Little has happened on the political sex scandal front since Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner failed to regain the trust of New York voters in September. But in the meantime there’s been a pretty big political drug scandal thanks to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

Earlier this month, Toronto police announced they had acquired a video of Ford (pictured above) smoking crack cocaine. A few days later, Ford admitted to the accusations. But in his defense, he claimed he had smoked crack only because he had been in “a drunken stupor.” Ford can’t be fired from his job unless he’s convicted of a crime, but last Wednesday, the Toronto City Council voted 37-5 urging Ford to go on leave. Two days later, the Council voted 39-3 to take away Ford’s ability to fire his deputy mayor. Ford has vowed to stay on.

In a sense, Ford’s scandal is much more serious than the typical political sex scandal. In most states, infidelity is not against the law—although it is in Virginia where General Petraeus had his affair with Paula Broadwell. Ford has publicly admitted to buying illegal drugs, so there’s no question he broke the law and could be prosecuted.

Ford’s behavior during this crisis exhibits many of the qualities of politicians who get caught in sex scandals—narcissism, an attraction to risk, and hubris. But no matter what the facts of the case, drug scandals do not attract the same attention as a political sex scandal. Mayor Ford is certainly not getting the attention that Anthony Weiner, John Edwards, or General Petraeus got.

Why is that? Why do we find sex scandals so much more interesting than other kinds of scandals?

Evolutionary psychologists would say our interest in the sexual behavior of others is linked to our own survival. In their view, the most basic human motivation is to “survive” into future generations by reproducing. Reproduction requires a sexual act, of course, so humans are genetically programmed to pay attention to how they are doing sexually. One way to know how we are doing sexually is by comparing our own sexual behavior to others, and particularly to people like us. Our interest in sex is further heightened when it involves a person who has presented himself as a model of virtuous behavior.

That’s why the sex lives of others—and politicians in particular—attract our attention. Because most of us don’t have a genetic attraction to drugs, we’re a lot less interested in following a drug scandal. Mayor Ford may have smoked crack, but as far as we know, he didn’t cheat on his wife. We’d probably be a lot more interested if he had.

Photo Source: CBC Canada

Robert Smither, PhD
Author of ten books on psychology, politics, and finance, Bob’s areas of expertise include leadership, organizational politics, and the psychology of political sex scandals.

2 Comments on "SEX OVER DRUGS"

    • Robert Smither, PhD says:

      And as BusinessWeek points out, Ford can’t be fired and doesn’t seem motivated to quit. How will this story end?

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