By | March 14, 2008 9 Comments

Eliot Spitzer and unrestricted sociosexual orientation

Knowing that I study human motivation, this week a friend of mine asked me to explain the motivations of Eliot Spitzer. To those of you who have avoided TV, and have not read Donna Andersen’s blog, Eliot Spitzer is Governor of the State of New York, but he is set to leave office on Monday. He was forced to resign after he was caught hiring prostitutes from a firm likely linked to organized crime. CNN reported that he may have spent $80,000 on prostitutes, but this is not a large sum if you consider that one encounter costs about $5,000. Now back to my friend, he stated, “I don’t get Spitzer, his wife is an attractive woman.”

No matter how you cut it, Spitzer’s wife is a victim of love fraud. The man who she was married to, and who fathered her 3 children, cheated illegally and ruined their lives. To use the language of psychology “Spitzer engaged in deceptive sexual practices.” Let us also make it clear that Spitzer’s behavior has nothing to do with his wife’s attractiveness or any of her qualities. Spitzer’s behavior reflects only upon himself.

What does psychology have to say about deceptive sexual strategies, and why is it that powerful men, including politicians, seem bent on engaging in sexual deception? Is there a link between sexual deception and interest in politics? I am sure you also want to know if the powerful men who do this are “psychopaths” or “sociopaths.” I will answer all of those questions for you.

In 1990 researchers Jeffry A. Simpson and Steven W. Gangestad developed and validated a concept they called sociosexual orientation. These researchers and subsequently others identified two types of sociosexual orientation in humans all over the world. Humans from all cultures can be divided into those with unrestricted and those with restricted sociosexual orientation. A person with restricted sociosexual orientation requires a relationship and usually “love” before engaging in sex. A person with an unrestricted orientation does not require a relationship with a sex partner and typically has sex with strangers, multiple partners and has one night stands. We can therefore say that Eliot Spitzer has an unrestricted sociosexual orientation, given that he had a pattern of visiting prostitutes.

The development of the concept of sociosexual orientation, along with rating scales to measure this orientation, has allowed for deeper investigations into how this orientation relates to personality and personality disorders. It should come as no surprise that multiple studies have shown that unrestricted sociosexuality is associated with a tendency to be a liar. Thus, the lying behavior of unrestricted types is not confined to their sex lives. An unrestricted sociosexual orientation also correlates with a lack of agreeableness and grandiosity especially in men.

If you have read this blog on a regular basis, you know that an inability to love is related to excessive power motivation. Likewise the lack of agreeableness and low affection motivation found in people with unrestricted sociosexuality is associated with increased power motivation, especially in men. So men who crave power also crave many casual sex partners.

In terms of conscience, unrestricted sociosexuality is associated with a lack of conscientiousness and lack of emotional investment in relationships.

Those of you who read Are they just evil people know that the personality traits associated with psychopathy/sociopathy are high extraversion, low agreeableness, and low conscientiousness, these are identical to those associated with unrestricted sociosexuality. One article gave the following explanation, “Findings indicated that both unrestricted women and men described themselves as attractive and not ethically consistent. Additionally, unrestricted women described themselves as not being moralistic and as varying their roles, depending on the situation. Unrestricted men described themselves as irresponsible, unproductive, not warm, not anxious, and assertive. Relationships were demonstrated between unrestricted sociosexuality for men and narcissism and psychopathy.”

In yesterday’s blog Donna Andersen quoted Dr. Drew Pinsky, “Dina, you’re describing sexual addiction, sexual compulsion there. Those guys do love people to the best that they’re able.” Dr. Drew was a few years ahead of me at USC Medical School, but I have to advise him to read the literature on sociosexual orientation. The literature indicates that this approach to sex is associated with sociopathy/psychopathy, or at least traits of these, and an inability to love. As Donna pointed out Spitzer seems to manifest other traits of sociopathy in addition to his sexual proclivities.

As one last interesting tidbit, I’d like to tell you about one recent study of unrestricted sociosexual orientation in men who were supposedly in committed relationships. Usually men in committed relationships experience a drop in testosterone. It turns out that this is only true for men who have a restricted sociosexual orientation and who are truly monogamous. Married or otherwise paired men who have an unrestricted sociosexual orientation have higher testosterone levels. These findings may account for the relationship between indiscriminate sex and power motivation, in that high testosterone also predicts power motivation in men.

The more I read the literature, the more I come to understand that the so-called “successful psychopaths/sociopaths” are those who have all the elements of psychopathy but who also have achievement motivation. Because these individuals are motivated to achieve in socially acceptable ways, they do not adopt full antisocial lifestyles in order to get the power they crave. Eliot Spitzer certainly has plenty of achievement motivation.

I still have not answered the question as to whether Elliot Spitzer is a sociopath/psychopath. To quote Donna Andersen, “If someone has come into your life who has most of the symptoms of a psychopath, don’t quibble about the one or two that may not be very pronounced. When most of the traits are present, run, don’t walk, for the nearest exit!” So I don’t know whether or not a forensic expert would diagnose Spitzer, but does it really matter? The damage he has done to those he purports to love speaks for itself.

What can we learn here? The stories we read about in the news remind us to value the best in people. While power motivation may be sexy and sexually motivated men may make good sex partners, they do not make good husbands or long term partners. They also make lousy leaders. We are better off if we surround ourselves with people who have a clear track record of honesty, empathy and compassion. Given that we cannot often determine the true character of a politician, I think the research indicates we are wise distrust someone known to have an unrestricted sociosexual orientation.

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Dangerous reckless behavior, a sense of entitlement, careless disregard for the feelings of others, brittle shallow emotions, lack of empathy, all signs of P/S/N , all present in Elliot Spitzer’s behavior.

The connection to indiscriminate sex and the socio is pretty interesting and certainly fits.

A number of years ago my son’s head of school self destructed, killing his well respected career, decimating his family, and severly shocking and dissapointing his students and their parents, by noodling around with some of the students at the very respected prep school of which he was dean. Everyone was scratching their heads and saying “What was he thinking?”

With hindsight, his personality, his achievements and his reckless and lewd behavior fit the pattern. The shattered lives that are left in the wake of these people are countless. It seems to me that there should be more effort made in all walks of life, expecially around positions of power, to educate around these issues, and to help people spot the signs of these dangerous people. Spitzer had planned, it is believed, to use his governorship as a stepping stone for a run for the white house at some point. It is highly likely that the current and past two presidents would also rate high on the socio checklist.

Whole countries have frequently become the victim of these “animals” and wouldn’t the world be a better place if we could spot them sooner.

As for the victims, I have been spending a lot of time thinking back on what made me be the moth to the flame in my long term marriage to an S. Here is a short note on that subject that I wrote recently:

“The man I loved does not exist. He is a” hollowgram”, of his own making and mine. The mirage that he creates is attractive and seductive, but if you enter you must live a lie. That is the price. To live a lie to others and yourself is to lose your self, and finding is always harder than throwing away. Perhaps the reason I have wandered into the path of the barracuda is because I too am taking shortcuts, I too want to resonate against a powerful force. In his case it is self contained, the conflict,…in my case I was willing to be the caboose, on his fast moving glorious train, leaving him to pull the switches, scan the horizon for his destination. I trusted there would not be a train wreck, I abdicated my role as keeper of my own truths, my own destinations, my own survival. I can say he made me do it, but at some point I had to be willing, to look away, to accomodate, to ignore the red flags, to glorify him, to debase myself.

“We are better off if we surround ourselves with people who have a clear track record of honesty, empathy and compassion”

Dr. Leedom, truer words were never spoken. Thank you.


When you are dealing with people in power, the rules are different. Studies that utilize ordinary people can’t even relate to the lives of people born into families that exist at those levels. They are not raised with the idea that the so-called morals that are set up for the masses to follow, to control the masses, even apply to them. But that doesn’t mean they are psychopaths, though certainly a large percentage of them are!

And, there is more to the Spitzer case than meets the eye. See, for example: “The McGreevey Scandal – An Israeli – Rove Connection?”

And, of course, the plot thickens. Have a look at this news video, where we learn that the NEW New York governor says that the rumors that he and his wife both have had many affairs are true.

So, get rid of a guy who visits prostitutes and get a couple who apparently think that having affairs is normal – for both partners.

Ox Drover

Wow, thanks for the link, Laura. Interesting indeed.

Dr. Leedom, do you think the testosterone is high because they are having the affairs, or they are having the affairs because of high testosterone?

Apparently our country doesn’t seem to really care very much about what a “star” or a “politician” does—there may be gossip about it or an elected official may be forced to resign while his enemies dance a jig at his embarassment, but look at Bill Clinton…yes, he’s a joke, but people still hug his neck, show up at places he speaks, give him huge amounts of money for his books, etc. so I don’t see that except for some embarassment which doesn’t seem to faze him that it has “hurt him” any.

Look at the movie and music stars who have done horrible things to themselves and their families and people still buy tickets to see them act or sing.

We no longer “sanction” a girl who gives birth to child after child out of wedlock from who knows who the father is.

Are there any ethical “rules” left if you are rich or famous or talented?

Many powerful men are narcissistic and/or psychopathic and still succeed in industry, politics, etc. while wrecking their family’s lives. I was personally acqainted with the late Bill Lear, married four times and a notorious womanizer. His last wife stayed with him, but she knew what he was and loved him any way. The man was incredibly talented, invented and developed the Lear Jet, but also the car radio and over 150 other innovative patents were credited to his name. He had an 8th grade education but was brilliant. My husband worked very closely with and for him back in his hey day and we knew him quite well.

Money and power makes a man very “attractive” to some women, regardless of how old they are or how they look, or how they treat these women.

I don’t understand that attraction, but there must be something biological in it because being the “woman” of a powerful man would in gentetic terms give you a better chance of feeding and raising live offspring.

You very seldom see a poor 75 year old man married to or dating a 20-something attractive young woman, but the reverse is true if the 75 year old has plenty of money and a powerful position, he immediately becomes “attractive.”

I imagine that Spritzer had plenty of opportunities for “affairs” that were unpaid, I also imagine that he felt it was policially “safer” and he might be less likely to get caught in a high-dollar sex for pay situation.


There’s more data behind the “Spitzer Scandal”; look at what Amy Goodman writes:

(begin quote)
Before his administration was derailed by scandal, Eliot Spitzer promoted reproductive rights legislation that inspired a grass-roots movement.

Monday [ Mar 10th ] was a strange day in Albany. New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer was scheduled to give a major address to close to 1,000 people, most of whom were women or teens. They were gathered to support and lobby for a reproductive rights bill in the Empire State Plaza’s strange, iconic building known as The Egg. It is said to be the most progressive such bill introduced by a governor, guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion, among other protections.

New York was one of only three states to legalize abortion before Roe v. Wade. JoAnn Smith, CEO and president of Family Planning Advocates of New York State, organized Monday’s event. She talked about the pre-Roe days: “Women were dying — doctors saw it in the hospitals, clergy saw it in the families they were serving, in real people’s lives. So it was really the clergy and the doctors who were doing the early organizing. They made New York safe for women as they made their choices on reproductive health care.” In fact, the first abortion clinic was run by clergy in New York City, called Clergy Consultation Service. Now, nearly 40 years later, with a U.S. Supreme Court ever closer to overturning Roe v. Wade, Spitzer was working with women’s rights activists from around the state to update New York state’s law.

(end quote)

So, yeah, the guy had some definite issues, but it’s a bit precipitate to suggest that he was a sociopath. It’s one thing to talk about personal experiences with paths, but quite another to consider issues in “high places” where the powers of psychopaths can be brought to bear on an individual and make them look guilty as hell. I’m sure Liane is aware of those factors and wouldn’t want to call the kettle black, as it were.

Ox Drover

Laura your final paragraph doesn’t make sense to me, maybe I’m dense but I’m not sure what you mean, or what your “side” is in this issue.

A person in a power position, even if they are a psychopath, can do “good” legislation (not starting a debate on abortion pro or con) and they can do “bad” legislation.

A person in a power position who is NOT a psychopath can do both “good” and “bad” things for their office or the people they represent.

While I have no doubt that Spritzer’s behavior is psychopathic on a personal level and in his interactions with his family and some of the people he “persecuted” (or is that prosecuted?) If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it very well might be a duck….and personally, I would not want a psychopath in high office of any kind even if they had done some good things for their office/state/country. I also would not want a dishonest person of any kind in office.

Neither Liane non any of us can make a “legal diagnosis” of Mr. Spritzer just by what we read in the media or hear, but at the same time, I think most of us here have the experience and knowledge necessary by virtue of our own experiences and learning about P-behavior to say “you know, he acted like a Psychopath” in the behavior he exibited. To me, that is more than enough to want the man out of the office he held.

What is just as interesting to me, though, is the NEW governor coming up and “confessing” that both he and his wife have had multiple previous affairs. DUH! I am sure he thought this information would come out, so we went to “clean up” before he got caught. I’m not sure what I think about that. I really don’t want such a man in office who does that kind of thing, but “at least he admitted it” I also realize that Jesus isn’t running for office and that every person who does run for office has done something wrong in his life, whether he “inhaled or not” (LOL)

Personally, when I was a kid, I DID INHALE, but haven’t done any of that in 40+ years, so would that invalidate me from high office? I’m not sure where the “line” should be drawn on what previous behavior is acceptable for a candidate or holder of a high office. Actually, I think though, that a person who is a LIAR, who prosecutes people for the things that THEY THEMSELVES are currently doing. Who threatens others, etc. should not hold office. I would hope that the current Gov. of NY and his wife were NO longer having affairs and that his behavior (which I consider reprehensible) has improved in the recent past at least.

I don’t think that EVERY man (or woman) who has affairs is a psychopath, but many are.


Not precipitate at all, that’s exactly what we do here, look at behavior and discuss and dissect what appears to be sociopathic behavior to gain knowledge and a better understanding. As it were, Liane was not calling the kettle black. Everyone here fully understands that without examination, there is no official diagnosis. We are not here for that purpose.

OxDrover, your explanation was very well stated and it looks like a duck to me too. One thing my experience has taught me is that I alone am responsible for the choices I make and the behavior I display. So is Eliot Spitzer. Is there more to it? Possibly, but then let’s limit our examination here to pathological traits and behavior and not use this forum as a political platform. To generalize and attempt to excuse away or place blame elsewhere by some “unknown” source is counterproductive to our focus here. So is Spitzer’s tote sheet of political accomplishments except as it directly relates to the behavior of sociopathy.

Laura, have you had an intimate relationship with a sociopath?



Benzthere asks: “Laura, have you had an intimate relationship with a sociopath?”

Well, that’s kind of iffy. My ex was diagnosed “passive aggressive with paranoid tendencies.” I’ve recently learned that the “passive aggressive” diagnosis has been moved to a subset of NPD (or something rather like that). After almost 20 years of “trying to fix it”, I gave up and divorced and learned a lot through that process. (Though I certainly never thought of it as psychopathy or even NPD at the time. I did know that something wasn’t “normal” there and was feverishly reading all the psychology literature to try to figure out just what the deal was.) I should add that my ex’s problems/issues/whatever were of a rather mild nature compared to what some people have experienced, though it was no less damaging. It was like being eaten one tiny bite at a time by a single piranha. After so many years, you are not much more than a skeleton psychically speaking, though you can never really “catch” the moment or pin down the problem!

Keep in mind, that I wasn’t totally ignorant on the topic of psychology, having worked off and on for over 25 years as a hypnotherapist, including under the supervision of a clinical psychologist. So, I had a really good idea of what worked inside people’s heads in a mechanical sense, how programs were laid, how perceptions were skewed, how to re-wire them, etc.

So, from my point of view, my ex was just “damaged via skewed experiences, perceptions, etc, and it had just been done too early – at a stage of imprint vulnerability – to be able to undo it. That was pretty much my view on all personality disorders: something went wrong at a moment of imprint vulnerability, and if it was of a certain type, at a certain step in the process, the person was just “broken” and could not be fixed. The idea that anyone could be “born that way” (I’m excluding many psychological disorders such as schizophrenia, psychosis, etc, here) – just plain evil – was not part of my “theory of mind.”

That changed over time, with more research. Digging into psychopathy full tilt was a revelation. I saw the “pure psychopath” and realized that people like my ex are sort of “watered down” versions. The REAL psychopath was something like a caricature with all aspects exaggerated so that each characteristic was writ large and in bold print. But there were many people who had these characteristics, only in small ways, or like fine print, more concealed, more easily lost in the viewing of their natures because they had such well-maintained masks, rationales. etc. They were more like the “covert aggressive” that psychologist George Simon talks about. My ex was one of these. Everything he said and did was “inspired” from his “religious background” and “for your own good” and with a paramoralistic rationale behind it.

Funny thing is, if he had been overtly narcissistic or psychopathic, I wouldn’t have stayed with him five minutes. But the fact that he was so covert, played the “wounded male” is what kept me there so long trying to “fix” him. And I really don’t think he was conscious of it at all.

Regarding out and out psychopathic type pathology, my main experience has been in business and online interactions of a business-like nature though with special features. That is what triggered my research into that topic some 7 years ago, undertaken in company with about 100 other individuals. Quite a few of them had direct “intimate” experience with psychopaths of the “bolder” type. There were all shades in between, as well. We began to collect the data, the observations. At the same time, as an online resource, publishing information about our research, we continued to have interactions with pathological types and formulated a number of experiments to test data or ideas about them.

Our research group has included/includes psychologists, physicians, mathematicians, logicians, engineers (of various types), and a couple of professional philosophers (as in academics). That’s about half the group. The other half consists of just regular people from hair dressers to waitresses to nurses, etc. They are all intelligent, insightful, and no one’s input is given weight over another’s because of “credentials”. We consider experience and observation trumps theory.

In our examination of particular cases, we may spend weeks examining every element of a situation, often with a hundred people asking questions of the experiencer so that ever possible detail and angle can be exposed and considered. This data is then considered and analyzed and compared to other data either from other experiencers, or from academic research.

Academic research itself is subjected to excruciatingly painstaking analysis, compared to other research, and then compared to the observations and data of the research group. We may hold off on drawing even a tentative conclusion while we search for more data or even “perform experiments” in real life.

If one of the group (which is the case for several members) knows a pathological type in real life, we may formulate a “test” and walk the person through the performance of the test, gathering constant feedback at every stage. As you might imagine, this can take nerves of steel on the part of the direct contact, and we never do this without the assurance that there is no danger involved.

Hope that answers the question adequately though the short answer is that, no, I’ve never had an INTIMATE relationship with a sociopath though I’ve had rather close relationships with a few psychopaths.


Am I the only one being triggered by the Weiner photos? But maybe in a different way than you think. The P/S/N talked me into taking 3 photos of myself that I’m ashamed of. I was ashamed at the time, so cut my head off, not shown in the photo. I emailed them to him. Of course at the time I thought we were in love, but all that sense of shame has come over me again, and I felt physically ill when I saw some of the photos of Weiner.

Ugh….how did he convince me to go against my values so??!!

LOL..Oh God, I did that too. Been there. It was last summer. We’d been broken up for 5 months..I didn’t think he was dating anyone and we’d been texting back and forth flirting..things got out of hand and he wound up texting me pictures of his manhood and I returned the favor. I asked him to come out for dinner and he said he couldn’t..he couldn’t “cheat.” I said, “What? I didn’t know you were dating were acting single.” He said, “well, I was almost single but we worked things out.” Ugh..the next day telling him it was funny at first but then I didn’t feel good about it and told him I don’t think we should do that again and how I felt stupid and not to entertain getting together when he’s “almost” single because it was a messed up thing to do…Why did I lower myself and play into that??

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