Why Are Women Attracted to Powerful Men?

The investigation into the relationship between former CIA Director David Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell has widened as Petraeus' successor, Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is under scrutiny for alleged "inappropriate communication" with Jill Kelley. Kelley was the whistleblower who told the FBI of a possible relationship between Broadwell and Petraeus. The FBI referred the matter to the Pentagon, which ordered an investigation on Monday.

WATCH: Paula Broadwell Video - Leadership Lessons From David Petraeus

This is obviously not the first news of a man in a leadership position getting into trouble for his indiscretions. Former Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards' White House hopes were dashed when it came out he had an affair - and a child - with a former staffer, Rielle Hunter; former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner sent a picture of himself in his boxers to an intern via Twitter, ultimately leading to his resignation; former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had a child with his housekeeper and had an affair with at least one other woman; and, do we need to say more about former President Bill Clinton and intern Monica Lewinsky?

Is there something about men in power that makes them more attractive to women? And if so, why?

Dr. Sara NasserZadeh, a highly accredited psychosexual therapist, says affairs happen every day, everywhere, so it is not the issue of politicians engaging in more affairs than others, but the fact that they have a social status, makes their stories appealing to the media and news, therefore they get a lot of attention.

"In general, for someone with a social status - especially politicians who are usually perceived as intelligent, knowing-it-all masterminds - are expected to abide the social norms and moral values that are respected by the majority of the society they belong to," Dr. NasserZadeh says. "Whatever that contradicts, this idealized image attracts attention and causes contradiction. What makes a politicians' image even more critical is that at one point or another in their career, they need to have a strong people appeal to get elected for certain positions or stay in power."

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In an intimate relationship, there is a level of vulnerability from both sides, Dr. NasserZadeh says.

"Many women perceive men as difficult to control - let alone someone who is influential, strong, powerful and highly regarded within the society, therefore for some women having a relationship (especially an intimate one) with such a person could be a boost of their confidence," she added. "It would mean that everyone else would see the woman who could tame such a powerful creature and is perhaps the only person who would see his vulnerable side."

David Petraeus and Paula BroadwellDavid Petraeus and Paula BroadwellThere could be several other factors that would make having a relationship with a politician or another type of high-profile man appealing for women, as well, Dr. NasserZadeh continued. In general, being with a person of high social status - including politicians - could be an upgrade of social status.

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"We all know that secrets will bring couples closer so the secrecy of the relationship might be a turn-on and the point of bonding for the couple," Dr. NasserZadeh said. "One other factor that I hear from my clients who are, or have been, in such relationships is the fact that a powerful person trusts his affairee with such a big secret and risks his reputation for the relationship."

Clinical psychologist and relationship expert Dr. Marianne Brandon also detailed several reasons why women may be attracted to women in power - including evolution.

"Women are evolutionarily designed to desire men in powerful positions," Dr. Brandon says. "That's because, from an evolutionary perspective, power means that a man can offer a safe, secure home life for her, and have the resources to better meet their children's needs. Thus, offspring have a better chance of surviving and thriving into adulthood, and ultimately continue to pass their DNA on to next generation."

Plus, believe it or not, men in powerful positions generally have higher levels of testosterone, Dr. Brandon said.

Click here to watch Dr. Brandon discuss why powerful men have affairs.

"These are often what we could refer to as 'alpha males,' and they exhibit less of a tendency toward monogamy, and more of a tendency toward multiple sexual relationships/affairs." Some may see this as a generalization to some, but it does stand to reason that men in power have more swagger for a biological reason.

Last, but not least, Dr. Brandon says, men in powerful positions often have charisma, which from an emotional perspective can be alluring for a woman.

"Who doesn't want to be wanted by someone popular and powerful? It boosts a woman's self-esteem to have attention from a charismatic man."

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About the Authors:

Dr. Marianne Brandon is a clinical psychologist and Diplomat in sex therapy through AASECT. Dr. Brandon is Director of Wellminds Wellbodies LLC in Annapolis, Maryland. She is author of Monogamy: The Untold Story and co-author with Dr. Andrew Goldstein of Reclaiming Desire: 4 Keys to Finding Your Lost Libido. Follow Dr. Marianne Brandon on Twitter @DrBrandon and Facebook.


Dr. Sara NasserZadeh is a highly accredited psychosexual therapist, co-author of The Orgasm Answer Guide and board member of the World Association for Sexual Health. Dr. NasserZadeh is also a media commentator, consultant in effective health communication, relationships, social policy, cultural exchanges, sexual well-being, career and life prospect.