“Bill Clinton Syndrome:” Conquests vs. Love – Robert Sternberg

Do you remember learning about William the Conqueror in school? I sure don’t. I know we studied him — and his conquests — somewhere along the line but I have only the fuzziest remembrance of who he conquered and why. And now that I looked him up again to refresh my memory, I see that there’s not much about him that I really need to remember. His “thing” was conquests. And he was pretty good at it.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

William Jefferson Clinton, in his day, was also something of a conqueror — just in a different domain. Before and during his presidency, his sexual conquests came back to haunt him. Four women plus Monica Lewinsky, with whom he apparently had some kind of consensual affair, accused him of some kind of sexual assault or harassment. There is no way of knowing exactly what happened, but Clinton seemed to have a pattern of seeking out sexual conquests, a pattern that lasted even into his presidential years. Of course, other presidents and countless politicians, including John F. Kennedy (whom I deeply admire for other reasons!), seem to have had similar issues in their lives. Donald Trump, president when I am writing this, has a pretty sketchy history when it comes to his behavior with women. Engaging in affairs seems to have no links to one political preference or another. And how many men of any political stripe can claim to have anything close to a perfect history with respect to their treatment of women?

But my focus is not on affairs but rather on conquests. For many men (and some women) whose goal in life is power, or the conquests that lead to power, the conquest is the be-all and end-all of any exciting relationship. For them, the conquests are much more enjoyable than the possession of power itself. Men who are aggressive strivers, who have high needs for power, often come to view relationships with women primarily in terms of power relationships. In many parts of the world, women are ruthlessly suppressed in the service of male egos. The men’s power needs begin to take over all aspects of their being. It‘s all about power.

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