Petraeus: The Art of Slut Shaming

Sex and politics isn’t exactly breaking news having come from the generation of President Bill Clinton’s sexual escapades in the Oval. So, the current platter of General David Petraeus and Lieutenant Colonel Paula Broadwell for public consumption over a recently discovered affair between the two isn’t  blog-worthy in and of itself. Affairs between married people in esteemed positions happen, unfortunately. They also happen between poor people, by the way. This isn’t the issue consuming my passion at this moment. However, comments by conservative televangelist Pat Roberts are.

Mr. Pat “Haiti is cursed for it’s pact with the Devil” Roberts is no stranger to odd comments that lack logic and compassion during inconsiderate times, such were the thoughts he expressed during Haiti’s recovery from a devastating earthquake in 2010. Roberts genuinely believed and said that Haiti’s natural disaster was a deserved curse brought upon the people of Haiti due to their Non-Christian religious background. Unfortunately, Roberts public platform at CBN, a Christian broadcasting channel, on its show “The 700 Club” enables Mr. Roberts to continually expound on newsworthy events with raw and tacky comprehension. Of the Petraeus and Broadwell scandal, Roberts essentially landed all of the blame on Lt. Col. Broadwell’s doorstep. Roberts flawed logic begins and ends with Lt. Col. Broadwell’s aesthetic qualities. “The man’s off in a foreign land and he’s lonely and here’s a good looking lady throwing herself at him. I mean, he’s a man,” he said on Monday’s episode of “The 700 Club.”

It’s disturbing that this blame pattern, typifying beautiful woman into sluts intent on using their female wiles to bring down powerful men, isn’t only coming from the likes of Pat Roberts. Since this scandal was unearthed pundits and journalists of both genders have quietly inserted a disturbing thread to the story: how could a man like General David Petraeus have allowed this woman to end his sterling career?

Let’s discuss first that, this woman, Lt. Col. Paula Broadwell is not a witless bimbo seeking to destroy her paramour. She is no Alex Winters, driven to contaminate her lover’s life with venom for accrued wrongs. Broadwell has credentials. Impressive credentials. She also has a husband and two children. She had a career long before she stepped into this landmine affair. She graduated from the prestigious West Point Military Academy with degrees in Political Geography and System Engineering as well as countless other educational and career distinctions. Let’s not pretend this is a woman who needed to have sex with Petraeus to better her career or life.

Let’s not reduce a woman who has obviously made risky and questionable decisions based on her libido into a slut.

Society has done its best to classify women as simple creatures with distinct roles. Slut. Mother. Wife. Daughter. Either of these assigned not based on any true assessment of the female complexities other than being born with a vagina. We blame rape survivors, and domestic violence survivors. We tell little girls that men are stronger and smarter through marketing messages. We tell them that men are powerful and to be powerful you have to either act like a man, or sleep with a powerful man. We confuse them by encouraging them to get an education only to then tell them that the glass ceiling will never break for your entrance.

We do this to our little girls.

Not only has the media shifted unfair blame completely on Petraeus’ purported mistress, it has also shamed his wife of 37 years into being a frumpy mess who couldn’t compete with Broadwell’s youth and beauty. Holly Petraeus is said to be understandably “furious” at her husband’s fall from grace. Who wouldn’t be? She is also a well accomplished woman who finds herself in the harsh spotlight of her husband’s messy uncrowning. Holly Petraeus has shared her life with Gen. Petraeus, stood in the shadows while his career grew, mothered his children, and managed to carve out a role outside of being a military spouse. In 2011, Mrs. Petraeus was appointed by newly-elected Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) to a position in the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau as an assistant director of service-member affairs.

It’s the same animal that bit into Hillary Clinton when her husband’s affair came to light. Less than glamorous wives are seen to be lacking in departments that sexier counterparts are not. Younger. Vivacious. Risky. Holly Petreaus has not been spared this typifying humiliation.

I am not siding with mistress or wife. What I am saying is that women have to stop being sacrificed in the fire pit every time a man is caught with his pants around his ankles. When I think of slut in this case, Paula Broadwell is not the image I see wearing that shameful name.

There is a reason I haven’t written much about David Petreaus directly–it’s not about him. It’s about being truthful about what happens between two consenting adults and how both parties should be subject slut shaming. Not only the one who has a vagina.

Julia Sugarbaker lands the point perfectly.