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U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner admits sending explicit photos via Twitter; researchers analyze why we cheat.

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner admitted in a news conference Monday that he had lied earlier about sexually suggestive photos of himself sent to women over the Internet via Twitter. The Democratic congressman from New York has become the latest in a long line of male politicians whose sexual indiscretions, once (ahem) exposed, have tarnished their otherwise bright rising stars. Think former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, caught patronizing pricey call girls in 2008, or former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, now separated from Maria Shriver after the existence of a love child came to public light last month.

Given the risks, why do people do it? Do politics corrupt those who would otherwise stick to the straight-and-narrow?

It could be that certain males who gravitate toward such leadership positions are also those that might be more likely to cheat (or be otherwise sexually indiscreet). Studies show that men at the top of the pecking order tend to engage in riskier behaviors. A study published last fall in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that men who’d been exposed to more testosterone in the womb were more likely to take risks out on the playing field, at the workplace -- and with their relationships. 

In any case, is sending a photo over the Internet really cheating? Researchers say we haven’t quite figured out what the rules of the game are on the Web. According to a 2008 paper in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, while men were upset by sexual infidelity (appearing to think that women have sex only when they’re in love) and women were more upset by emotional infidelity, neither men nor women “believed that having cybersex implied the other was also in love or that being in love online implied they were having cybersex.”

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What that ambiguity may mean for the public’s perception of Photogate, and for Weiner’s political future, remains to be seen.

Follow me on Twitter @LAT_aminakhan.


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