Washington people are very excited by reporter Marc Ambinder's claim that there is a whole lot of secret sex going on in the city. "The number of times that one would hear of, reliably, a member of Congress having some sort of affair with a lobbyist, or not even an affair if they’re single, having a romp or a rendezvous with a lobbyist or senior congressional staff members doing the same," Ambinder, who is a contributor to The Atlantic, explained on Bloggingheads. "It happens on the campaign trail to a significant degree, the cohabitation between the staff and journalists. It happens in the most storied corridors of power, cohabitation between Secret Service agents and White House staff." Politico's Patrick Gavin gushes that Ambinder has "pulled back the curtain on Washington’s secret sex culture." A string of words that causes Daily Intel's Dan Amira recoils in horror. The Atlantic Wire is skeptical. It seems more likely Washington is full of boring people who like to think of themselves as naughty.
Sure, nerds have sex, too. But how do we know Washington is not more sexed than the rest of the country? Let's look at the facts.
Fact: Wealthy people are not more sexed than the rest of us. In fact it's just the opposite. The Senate is becoming a millionaire's club, and Vice President Joe Biden has been mocked as a "relative pauper," what with his puny $2 million home. But all that money doesn't buy a sex life. The Washington Post notes that "poorer women are more likely to cheat than wealthy women," according research by Boston College economist Donald Cox. (Congressmen want to control poor people's sex lives by regulating contraception because they think somebody out there is having a little fun that they're missing out on, according to my mom, who could give David Brooks a run for his money on the pop sociology beat.)
Fact: Married people cheat more than the slutty congressmen Ambinder describes. Ambinder says he guesses a third of all married congressmen who've been in Washington six years or more have had affairs. That would put them in the low zone of cheaters. Though survey results vary, possibly due to shame, between 25 percent and 72 percent of married men cheat.
Fact: The Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia, is the most-read city in America, according to Amazon. Why? Because its residents are the No. 1 buyers of romance novels. Who buys romance novels? People who aren't having much sex.
Still not convinced? The emails revealing one such reporter-staffer affair getting national coverage Friday includes an extensive discussion of blue balls. (If you did not live in America during junior high school, "blue balls" refers to the alleged physical pain caused to men by unfulfilled sexual excitement.) The conservative site Free Beacon calls the affair between Wall Street Journal reporter Gina Chon and former National Security Council member Brett McGurk "a torrid love affair" and "a lascivious extramarital affair." But the emails wouldn't even cut it on Cinemax. Check out this exchange, for example:
McGurk: "On tonight, let me see what I can do... I had a very good day with the Iraqis—the best yet. Can’t tell you about it of course."
Chon: "Stop being such a tease!.. This is like a journalist’s version of blue balls and it’s really not fair."
McGurk: "Well it’s only fair... since I had a very real case of blue balls last night! I think they’re still blue."
And by the way, this affair wasn't even in Washington. It was in Iraq. These are just Washington people, having sex in a war zone, a scene that's famous for the promiscuity that comes when human beings suddenly confronted with their own mortality. You don't have to confront that very much in Washington.