Tiger Woods Sex Scandal: Why Powerful Men Can't Resist Temptation

Experts say men who seem to have it all are vulnerable to aggressive admirers.

December 2, 2009, 10:27 PM

Dec. 3, 2009— -- Sex scandals -- they've ensnared presidents, religious leaders and premiere athletes who are supposed to epitomize American values and work ethic.

But renowned sex anthropologist Helen Fisher said it's no coincidence that powerful men get caught in headline-grabbing scandals. Tiger Woods, now linked to three women who may have had affairs with the pro golfer, is the most recent addition to the list of men whose alleged indiscretions in the bedroom have been turned into tabloid fodder.

"The opposite sex is very attracted to someone who is powerful," Fisher said. "Particularly women are attracted to men who are powerful."

Woods has so far refused to specifically address the tabloid claims about affairs, but issued a statement Wednesday saying he had let his family down.

"I regret those transgressions with all of my heart," he wrote. "I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family."

The admission and seemingly continual string of salacious details of the affairs -- which began after Woods' early morning car accident last week that was rumored to have been fueled by a fight with wife Elin Nordegren -- have been shocking for many who had considered Woods to be the pinnacle of squeaky clean.

Family therapist Terry Real said that the public shouldn't be fooled by the tough exterior of men who stray even though they seem to have everything.

"The same kind of character that will lead someone to reach for the stars, will let them throw somebody under the bus while they are trying to get there," he said. "These guys are aggressive, self confident. They're risk takers, so they are more vulnerable."

In a 2008 interview with ABC News' Bob Woodruff, John Edwards spoke of how his quick rise to power led him to cheat on wife Elizabeth, even after she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

"I went from being a young senator to being considered for vice president, running for president, being a vice presidential candidate and becoming a national public figure," Edwards said. "All of which fed a self-focus, an egotism, a narcissism that leads you to believe that you can do whatever you want. You're invincible. And there will be no consequences."

Powerful Men and Sex Scandals: Is Temptation Too Great to Resist?

The aftermath of affairs, of course, varies. John and Elizabeth Edwards are still married.

But South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford left her husband, Gov. Mark Sanford, after learning about his affair with an Argentine woman. Sanford announced the long-time relationship in a press conference after previously telling staffers he was hiking on the Appalachian trail when he was actually with his mistress.

And NBA star Kobe Bryant, who had wife Vanessa by his side during his sexual assault scandal in 2003, later lavished her with gifts to apologize -- including a $4 million 8-carat diamond ring.

"If you want your husband to not have a lover, then you'd better act like a lover. That means that you have to be passionate," Real said. "If you are not getting anywhere with your husband, than drag his butt to a couples therapist."

Crystal McCrary Anthony, married to NBA player Greg Anthony for 10 years, said she witnessed temptations daily.

"I've seen all sorts of outrageous behavior, when you are standing there with your spouse, and they will come up and actually accost them, grab his rear end, they will moon him, they will do just about anything to get attention," she said.

Anthony said her heart goes out to Nordegren.

"I got to believe she is feeling terribly hurt, she's feeling shocked embarrassed, humiliated," she said, "and she is probably really angry, quite honestly."

Fellow pro golfer Jesper Parnevik, who introduced Nordegren, his former nanny, to Woods, went so far as to say he needs to apologize to her for setting the two up.

"We probably thought that he was a better guy than he is," he said. " I hope she uses a driver next time than a three iron."

While Woods' "transgressions" may be dominating headlines now, he almost certainly won't be the last in the spotlight for an extramarital affair.

"This is a old story," Fisher said. "It's not just Bill Clinton and Elliot Spitzer and Tiger Woods -- men around the world and women around the world struggle with restlessness in a long relationship."

CLICK HERE to return to the "Good Morning America" Web site.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events