Why would politicians engage in sexting? There's complex psychology at play
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- The list of politicians who should know better but who get caught up in sexting scandals grows ever longer.
- On At Issue tonight: How should a political party handle allegations of sexual misconduct?
- It's been 48 hours since the most contentious and scrutinized American midterm elections in recent history, and one of the big questions for Canadians is what impact they'll have on our relations with the U.S.
- Missed The National last night? Watch it here.
The politics of sexting
The list of men who should know better grows ever longer.
Anthony Weiner — the former U.S. congressman caught out sharing intimate images three times and sent to jail — remains the ultimate example. But politicians of all stripes and nationalities seem to have difficulty keeping their privates private:
- Andrew Griffiths, the U.K.'s minister for small business, resigned last summer after revelations that the 48-year-old had sent 2,000 "lewd and inappropriate" texts to two young barmaids.
- Simon Danczuk, a 49-year-old U.K. backbench MP, was kicked out of the Labour Party after he admitted to sexting with a 17-year-old constituency assistant.
- Joe Barton, a 68-year-old Republican Congressman from Texas, sought re-election in this week's midterms after a scandal involving nude photos that he sent to female voters.
- Peter Dowling had to step down as chair of the parliamentary ethics committee in Australia's Queensland after his former mistress shared explicit photos involving a glass of red wine.
- Michael Harris, a longtime Ontario MPP, was booted out of the Tory caucus and left provincial politics amidst allegations that he had sexted a former intern.
And now Tony Clement.
On Tuesday night, the former federal cabinet minister revealed that he was resigning as the Conservatives' justice critic following an alleged blackmail attempt from someone with whom he had shared "sexually explicit images and a video."
Yesterday, the married 57-year-old was suspended by his party following what Tory leader Andrew Scheer suggested was a pattern of troubling behaviour toward young women on various social media platforms.
And now today, Clement has issued a statement admitting to even more acts of poor judgment and infidelity, as well as a prior extortion attempt that he says he reported to the O.P.P last summer.
Maybe it's just that smart phones often make us dumb, especially when passions are at play.
Surveys suggest that sexting is either commonplace or rampant — with between 30 per cent and 89 per cent of adults having shared or received intimate images, depending on which data sets you choose to believe.
However, most exchanges come within a committed, or at least casual, relationship. Just 12 per cent admitting to using photos to help them cheat.
The reasons why people engage in sexting are at once obvious, and complex.
Some find it fun or flirtatious, although the research suggests there are strong gender differences. Women who sext often say they do it to please a partner, or enhance intimacy. For men, it is frequently a strategy to "satisfy sexual needs while keeping their partners at a distance."
People with high self-esteem are less likely to send nude photos or videos. Those prone to risky sexual behaviours are more apt to overshare. Alcohol and the use of illicit substances also play a role.
Is there something unique about politicians?
Italian research suggests that they use social media in a different way than the average person — primarily for self-promotion and public signalling, rather than seeking support and community.
And when it comes to decision-making, elected officials tend to behave differently from the general public. Politicians are actually a little better at weighing the evidence at hand and making a rational choice. Yet they, too, fall prey to the "reflection effect" — being unduly influenced by whether an option is framed as a "win" or a "loss," especially in the context of votes.
Where politicians appear to really differ is in their ego.
Compared to other professions, legislators score extremely high on the leadership and authority scale, expressing qualities like warmth, extroversion and social boldness. But they are also far more narcissistic, deft at manipulating others to achieve their goals and highly social, with a preference for activities that involve informing, training and developing others.
And the higher the office a politician attains, generally the greater his or her sense of self-confidence and resistance to criticism.
In that context, perhaps sending a recent acquaintance, or even total stranger, nude photos of yourself is simply an unnatural extension of what makes politicians tick.
But it remains an incredibly foolhardy behaviour — if only because voters tend to take special notice of that kind of outreach.
Politicians behaving badly
Tonight's At Issue panel tackles improper behaviour and sexual misconduct in Canadian politics, writes Rosemary Barton.
Sometimes it's not a week that seems like a long time in politics, it's just 24 hours.
It has certainly felt like that since yesterday.
In the midst of preparing for many hours of coverage of the American midterms on Tuesday afternoon, some Canadian political news broke that could not be ignored. Former Conservative MP Tony Clement announced he was stepping aside from many of his committee duties.
The reason was surprising, to say the least. Clement admitted he had sent sexually explicit videos and photos to someone he believed to be a consenting woman.
In fact, it was apparently an extortionist, who then asked Clement to pay some 50,000 euros or see the videos and photos released publicly.
Things got worse for Clement on Wednesday when he was also asked to leave Conservative caucus, because leader Andrew Scheer believed there was enough evidence to indicate the sexually explicit messages were not an isolated incident.
No party is immune. All of them have had to deal with allegations of varying degrees of bad behaviour.
So, the questions for At Issue tonight: How on Earth do you handle it as a political party, and does it cause any lasting damage? Or is it a cultural reality and politics is simply not immune?
This may not be the most comfortable of conversations, but it is one worth having.
We will also talk about the U.S. midterms and whether a split Congress means anything different for Canada in the months ahead.
Andrew Coyne, Paul Wells and Althia Raj will join us.
See you tonight on your screen of choice.
- Rosemary Barton
- WATCH: At Issue tonight on The National on CBC Television and streamed online
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The National Conversation: Canada - U.S. Relations
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and two top Washington Post journalists will join CBC's Adrienne Arsenault, Rosemary Barton and Keith Boag tonight to talk about what the U.S. midterm results mean for Canada's relations with our southern neighbour, writes senior producer Lara Chatterjee.
Quote of the moment
"There's no way to make sense out of the senseless."
- Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean on a mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif., last night. Thirteen people are dead, including a police officer and the suspected gunman.
What The National is reading
- Bombardier cutting 5,000 jobs, selling Q Series aircraft (CBC)
- China's brightest children recruited to develop AI 'killer bots' (South China Morning Post)
- Prince Charles documentary: 'I won't meddle when I'm King' (Telegraph)
- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hospitalized after fall (CBC)
- Elon Musk has a new boss at Tesla (CNN)
- Oil drops as rising global supply forces price U-turn (Reuters)
- Norwegian warship collides with tanker (BBC)
- Dutchman, 69, applies to legally reduce age so he can meet more women (EuroNews)
Today in history
Nov. 8, 1952: Rocket Richard becomes NHL's all-time goal scoring leader
It wasn't one of his prettier tallies, but Maurice Richard's wrister through traffic put him into the record book as the NHL's then all-time goal king. Number 325 — one more than Montreal Maroons' great Nels Stewart — came as part of a 6-4 Canadiens win over Chicago, and on the 10th anniversary of the Rocket's first NHL goal.
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