Evolutionary psychologist David Barash excuses the behavior of Eliot Spitzer on the grounds that monogamy is unnatural, an artificial construct of bourgeois civilization:
One of the most important insights of modern evolutionary biology has been an enhanced understanding of male-female differences, deriving especially from the production of sperm versus eggs. Because sperm are produced in vast numbers, with little if any required parental follow-through, males of most species are aggressive sexual adventurers, inclined to engage in sex with multiple partners when they can. Males who succeed in doing so leave more descendants.
A story is told in New Zealand about the early 19th century visit of an Episcopal bishop to an isolated Maori village. As everyone was about to retire after an evening of high-spirited feasting and dancing, the village headman — wanting to show sincere hospitality to his honored guest — called out, “A woman for the bishop.” Seeing a scowl of disapproval on the prelate’s face, the host roared even louder, “Two women for the bishop!”
On balance, the Maori headman had an acute understanding of men. He also reflected a powerful cross-cultural universal: Around the world, high-ranking men have long enjoyed sexual access to comparatively large numbers of women, typically young and attractive. Moreover, women have by and large found such men appealing beyond what may be predicted from their immediate physical traits. “Power,” wrote Henry Kissinger, “is the ultimate aphrodisiac.”
Power-as-pheromone is pretty much the default among mammals. Elk, elephant seal, baboon or chimpanzee, in a wide array of species, females eagerly mate with dominant males while disdaining subordinates. And they do so, more or less, in harems.
Last time I checked representative democracy was also pretty rare in the animal kingdom. That doesn’t mean we have to shrug, grunt and surrender to the local alpha male. Thanks to our swollen prefrontal cortex, humans can do things a little bit differently. We have the power to resist our hereditary inheritance.
I’d also find this argument more convincing if every person in power, or every NBA player, or every movie star, visited call-girls. The fact of the matter is that some people manage to exercise self-control. Nobody’s perfect, of course, but not everybody gets investigated by the U.S. attorney for money laundering and transporting a prostitute across state lines.
Barash also fails to distinguish between ordinary infidelity and visiting a prostitute. I wouldn’t give a shit if Spitzer was cavorting around town with a mistress. But Spitzer broke the law and committed a felony. Other species might not recognize felonies, but humans do. That’s why Spitzer just resigned.