L'affaire Packwood: Who Is to Blame? : Sex: Powerful men can have trouble discerning which women welcome their advances.

Dr. Ruth Westheimer is author of "Sex for Dummies" (IDG Books, 1995).

It is impossible to deny that people in power face more temptations than ordinary citizens. When you are famous, people of the opposite sex throw themselves at you. Either they want something from you and are willing to trade sexual favors for it, or they find that celebrities exude an attractant that they cannot resist.

Since Sen. Bob Packwood no longer had a wife, he was even more likely to succumb to the temptations that were around him. Because his misbehavior went beyond just sexual issues, stepping down seemed to have been his only recourse. But I don't know that such a harsh measure would have been appropriate had his only transgression been that he couldn't distinguish those women who appreciated his advances from those who did not. When some women literally throw themselves at you, it's easy to get confused and think that every woman is eager for your attentions. Yes, he was wrong for being overly aggressive, but could any of us who might be put in his place guarantee that we wouldn't make the same mistake?

I think that because our politicians are faced with much greater temptations than their constituents, they need to be given a little slack before we judge them unfit for office. On the other hand, our politicians must also get off their soap boxes when it comes to preaching morality.

Sex is a powerful force and it is not so easy to just say no. If Congress wants to get involved in the business of morality by allowing a moment of silence in our schools, I support that. But if our representatives in Washington are truly going to be moral leaders, then they have to do more than just tell us to pray for guidance. They have to provide the funds for education programs in human sexuality that will give our young people the knowledge they need to make informed decisions based on the facts. They should provide funds for family-planning services. And they have a duty to help those people who have made a mistake and can't go it alone, most especially those who have that dreadful disease, AIDS.

Why is it the government's responsibility? Because government is "We, the people." So, just as we shouldn't come down too hard on politicians who make mistakes, the people who govern us should come to our assistance when we are in trouble. Helping one's neighbor in time of need without asking them how they got into the mess they're in is the morally correct thing to do.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World