| November 20, 2012

Lots of reasons.

Here’s one:

Because they’re not yet men.  They’re still boys.  They’re not yet strong enough to withstand romantic, sexual stimulation when it comes to them in the form of a woman not their wife, nor are they strong enough to withstand their own inner reactions to this stimulation in the form of their sexual attraction to this woman, their desire for romantic, sexual intrigue with her, and their engagement in romantic, sexual extramarital behavior with her.  That’s what happened to David Petraeus.  And Tiger Woods.  And Arnold Schwarzenegger. And Eliot Spitzer. And John Edwards. And Mark Sanford. And David Vitter. And Newt Gingrich.  And Bill Clinton.  And  billions of other men, past and present, all over the world, whose names we never heard of.  All these men have been weak men—boys—who have not been strong enough to hold their inner sexual reactions and attractions inside themselves, where they belong, and not let them travel outside themselves as sexual behaviors with a woman not their wife—where they never belong.

This takes discipline for a man.  Discipline is a kind of strength.  Discipline is when you’re strong enough to not do everything you feel like doing in your life, and you do some things you don’t feel like doing—like controlling your sexuality—because you finally figured out what you really want to be doing in your life, which is to live your life as a strong, virtuous, virile man.  Sexual discipline for a married man is the strength to hold all his sexuality inside himself and inside his marriage and not let it go in any form or to any degree outside his marriage.  Married sexual discipline—the complete and absolute containment of a man’s sexuality within his marriage—is an achievement of manhood.  A man may have all the power and influence in the world—he may be a four-star general like David Petraeus or John Allen, a powerful businessman or politician, a world-renowned athlete, the head of a church, or the President of the United States—a leader, alpha, honcho, macho—but if he’s married and he doesn’t have his sexuality under his control—contained within his marriage—there’s a part of him that’s weak, not yet an adult man, still a boy.

In order to attain this level of manhood, a married man has to do two things.  He has to discard the patriarchal doctrine that it is okay and desirable and actually his right to have a romantic, sexual relationship with a woman other than his wife.  There is a deep, unspoken idea indoctrinated into males in patriarchal cultures the world over that it’s okay for a married man to engage in romantic, sexual activity with more than one woman—to have more than one woman—one on the side, a flirtation, a prostitute, a mistress, a threesome, the pornography on his computer, a second (or third . . .) woman to his wife.  The idea that a married man has a right to have more than one woman is so deep and unspoken in world culture that it’s mostly unconscious in a man, but it’s there, and it’s there when he sends an e-mail with erotic or romantic or flirtatious intent to a woman other than his wife, and it’s there when he goes jogging with her, and it’s there when they go jogging off to a motel.  A married man has to let go of that idea.

The other thing a married man has to let go of to attain the level of manhood I’m talking about is his penis if he’s pointing it in the direction of any woman other than his wife.  A married man has to take all the powerful and pleasurable energy packed in his penis and put it under the care and control and love and sexuality of his wife.  He’s got to create the kind of marriage with her—the kind of connection with her—that leads to a great lifelong sexual connection with her.  That kind of sex—good sex—great sex—is not only possible in marriage but one of God’s purposes for marriage, but it happens only when the wife feels so connected to her man in the other parts of the marriage, so pleased with him all over the marriage, that she wants to give and receive sexual pleasure with him in the sexual part of the marriage.  A man can do that—he can measure his masculinity by how good a husband he is, by how good his wife feels in the relationship with him—he can create that marriage—and he can have the kind of sexuality in it, completely within it, so that he never needs to point his sexuality outside it.

Why did David Petraeus do it?   Why did he blow up his career, his reputation, his family, and his life to have sex outside his marriage?   Why did this soldier, this good, strong, brave man, do it?

Because he’s still got some things to learn about marriage, and about manhood.

Copyright (c) 2012, Robert Mark Alter

Tags: cheating scandal, david petraeus, healthy marriage, infidelity, manhood, marital sex, petraeus affair, sex outside marriage

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