I have to say I was somewhat dismayed when I heard that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver were breaking up and that the reason for their break up was Arnold’s affair with his family's housekeeper. I found myself feeling weary of hearing the same old story. It seems like every other day on the news a story surfaces about a powerful man cheating on his beautiful wife with an employee, an intern or some other type of domestic worker.
Directly on the heels of this announcement came the alleged rape of a New York City hotel maid by Dominique Strauss Kahn, the presidential hopeful of France and the head of the IMF (International Monetary Fund). Immediately following the news that Strauss Kahn was indicated in a rape charge, the rumors began to fly about the maid being a “plant” by one of Strauss Kahn’s enemies, sent in to humiliate him.
What makes those who are powerful and famous, wealthy and privileged, go after those hired to serve them? What is behind the appeal of seducing an employee, specifically one who works in your home? Here are a few explanations:
1. Our culture has definite domination and submission fantasies. We sexualize women in subservient and submissive positions and perpetuate this idea that women in a maid’s uniform are ripe for anything. These women are often young, single, struggling with financial issues, and may themselves be attracted to the allure of male power (think Monica Lewinsky). Maybe the Schwarzenegger’s’ maid wanted to have sex with Arnold. She admits she pursued him early on. And Arnold did lavish money on the maid; he was reportedly good to her financially. Yet in both cases these women were in a subservient position to their employers. Arnold Schwarzenegger Used Office Building For Late-Night Trysts
Perhaps the fantasy of the Nanny in the school girl outfit or the Maid with her feather duster is as ingrained in our culture as a symbol of male power and female submission that men feel they can’t “not” act it out. The question I have for both Arnold and Strauss Kahn is “Why not act it out with your wife?” Does it have to be the real maid? There are Maid costumes galore with the short aprons and short skirts in costume stores everywhere, why don’t you just play “chase-the-maid” at home and stay out of trouble?
2. With money and power comes a sense of entitlement. Perhaps powerful men look at women like candy, saying to themselves, “Ooh that looks good – I’ll take one of those.” Maybe this sense of entitlement is partly a result of our increasingly polarized upper and lower classes; the lower class being the working class and the disenfranchised.
Several hundred years ago a man could just take the woman he wanted, domestic worker or slave, and she was often powerless to stand up to him. Usually these women had little recourse and were blamed for the incident if it did surface. How much has this really changed?
Women are still blamed for sexual assault and for affairs. The press is having a field day figuring out how these two housekeepers were at fault for both the indiscretion of the affair and the alleged sexual assault.