Why did his mistress choose “All In” as the title for his biography?
Why do men and women like General David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell risk success for sex? He, in particular, is far from alone: Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Tiger Woods, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gary Hart, JFK, King Edward VIII, to mention a few. Regardless of how many, and except in rare instances, they should all fall into the boring category of “so what?” Because what they do is more normal than not, more the rule than the exception, and a more natural part of the human condition than we are prepared to admit.
It’s what men and women do
The frequency of something like this doesn’t make it right (others get hurt) and there are tens-of-millions of men and women who don’t have extra marital affairs (or say they don’t), but in the upper echelons of any tribe, the guys with the position and power are the same guys who are the risk takers and warriors who believe “to-the-winner-goes-the-spoils.” They live in the rarified air of money and power–with its attendant entourages of sycophants and wannbes–which is a natural incubator for ego fulfillment, sexual attraction and “safe” sex (safe from detection).
If such behavior were to be labeled a “crime,” we would, in a court of law, look at it under the three common aspects of prosecutorial logic. Did the perpetrator have: The “means” (access to hot, ambitious women)?” The “motive” (procreant DNA)?” And the “opportunity (money, travel, hotels)?” The verdict, beyond a reasonable doubt, would be guilty. But in the court of public opinion, we either hypocritically hang them with faux religious morality laws or vicariously exalt them by voraciously sucking up the prurience of the 24/7 tabloid media. Seldom do we address the reality.
David Petraeus fell on his own sword because he had a brain freeze; in fact, a series of brain freezes. It happens to men all the time because they lose cognitive ability when in the presence of (some) women. A recent study in the Netherlands showed that “men performed worse after pseudo-interactions with female observers.” The findings are consistent with previous studies showing “cognitive impairment in men after an interaction with the opposite sex.” In this latest study, the difference is that men didn’t interact with women directly and had no idea whether she was hot or not. And they still had a brain freeze. It’s proof of the old maxim about how men, who, in the presence of women, think with the wrong head, except today it is scientifically anchored and neurologically proven. For a guy like Petraeus, who has spent an inordinate amount of time in the dirt, dust and grim reality of Iraq and Afghanistan … well, what the hell do we expect? Unfortunately, there are a few billion hypocrites who do expect Mother Teresa and the Pope to fight our wars and be our politicians, corporate leaders and champion athletes.
David was an all or nothing guy. Always a risk taker, always a winner and always disciplined. The irony is that the same characteristics that got him to the top of the mountain, pushed him off. When on such a lofty perch, the discipline thing ceased up in those brain freeze moments when Paula came in contact and everything seemed worth the risk (mainly the sex). Besides, he had always come out a winner before, so … what the hell, go all in.
Just so we’re clear, this wasn’t just David’s amygdala (animal brain) operating in isolation. He wasn’t out on the savannah fighting alone, Paula was embedded with him, risking the risks, displaying the spoils. They were both all in. Freud would say that the title of the biography she wrote about David, All In, was a pure “Freudian-slip.” And today, we know that even Freud had the “rules” of human sexual behavior wrong. In fact, no one has yet been able to establish what the rules are or should be; not the psychologists, not the neurologists, not Dr. Kinsey, Dr. Ruth, Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura or the Bible. So until someone can, we need to accept that there are no rules, accept the reality of the human condition and stop feeding the coffers of the tabloid media.