An inevitable affair?

Gen. and Mrs. Petraeus

Kidist Paulos Asrat has a photo essay with numerous photos of Dr. and Mrs. Broadwell and of Gen. and Mrs. Petraeus that explain, among other things, why the affair between Mrs. Broadwell and Gen. Petraeus was well-nigh inevitable.

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Rondo S. writes:

Not all men with less than attractive wives cheat. Look at Jack Lew

LA replies:

Of course not, and I’m not justifying adultery.

But this is not just a case of a “less than attractive” wife. As this photo and others make clear, Petraeus and his wife are heading in opposite directions. He is hyper-fit, slim, youthful. She has turned herself into a human balloon with messy grey hair. It’s as though she were trying to be as unattractive as possible. He looks boyish, she looks like his mother.

Now when you put that situation together with the hyper-fit, pushy Broadwell, 20 years younger than Petraeus, spending two years interviewing him as his wide-eyed acolyte, spending lots personal time with him, I’d say the affair became well-nigh inevitable.

Stephen T. writes:

When I saw the photograph of Paula Broadwell’s husband in the news yesterday, I immediately scanned the caption to see if his name was “Scooter” or “Skippy.” One or the other, I thought, it had to be. [LA replies: Agreed. Kidist in her photo essay has insightful remarks about Mr. Broadwell’s appearance and what it says.]

I must quibble with one of Kidist Paulos Asrat’s statements, however. About an image of Petraeus’ wife, she states, “I also understand the weight gain that comes with age.” Well, I don’t. Because the two are not ordained by nature to be coincident, though one might think otherwise by looking at the American populace. I think Kidist has cause and effect reversed and it would be more correct to say, “I understand the dowdy, prematurely old look that inevitably accompanies weight gain and loss of physical robustness caused by indolence, poor diet, and a sedentary life.” Many of the so-called “symptoms of age” such as loss of agility, decline in energy and a shapeless, asexual appearance are actually side-effects of long-term weight gain due to lifestyle factors, not aging itself. In many other cultures, including some European, persons remain active and the look most commonly associated with aging is a wiry, lean appearance instead of hulky and flaccid. I don’t know how old Holly Petraeus is, however, I am assuming she is not older than her husband, who just turned 60 a few days ago. Maybe she has some other excuse—including just not really caring anymore, which is certainly okay by me—for allowing herself to look so out of shape and frumpy. However, age should definitely not be one of them.

James N. writes:

I’m torn over commentary on l’affaire Petraeus.

I do not like the liberal “Well, what do you expect, people can’t help what they do.” But I don’t like the stern conservative denunciations about zippers and men who can’t control themselves because of liberal media influences, either.

Fortunately, there is a traditionalist position to accommodate my dislike of both major views. Like all trad positions, it’s not in the middle, rather, it’s somewhere “out there.”

Men and women who are not married to each other should not have the degree of intimacy that Gen. Petraeus and Mrs. Broadwell shared, period. This has been known, well, forever, and yet moderns seem completely unaware of the reasons that the near occasions of sin are to be avoided.

The closer men (and women) tolerate the near occasions of sin, the more likely the sin becomes. “Lead us not into temptation” isn’t a slogan, but a profound insight into our natures.

Conservatives who believe this happened because of modernity don’t know their Bible, don’t know their Shakespeare, and a lot of them don’t seem to know themselves either.

This sad story isn’t a modern story, although there are modern epiphenomena. The story is ancient.

As usual, we will draw all the wrong lessons.

Alexis Zarkov writes:

From the Chicago Tribune we get,

In one incident that caught the CIA staff by surprise, Broadwell posted a photograph on her Facebook page of Petraeus with actress Angelina Jolie, taken in his 7th floor office where only the official CIA photographer is permitted to take photos. Petraeus had apparently given Broadwell the photo just hours after it was taken.

Anyone has has been in (I have) the inner sanctum of CIA headquarters in McLean, Virginia, (not “Langley,” as there is no such place anymore) knows that cameras, recorders and the like are strictly controlled. As the article says, only official photographers can take pictures. If Petraeus took the picture, then I suspect he was guilty of a breach of the security rules. If Broadwell took the picture, that’s possibly even even worse. Of course the big question: what was Angelina Jolie doing in the office of the head of the CIA? Official business or monkey business? Our government has become intermixed with Hollywood. Obama appears on trash television shows, and hobnobs with Hollywood stars. Now we see the CIA getting in the act as well.

Events like these are extremely demoralizing to staff as they are severely punished for the slightest infraction of security. I know one fellow who had his security clearance taken away because he was going through a divorce and told someone he felt depressed. Modern America has become a clown show. Can any imagine Eisenhower appearing on (for those of you old enough to remember) What’s my line? as the “mystery guest?” Unthinkable.

It seems obvious to me that Petraeus was carrying on an affair pretty openly, granting his paramour special privileges, and demoralizing his staff. He might even be a serial adulterer, as the existence of this mystery woman who received threatening emails suggests. In my opinion, a man like Petraeus should never have been alone with any comely young woman at any time. In this way, he can resist temptation, and rebut any suggestion of improper behavior. While originally applied to women, I think the dictim, “Caesar’s wife must not only be chaste; she must be above the suspicion of un-chastity,” holds for anyone in major leadership position. How can any American citizen take anything about his government seriously?

LA writes:

Can anyone explain why some adulterous affairs result in immediate retirement/dismissal from government positions and others don’t seem to matter at all?

Aditya B. writes:

You wrote:

“Can anyone explain why some adulterous affairs result in immediate retirement/dismissal from government positions and others don’t seem to matter at all?”

Simple. It depends on the threat level you represent. And on the people who feel threatened. If you represent a threat to the Democratic/Leftist machine, you’ll be shown the door.

D. Bowen writes:

She engaged in pushup contests on national TV show with her husband, and referred to him in print as “Mr. Mom” while cuckolding him in Afghanistan. Poor boy didn’t know it, but he definitely had it coming.

November 12

Henry McCulloch writes:

There is one aspect of l’affaire Petraeus I do not think I have seen discussed. Yet it is critical to understanding both how Petraeus got where he did in the Army, and what a colossal betrayal of Mrs. Petraeus his infidelity represents (even beyond the sinful betrayal that adultery always is).

David Petraeus was an accomplished cadet at West Point and then had the kind of assignments that indicate a young officer is carefully being groomed for advancement. His career features tours as a general’s aide and graduate study at Princeton, both valuable tickets for the officer with stars in his eyes to punch. In addition to attending West Point, Petraeus also taught there. In the Army ongoing association with West Point remains a Very Big Deal. Not to say that Petraeus is not an intelligent and hard-working man, with—until he met Paula Broadwell—astute political instincts.

How, one might ask, did Petraeus—a man with no family connections within the Army’s officer corps—grease the skids so well for his meteoric career, when he was surrounded by officers in the same league as he, many of whom were the sons of prominent Army officers themselves? Nepotism has always been a fact of life in the U.S. officer corps, although most Americans may not be aware of its extent.

Did Cadet Petraeus sense how important those kinds of connections might be to his Army career? Whether for love, promotion, or both, Petraeus made his best career move while still at West Point. He married into the Army’s aristocracy by wooing and winning the daughter of the Superintendent of the Military Academy, the lieutenant general president-equivalent of West Point: young Holly Knowlton! If for promotion, Petraeus chose well. After his tour as the Supe, William Knowlton was promoted to general and served as a four-star in senior NATO posts. So Holly made David the son-in-law of a well-regarded and well-connected four-star general at the very beginning of his commissioned career. This can be very helpful for one’s military advancement. (Truth-in-advertising: a cousin of mine who was an Air Force lieutenant general knew Knowlton at West Point and later, and thought very highly of him.) While he was the Supe, Knowlton got national press when two expelled cadets, one busted for drinking on post, the other for cheating, challenged the Academy’s famed Honor Code; Knowlton led the Army’s fight to keep the Honor Code at West Point. The case went to the Supreme Court where the Army won. Same result today? I wonder. Just as I wonder if the Army today would fight hard for the Honor Code.

Petraeus, then, has doubly betrayed Mrs. Petraeus. Not only has he cheated on his wife, he has betrayed the one person who more than any other helped make his glittering career possible. The ranks of retired Army colonels and lieutenant colonels are replete with brilliant and devoted officers who, for lack of patronage and connections, went no further up the greasy pole. While the same is true of all the services, I think these kinds of connections are probably most important in the Army. Maybe the social changes roiling the armed forces will make that less true; I suspect it will simply mean that more women benefit from nepotism than before.

Perhaps fortunately for David Petraeus, General Knowlton died in 2008 and never knew of his son-in-law’s infidelity. I’m sure that’s one conversation Petraeus would never have wanted to have; Bill Knowlton had quite a reputation as a tough hombre.

Elena G. writes:

Although we disagree on many things, I continue to read your site regularly for two reasons: first, because you post interesting news that no one else will touch, and second, because of your insistence on maintaining an (unfortunately) old-fashioned level of civilized, courteous discourse on your site. I wholeheartedly agree that our society should and must return to a level of public civility that the we abandoned at least 60 years ago. I’m young enough that I don’t remember it—but it certainly sounds like a better way to interact in public with other Americans.

I was, therefore, unpleasantly surprised by your remarks about Mrs. Petraeus, and by the fact that you posted similar comments from others. Your disclaimer, “I’m not justifying adultery,” is insufficient to excuse some really uncivil remarks about the physical appearance of someone who has done—so far as we know, of course—nothing wrong. When you said, “But this is not just a case of a ‘less than attractive’ wife,” my jaw dropped. Really? This woman is beyond “less than attractive”? As far as I can see, she’s maybe fifteen pounds overweight. She gave birth to two children during her life, she’s gone through menopause, and her hair has naturally gone gray. “Indolence, poor diet, and a sedentary life,” as Stephen T. said, need not even be factors here. We’re not talking about a twenty year old woman with no children who eats McDonald’s happy meals all day long while watching the soaps. We’re talking about an almost elderly woman who looks just fine, and is aging gracefully enough—no hair dye, no inappropriate clothing, no plastic surgery, etc.

It also seems fair to point out that for a group of people who often mourn the fact that women have such a prominent place in public life, you and those readers of yours who have weighed in on this topic are certainly very quick to mock a woman thrust into the public eye by the immoral and possibly illegal actions of her husband.

This isn’t just coming from me. I showed this article to my very conservative, Christian mother, who agrees with you most of the time, and who is also the wife of one of your favorite commenters. I pointed out what I see as the hypocrisy of making fun of a 60 year old woman for not looking young and fit, given the points in my paragraphs above. She agreed, and she also added, “I don’t care who’s making those comments—that’s just nasty.” She thought that the comment thread was precisely what she would have expected from the readers of a low-class men’s magazine. Then again, she has high standards for public discourse.

LA replies:

If I were merely criticizing someone for that person’s looks which the person could do nothing about, you and your mother (leaving aside your silly comparison of VFR to a low-class men’s magazine) would be right. But you are missing the point that Mrs. Petraeus has to a significant degree chosen her looks. She looks like a woman who is deliberately making herself as unattractive as she can. In fact, she has the typical look of the contemporary middle-aged lesbian—shapeless, chubby, and with grey hair. In short, a woman who is doing everything she can NOT to appear womanly or attractive.

Further, given the extreme contrast between Mr. and Mrs. Petraeus, how could I and others not notice this and comment on it? Her husband is youthful and fit, and she evidently has not done anything to try to keep up. Just the opposite.

However, another possible explanation is that she let herself go to pot because she knew her husband was cheating on her, and perhaps the cheating precedes Paula Broadwell.

I’ve gotten the same kinds of criticisms regarding my commentaries on Michelle Obama’s physique. People would get terribly censorious and say, “What a terrible thing to comment on a person’s appearance which she can’t help.” But I wasn’t commenting on things about Michelle that she can’t help. I was commenting on the way she deliberately plays up and exposes her body-builder’s trapezoid muscles and other repulsively mannish aspects of her physique.

Henry McCulloch writes:

Thanks for posting my comment. The whole Petraeus-Broadwell mess has really intrigued me—not least because it has been fodder for some great New York Post cover pages. Has anyone else noticed that this is probably the first high-profile sex scandal featuring two West Point graduates misbehaving with each other? I would guess the keepers of the Academy’s reputation are just glad it wasn’t two boys—or, perhaps, in this upside-down world they would find that no worse.

Stephen M. writes:

I posted your very amusing comment about Mrs. Petraeus’s girth and even godly men straying, on my Facebook page.

My mother, who otherwise never comments, wrote, “Shame on you!”

NM writes:

In response to your correspondent Elena G., I would suggest an inverse of the traditionalist dictum of “Remove yourself from temptation.” It is something like, “Make the righteous path attractive.” (I’m sure there is already an aphorism for this.) Thus in a marriage, one is obligated to try and remain appealing to one’s spouse. To disregard this obligation is to show disrespect for one’s spouse and their desires. Regardless of whether you believe if any circumstance makes adultery justifiable, trying to remain attractive to one’s spouse surely reduces the probability of adultery. Men and women desire different things, so husbands and wives may need to maintain their appeal in different ways. The wife will likely need to focus more on her appearance, pleasantness and domesticity, while the husband on his role as a father and provider, though his health, physique and demeanor oughtn’t be neglected either.

Your correspondent Elena G.’s response is characteristic of many Anglophone women, including supposed conservative or traditionalist women. Ask such a woman what she desires in a man, and she will readily reel off a list of details. But ask her what she offers, and she will be speechless, if not stunned or angry. The idea that she may have to cook or remain physically attractive for a man is particularly noxious to them. This has happened to me in person, exactly as I described. The idea that a woman must do anything more than show up is repugnant to a large set of Anglophone women. And most American men are too weak to disagree and firmly state that a wife has her own obligations.

Alternatively, women from more traditional, i.e. non-Anglophone cultures see this as common sense, this notion that women also have obligations to satisfy their spouse; they are surprised that any woman would think otherwise. Among some couples, especially in Mediterranean or Latin cultures, the wife has given up trying to maintain her appearance, and instead tacitly condones her husband having affairs, so long as they are kept from her view. We can probably all agree that the latter is a less desirable outcome, a scenario which we’d rather avoid.

In theory, we are all supposed to love our partners unconditionally, but in practice this is difficult, if not unlikely. To act as if one’s spouse can love unconditionally is to encourage disharmony and tragedy in one’s house.

James P. writes:

Alexis Zarkov writes,

“Events like these are extremely demoralizing to staff as they are severely punished for the slightest infraction of security…. It seems obvious to me that Petraeus was carrying on an affair pretty openly, granting his paramour special privileges, and demoralizing his staff.”

This is exactly right, and I have seen it happen myself. The senior man may even imagine that he is being discreet and nobody knows. In fact, everyone in the entire office knows, everyone resents being forced to keep their mouths shut and pretend they don’t know, and everyone despises the paramour.

Mark P. writes:

I think the point you are trying to make is that Petraeus and his wife look mismatched. He is obviously very fit and she looks like his mother. This is in stark contrast to his West Point photo where they both look like a match.

For example, Mitt and Ann Romney look like a properly matched couple.

LA replies:


Elena G. writes:

Again, you mention her gray hair. Again, I must reply: she’s 60 years old. Are all women obligated to dye their hair once they get older? And as for her chubbiness, again, there’s a certain amount of weight gain that childbirth and hormonal changes will frequently cause, and an older woman may or may not have the physical strength to exercise much. She could be arthritic. She could have bad hips or knees. She could be allergic to hair dye, for all we know, although the assumption that she’s obligated to use it is also unjustified. Her taste in clothing, or lack of it, doesn’t really speak to her attitude toward her husband. Some people don’t have much taste. This isn’t a moral failing.

But all of that is beside the point, which I assure you, I’m not missing. Yes, she could probably do more to make herself look younger. That does not justify criticizing the appearance of a woman who’s been dragged into the public eye by her husband’s betrayal. It is uncharitable, unkind, and inappropriate. You ask how you and others could avoid noticing and commenting upon the contrast between her appearance and her husband’s. Of course you can’t avoid noticing. Publicly mocking her for what you’ve noticed is entirely avoidable. [LA replies: Show me where I have mocked her.]

The comparison to your comments on Michelle Obama is a false equivalence. Michelle Obama clearly thrives on being in the public eye, and therefore the way she presents herself is fair game. [LA replies: In both cases I was saying that there is a difference between criticizing a woman for the way she looks, and criticizing her for the way she makes herself look.]

And as for the words NM has thoughtfully put in my mouth for me: my main requirement for a man is a sense of honor and decency, something my husband possesses in abundance. If he doesn’t look like a fashion plate when he’s 60, I won’t be the slightest bit surprised. I think he’s very attractive, but frankly, he doesn’t look like a fashion plate now. On the other hand, it would never even cross his mind to make fun of a 60 year old woman for her hair, particularly when she’s just been cheated on, and that makes him permanently handsome in my eyes.

Elena G. continues:

You ask me to show you where you have mocked her. Mock, according to Merriam-Webster: “to treat with contempt or ridicule.” “[S]he has turned herself into a human balloon” qualifies as ridicule. Ridiculing a person who is already undergoing a public humiliation is contemptuous. That is mockery. [LA replies: I didn’t feel that I was mocking her; if you do, you have a right to your opinion which is not unreasonable. However, in your fixation on whether I was cruel and contemptuous to a person in the news due to no fault of her own, you are missing the bigger picture. We were presented with this extraordinary story and were reacting to it and trying to make sense of it: the most prominent and respected military officer of the last decade crashing and burning because a tacky female juggernaut named Paula Broadwell latched herself onto him. And then (I’m sorry I have to repeat myself again) we see that photo of Petraeus and his wife at the top of this entry, looking like the most mismatched couple one has ever seen, and my first thought was, given all the components to this story, the affair was almost inevitable. And the simple fact is, Holly Petraeus did turn herself into a human balloon. And that is an intrinsic part of this story.]

To reply to your other response, there is indeed a difference between how someone looks and how someone has caused him- or herself to look. Did Mrs. Petraeus get up one morning, and, through an act of will, cause her hair to go gray? Again, are women (or men, for that matter) required to use hair dye once their hair naturally goes gray? Clothing is another matter, but Michelle Obama wears designer clothes that are meant to put forth a certain message and image. Mrs. Petraeus—and any woman who’s ever bought clothes can back me up on this—is wearing clothes that are simply clothes. They’re practical and plain. She obviously doesn’t know how to pick out clothes that flatter her figure. Let’s all kick her for not having a good aesthetic sense while she’s already down, shall we? [LA replies: Excuse me, but in your bathetic solicitude for Holly Petraeus you are missing the fact that she is the wife of a very prominent man, and therefore is often in the public eye. It is part of her job to look good. Instead, we see how she allowed herself to look. As for the question whether women should color their hair when it turns grey, I’m not going to address that. I’ll let the women discuss it.]

LA continues:

Seriously, is Elena going to keep excusing a woman—because she couldn’t help it, she’s just a helpless victim of aging and nature and the universe—who accompanies her husband to the Senate hearings on his nomination to be CIA director looking like this?

A June 23, 2011 photo shows Paula Broadwell (second from left) watching
as Petraeus and his wife arrive for a Senate Select Intelligence Committee
hearing on Petraeus’ nomination to be director of the CIA.

Robert B. writes:

Elena G, thou dost protest too much. Way too much. Holly Petraeus is more than just a few pounds over weight; she is obese. There is no excuse for a woman gaining weight and looking like that. She bore two children? Big deal, my mother bore four children. At the age of 54, she was quite proud that she could still fit into her wedding dress. My mother-in-law bore five children, is 73 years old and looks half of Holly’s age. My own wife bore four children and had two miscarriages. She does not look anything like Holly P. She is trim and draws attention from men sometimes half her age. The local butchers complain that she is the only woman who shops there that looks like what they thought a woman in this (upscale) neighborhood was supposed to look like. They love having her come in to shop and are forever giving her deals. My wife is like the women of my mother’s and grand mother’s time—women took pride and looking good for both themselves and their husbands. They were, in today’s terminology, “high maintenance” and men were damn glad to have them that way. It was a source of pride for the men as well. Simply put, well-to-do women took care of themselves then and they still do.

I live in a neighborhood with no less than three colleges nearby and a university not far from us either. Holly P. looks like all of the uber feminists over forty in the area. This idea of “womyn” was hatched by the militant feminist lesbians way back in the ’70s and the age group that subscribes to it fits with that time period. Women are not supposed to take care of themselves to benefit men. Men are supposed to be thankful for what they get. One does not see this in upper class women, one only sees this in middle class, liberal feminist types. Typical “alpha” and higher-up “beta” males will never accept such nonsense out of women. Women can and should take care of themselves long after their child bearing years are over with. You should not look like a fat old grandmother until you are in at least your mid ’70s and that would have been in my mother’s generation. In her time and my grandmother’s. obesity was rare and reserved for the grand dames in their latest years and the poor matrons who had scrubbed floors and had bore seven to fifteen children.

Nick D. writes:

Elena, it’s not the color of the hair; it’s the “I Quit” haircut. Also, obesity is not caused by hormones or arthritis or rickets. It is caused by ingesting more calories than one burns.

It is one thing for an ordinary housewife to let herself go. It is another thing for the wife of a high-status man to let herself go. It is yet another thing for such a man to allow his unkempt wife outside the house, where they might be seen together. Proudly escorting her to a congressional hearing is just baffling.

November 13

Susan-Anne W. writes:

I write from Northern Ireland.

I am disappointed that so much attention is centred on Mrs.Petraeus and her appearance. The spotlight should be on her adulterous husband and his adulterous co-accused. The marriage vows bind us to our spouse “for better or worse” and no exceptions are made in the vows should we find our spouse unattractive or obese or whatever. The seventh commandment forbids adultery. The Lord does not say that one can break this commandment if they tire of their spouse or if the spouse is no longer attractive.Adultery is a terrible sin/crime and attracted the death penalty in the Old Testament. Men know the danger certain women present to them and their marriages ,and the first time such a woman appears, that is the time to flee from her ( and this advice is for single men also). Joseph fled from Potipher’s wife in the Old Testament, he did not have a will I/ won’t I struggle with himself. He ran and so should men today. Run, run men as if you were running from the plague.

Paul K. writes:

Looking at photos of all these slim, raven-haired, bare-shouldered temptresses, I couldn’t help thinking of a certain spy from the Cold War era. Perhaps we should not readily dismiss the possibility that security was compromised.

(A Photoshop creation of my own.)


LA replies:

Nice photoshop, but I don’t get it. Who’s the cartoon character?

Paul K. replies:
I despair. You don’t know Boris and Natasha of the “Rocky and Bullwinkle Show”? They’re as well known as Bugs Bunny or the Flintstones. Weren’t you a child of the 1950s and 1960s like me? Did you watch television or were you already reading Milton at age five?

(I have to admit that the thought crossed my mind that you might not know these characters, but it seemed unlikely.)

My jokes may fall flat with you but I remain a fan!

LA replies:

I never saw, never heard of, the Rocky and Bullwinkle show.

In the fifties, I was a fan of Buck Rodgers, and then of Texas Ranger and Wagon Train.

Mark Eugenikos writes:

On the topic of what a wife of a high-ranking and highly visible government official should and could look like, just one example: Laura Bush. 66 years old, two children. Not a great beauty, but definitely someone who makes an effort to look dignified in public, at least by modern standards, and pantsuits notwithstanding.

On a related topic, why does Gen. Petraeus look like he’s borrowed his dress uniforms from an older brother? Don’t they have tailors at his level to fit those uniforms a bit, so his uniform jackets aren’t too wide, with sleeves too long? He looks lost in his dress uniform.

Terry Morris writes:

I don’t give a hoot what any of you say: General Petraeus is a jackass and a cheater. And that’s all he is.

My wife of twenty-six years is a slim (what are you honey? how much do you weigh?) under 130 pounds. She’s 43 years old, and has borne eight (8) children. I once threatened to trade her in on two twenties when she turned forty, but couldn’t find two twenties to match her at forty. So I kept her.

Once, in her mid-thirties, I bought her a nice dress to wear to a H.S. graduation we would be attending. When she came out with the dress on for the first time, I said to her (and I meant every word of it) “My God! I’m sorry for not having noticed it before, but you have matured into a very beautiful, luscious woman.” She weighed over 160 lbs. at the time. Had I lowered my standards at that point? Hell no! I had raised them. Ever since she has raised hers. Some of you know what I mean.

Petraeus is a jackass. That is all.

Mark P. writes:

I’m sorry, Petraeus’s wife looks like Benny Hill in drag, especially the side profile in the second photo.

Andrew B. writes:

My petite 5’ 2” wife has had five children, including a set of twins, and also had two miscarriages.

She weighs 108 lbs, four pounds less than when we were married. Although she is forty she still looks as if she could be in her twenties, and people are often shocked when they learn her real age.

The reason Mrs. Petraeus is obese is that she obviously is unable to control what and how much food she puts into her mouth, and she does not care about her appearance or what her husband thinks or desires.

Welcome to the world of Game theory, Mr. Auster. May I recommend a like minded conservative blogger to you who focuses on this aspect of humanity—The Social Pathologist?

Mark L. writes:

Commenter NM wrote about the censoriousness coming from certain women correspondents as being “characteristic of many Anglophone women, including supposed conservative or traditionalist women.”

Today, commenter Susan-Anne W. began her remarks with, “I write from Northern Ireland.”

Hmmm … kind of lends credibility to NM’s point.

All that Susan-Anne W. and Elena G. have to offer to the discussion is preaching. Great for the pulpit, great for indoctrinating your (male) children (which I’m all for), but not really useful when it comes to discussing an issue in all its complexity, which is what an intelligent site like VFR is all about.

NM has yet to be proven wrong in his observation:

“Ask such a woman what she desires in a man, and she will readily reel off a list of details. But ask her what she offers, and she will be speechless, if not stunned or angry. The idea that she may have to cook or remain physically attractive for a man is particularly noxious to them…. The idea that a woman must do anything more than show up is repugnant to a large set of Anglophone women. And most American men are too weak to disagree and firmly state that a wife has her own obligations.”

This cravenness is particularly prevalent in the evangelical world, where—in an apparent reaction against the fundamentalism of yesteryear—women now have all the privileges and none of the responsibilities that men have. One hears plenty of ministry on Joseph, Susan-Anne. One hears plenty of sermons on the need for husbands to love their wives self sacrificially. It’s the dominant theme of most Christian marriage books. The high calling of the husband to love and holiness is reinforced constantly.

Strange, though, that one rarely hears any exposition on Paul’s admonition to the wife, who should “see that she reverence her husband.”

I heard an interview on Christian radio last year, where a woman was married to a man who she caught looking at porn on the internet. And how did she respond? She forms an organization (I can’t be bothered to look it up) and starts doing the talk-show circuit on Christian TV and radio and giving church appearances, in which she talks about how damaging pornography is to families, etc., how it nearly destroyed her. Meanwhile, she’s too stupid to see she’s publicly humiliating her husband. And the male interviewer just keeps reinforcing her, telling her, “You’ve done nothing wrong.”

Debra C. writes:

I agree with James N., overall, and especially with this:

Men and women who are not married to each other should not have the degree of intimacy that Gen. Petraeus and Mrs. Broadwell shared, period. This has been known, well, forever, and yet moderns seem completely unaware of the reasons that the near occasions of sin are to be avoided.

Also, here are my thoughts inspired by the way this couple, David and Holly Petraeus, look side-by-side. I see them moving in two opposite directions: he has a lust for life, exhibited in his lean fitness, and she has given up on life and can’t summon sufficient effort to maintain discipline to make the most of her assets and promote her husband’s fidelity. Attractive and powerful men are a magnet to roving females; Holly should know this. By letting herself go, she placed perhaps unwitting temptations on him. This is no excuse for his betrayal, but rather a concession to human frailties. I can imagine that David Petraeus has a massive ego and is prone to all the temptations common to man, and therefore his wife should do all in her power to protect her husband—and her home—from attack by third parties.

Yet, the differences in their physical appearance likely reflect an emotional distance existing between them. They were already moving apart, and the affair was probably inevitable, given human nature. I am assuming here that David Petraeus is not given to philandering.

Finally, discussing Mrs. Petraeus’ appearance is useful as a cautionary exercise. And it is not for nothing that we say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Jeanette V. writes:

I think a good comparison would be with another overweight woman in the public eye, the late Elisabeth Edwards. Also, it isn’t just Mrs. Petraeus’s obesity, she looks lumpy and frumpy. And even her smile dosn’t look happy. Mrs. Edwards had a full warm smile. I might also add that I too am over 60 and overweight. But I’m not in the public eye and I try at least to look attractive. Yes it takes more time to look attractive when one is large but it can be done. I can put up many links of large but attractive woman.

Also, Mrs. Petraeus looks pretty typical of the older women I see in North Carolina. They all seem not to care how they appear. Older women here are so large that I’m often told that I’m not fat, when clearly I am. And they wear the most unattractive knitted pants or jeans.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 11, 2012 12:41 PM | Send

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