When the former President of the USA admitted to having an extra marital affair with Monica Lewinsky it made international news headlines, it was probably covered more than any other event that Bill had ever done before and during his presidency.
What about Tiger Woods, the worlds number one golfer of all time? Forget his golfing achievements because when his mistress came out about an affair that they had, the world went obsessed with Tiger Woods’ affair and our fascination took on a whole new level when it turned out that the golfer had not had just one affair, but multiple affairs.
What is it about extramarital affairs that gets people talking, and even if it’s not a world renowned celebrity, but there is something about an affair that wets everyones gossip appetite.
The most important reason that extramarital affairs make billboard news is because they contain mankind’s most famous topic and activity of all time, SEX. Go anywhere in the world, people from all walks of life who speak different languages, even those that live in the most remote parts of the world will tell you that sex is the most famous topic in the world, so when people hear of someone who’s had an extramarital affair, it becomes public knowledge that 2 people who had no business being with each other had SEX.
Ted Haggard was the senior founder and senior pastor of a 14 000 membership church in Colorado Springs USA, when in 2006, a male prostitute went public that the pastor had paid him for sex for a total period of 3 years. That scandal made international headlines, so much so that Ted Haggard and his wife appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show to discuss his ‘fall from Grace’. This brings me to my second point of why society is fascinated with extramarital affairs.
There is an expectation that those who believe in some sort of deity like religious leaders will walk the talk. Religious leaders are seen as custodians of the message that they preach and they preach to the public about how everyone should live, so they create the expectation from people that they themselves must be living what they are preaching. When it is discovered then that the one who preaches to people about morals and good behaviour is himself/ herself ‘sinning’ in private, we are fascinated.
History’s most important recorded betrayal was that of Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus with a kiss, and our fascination with extramarital affairs stems from the fact that we want to know the people who were betrayed during the affair. The USA is famous for governors who publicly admit to sexually betraying their wives, but the attention always falls on the wife who stands quietly next to the confessing husband, and everyone wants to know what will she do?
The first stories we look for when we open our newspapers are the gossip column with the hope that we will read a story naming and shaming someone we know who was caught out in a sexual scandal.