife, looking beyond Mrs. Petraeus, hits menopause and continues to mature. It’s the unspoken secret that women don’t like to talk about and few do. Taking the Petraeus affair as an opportunity to discuss a larger cultural reality offers an interesting moment to delve into relationships and marriages that now last far longer than in centuries past.

Do people really believe it’s a coincidence that a midlife crisis in men when some get attracted to younger women, of varying looks, happens at the same time when a woman loses her interest in sex as she battles the ravages of the hormone war? A tussle some women don’t win, not only losing sexual vigor, but their figure, as well as accepting they can’t fight it.

Of course, that’s nonsense, you can fight it, but depending on your body chemistry what it takes to be your best woman can require a complete and total reconfiguring of nothing less than how you live, eat, work out and play.

It comes at a time when men want to feel younger and some women couldn’t be less interested, with sex the one thing that makes us all feel alive. The act itself physically helpful to your health, something that’s overlooked way too often.

Not all women have trouble at midlife, starting as early as 45, but when you do it can be overwhelming. What it takes for some women to battle the shifting hormones and the physical changes is more often than not underestimated and they can miss what even the most loyal man is seeing at a time when he’s grappling with his own mortality.

If you’re a woman dealing with a man in power as your husband, it may be unfair and annoying, but upping your mating game is a reality in the modern era. It’s always been an issue, however, never before in human history have the challenges to long-term relationships been more acute.

Religion doesn’t keep us committed. Financial dependency is gone. To thine own self be true has attained new meaning.

No wife can assume that the status quo of duty, honor and vows will protect them from losing a life partner to the temptations of an adoring protégé with bombshell looks. You also don’t have to be beautiful to be a sexually aware woman, a vixen, a siren mate.

Men can’t afford to get comfortable either, though the weakness to affairs remains tilted towards men for a variety of reasons, one of which is the simple reality that females still have more duties inside and outside the home to juggle than men, so affairs don’t seem as much like an exciting luxury as something too impossible to fit into their schedules and not worth the pain in the ass to ignite them.

Friendship can sustain a marriage past the lust stage, but for the X- and Millennial generations, though I would say baby boom too, not without sensual intimacy that continues to excavate the one thing that makes us all feel immortal. The swoon of losing yourself in a moment that obliterates age in a rush of sex pheromones, reconnecting you with your partner and what separates your relationship from any that might exist outside the bounds of orgasm.

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13 Responses to The Power, the Protégé and the Dutiful Wife

  1. secularhumanizinevoluter November 11, 2012 at 11:34 am #

    “To thine own self be true has attained new meaning. ”
    Indeed. I have had the rather ego boosting and flattering experience of heightened attention from women I have known for years since my gastric bypass surgery. Women who KNOW I am married and more often then not are married themselves.
    I’m down just under 100 lbs and it has been nothing short of astonishing to me the outright invitations and increase in innuendos when in social or close situations.
    I think the bottom line becomes just what did and do your marriage vows mean to you.
    I come from a family where the males in general would screw a snake caught in a wagon rut if they got the chance. I guess that’s a big part of why I waited so long to marry myself. I wasn’t going to say ’till death us do part” and not mean it…and live it.
    Especially today I can in all honesty see no rational excuse for this behavior. Unless he and his wife had an understanding and an open marriage…and these do exist, I know of two of them that are long standing and appear to be strong…there is simply NO excuse other then someone who is dishonest with themselves and far more harmfully and cruelly their sworn partner.
    Sad for her beyond words…she did everything she was supposed to as a good Army wife.
    pathetic of him. Whatever accolades and honors his military service accorded him he will be forever known as the General who lost it all over a piece on the side.

    • secularhumanizinevoluter November 11, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

      I guess that’s a big part of why I waited so long to GET married myself.
      DAMN I wish they still had the preview edit option!!

      • Taylor Marsh November 11, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

        Yeah, sorry ’bout that preview issue. We had some real security problems with the features so had to nix ‘em.

        Thanks for sharing your story. Obviously, I enjoy hearing details from people

  2. psychodrew November 11, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    RE: “They also hope to study whether female odors can similarly influence male mood and hormonal activity.”

    Actually, female odors DO have an effect on men. Men tend to rate the odor of an ovulating female as more pleasant than that of a non-evulating female. Smelling the female odors of a woman in ovulation also leads to increases in testosterone. Female lap dancers tend to make more tip money while they are ovulating. And in relationships, men tend to show more jealousy during periods when their female partners are at peak fertility.

    • Taylor Marsh November 11, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

      Absolutely correct.

  3. tm123 November 11, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    ‘… in the bar on Friday night, a woman in the chain of the professional national security apparatus blurted out “Have you seen Petraeus’s wife?” ‘
    Have you seen Petraeus? Not exactly Wesley Clark. Petraeus and his wife actually look good together.
    Anyway thanks,Taylor, for the longer view. This stuff just escapes me. It’s nice to have all the currents and energy flows mapped out by someone who has put the time in and knows what she’s looking at. The on-high, holier-than-thou view of secularhumanizinevoluter doesn’t really cover it.

    • Taylor Marsh November 11, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

      Have you seen Petraeus? Not exactly Wesley Clark.

      That was the view of the person at the bar, too. Also adding that Petraeus is a very slight, referring to his build, man, something I knew, but which this woman emphasized.

  4. TPAZ November 11, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    A righteous analysis. Well done.

  5. secularhumanizinevoluter November 11, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

    “The on-high, holier-than-thou view of secularhumanizinevoluter doesn’t really cover it.”

    Yeah, that po manz just HAD to bang her…I mean she is so young and HOT and stuff and his wifey is SO far away…right?

    • tm123 November 13, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

      Not saying you’re wrong. Just what else ? Also, the man who makes your point better than anyone is Warren Beatty. Stayed single and free until he was done. Got married and that’s it. No regrets, no stumbles. No Tiger Woods moments.

  6. TPAZ November 11, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    Look what I found: a really interesting theory on this “sex scandal” that follows money. Interesting.

  7. bevant November 11, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    It seems to me that one of the most dangerous times for women in being tempted occurs before menopause – when you’ve had all the children you’re going to have and you and your husband are both concentrating fiercely on careers. You both get home from work and all attention is centered on the needs of the children (physical, emotional, educational/social) and you’re both exhausted by the end of the evening.

    Go to a seminar, a convention and meet someone new, whose jokes and opinions you’ve never heard before, where there is no obligation like meals and laundry. My that can be devastating.

.... a writer is someone who takes the universal whore of language
and turns her into a virgin again.  ~ erica jong