The revelation that former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a child a decade ago with a woman who was not his wife—a disclosure that comes just a couple of years after we learned that onetime Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards had done the same thing—begs an important question:
Exactly what century are we in?
The issue here isn’t even why a married person would have sex outside his or her marriage, which is not an infrequent occurrence now or at previous points in history. It’s not even about how a public person thinks he or she could behave that way without anyone finding out. Edwards, after all, was castigated for doing something so reckless and foolish during a time when he was under intense media scrutiny. But the fact that Schwarzenegger was able to keep this a secret for the entire time he was in the governor’s mansion is astounding, and suggests maybe Edwards wasn’t as delusional as some people thought. [Check out a roundup of this month's best political cartoons.]
But has it not occurred to these men to use a condom? Birth control is readily available. It’s legal. It’s simple to use. And it limits the fallout from an affair. Learning of a past sexual dalliance would understandably be very upsetting to a spouse. Learning that a child was produced from the union is devastating and adds a living, breathing reminder of the episode, a pain compounded by the fact that it is not the child’s fault that he or she is a walking symbol of marital betrayal.
But seriously, if a woman approaches a man and says, "you are so hot," as Rielle Hunter reportedly said to Edwards, does it not occur to the man that she might not mind having a permanent connection to the candidate a child would secure? And what was Schwarzenegger thinking when he had sex with someone who actually worked for the family? Did he not consider the possibility of pregnancy? [Read 10 things you didn't know about Schwarzenegger.]
Perhaps the use of birth control adds to any guilt the men might feel; if the episode is planned, it is more difficult to convince oneself that passion was to blame. It’s sort of the counter-argument to those who believe that providing birth control to sexually active young people will give them ideas about sex they wouldn’t otherwise have. More likely, they are thinking about sex, and while it may not be wise to engage in sex at a young age because of the emotional implications, the physical consequences of sex without birth control are far more serious. One would think adult men would know that by now.