The XX Factor

Bad Sex: Letterman, Polanski, Ensign, and Edwards

Hanna has a great insight into the Letterman audience’s laughter at his confession of having sex with several of his female employees. It’s not that Letterman’s statement was funny; rather, like Pavlov’s dogs, the audience at a comedy show is conditioned to laugh no matter what he says. But it’s still interesting to think about why their laughter was so annoying. Could it be because sex between a powerful old man and his nubile young employees is more often tragic than comic? Sometimes it’s funny: Reports say that 86-year-old media mogul Sumner Redstone’s fortysomething second wife just got a million for each year of their five year marriage. She’s probably laughing … all the way to the bank.


But the hilarity in the Letterman affair was not helped by the other stories in the sexual misbehavior category this week. Alert Swiss bounty hunters nabbed director Roman Polanski as he arrived to accept a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival, holding him to answer for the rape of a 13-year-old who came to audition for something when Polanski was a mere 45. Senator Mike Ensign might be in the next cell , if the ethics charges arising from his cover-up of a roll with his campaign aide, followed by bribery of her husband, hold up. Married ex-Senator John Edwards’ wedding plans with his much younger former mistress leaked to the New York Times , while his cancer-stricken wife was still alive to read them. Not too many yuks there.

As Emily pointed out recently , there’s a big difference between illegal sexual conduct and what’s just a pretty terrible idea. I think having sex with one’s much younger female dependents is a pretty terrible idea. Without more, Letterman doesn’t deserve a jail sentence or probably even a damage judgment. But there’s gotta be something between a striped suit and a laugh track. A round of hearty booing would have been nice.