What Drives a Serial Sexual Harasser?

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Mayor Bob Filner of San Diego speaks at a press conference announcing his intention to seek professional help for sexual harassent issues on July 26, 2013 in San Diego.
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Is it really a debilitating disease, or are these people just really into sex?

Few Americans outside of Southern California had heard of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner until one woman after another came forward with accusations of sexual harassment. With Anthony Weiner’s sexploits still making headlines, and Eliot Spitzer running for office again in New York City, issues associated with men in high positions repeatedly taking liberties with women are once again news.

Serial sexual harassers seem to be driven by some unspoken force. The behavior may be nothing new, but with a 24-hour news cycle and hyperactive social media, it is certainly becoming harder to get away with it.

“For thousands of years, we as a people have given sexual privilege to men in power,” said David Ley, Ph.D., author of “The Myth of Sex Addiction.”

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“We excused and permitted them to engage in sexual behaviors that we don’t commonly allow the rest of society,” Ley said. “For instance, human societies by and large got rid of polygamy maybe thousands of years ago, but tacit polygamy was still allowed in our male leaders. JFK is a great example. He had mistresses around the world. Media knew and didn’t care and society let it go.”

The driving forces, according to Ley, are egotism and arrogance.

“They have a sense of being Teflon," Ley said. "This stuff just doesn’t stick to men in power.”

That is, until it does stick. Ten women have now accused Filner, 70, of sexual harassment, and this week he began two weeks of behavioral therapy that many are labeling a manipulative PR move aimed at garnering sympathy. Politicians and legislators from Sen. Diane Feinstein to Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz have called for Filner to resign, but to no avail.

What is commonly referred to as a “sex scandal” may actually not be about sex at all, according to clinical psychologist David Wexler, Ph.D., executive director of The Relationship Training Institute in San Diego.

Tags Sex Politics