Women in high positions are a relatively new phenomenon. They face the same pressures as a path-breaker such as Jackie Robinson, who was warned by his coach that he was being watched and had to set a good example. Every congresswoman surely endures the same strains that drive some of her male colleagues to have affairs: lots of travel, families far away, heady work that makes a domestic routine seem distant and boring. But the stakes are much higher for women, because they are still judged by a different standard.
Today it is still hard to imagine a middle-aged married woman bouncing back from a full-fledged scandal, though men do it all the time. When Nikki Haley, now governor of South Carolina, ran for office in 2010, two men swore publicly they’d had affairs with her. But enough voters decided not to believe them, which was the only way Gov. Haley could win the race.
Will it always be so? Not if we read the latest signs. According to the General Social Survey, younger women are cheating on their spouses almost as much as men: About 20% of men and 15% of women under 35 say they have ever been unfaithful. Women, like men, now spend late hours at the office and travel for business; they can text or email themselves into an intimate corner just as easily as men can.