I was interested that an Italian former deputy culture minister said last week that “men in power need lots of sex” and “if Berlusconi does not gain sexual satisfaction he governs badly”.
While the minister was no doubt referring to Mr Berlusconi’s recent troubles as prime minister, I wondered how true this was of business leaders, who also wield lots of power.
Some two decades ago, I bought part-ownership of a recruitment agency that supplied receptionists and secretaries to entertainment and media companies. It was an obvious, but unwritten, policy of the firm to put forward only nubile women as job applicants – since this is what clients wanted.
Bluntly, advertising agencies, theatre impresarios and television producers all preferred to hire stunning females. Interestingly, our business was run by four women, who made it clear that I was banned from the floors where applicants were interviewed. I think they had a cynical view of male bosses.
In spite of the risks, ageing male leaders are forever tempting fate by misbehaving with young women. Perhaps they believe it enables them to manage better. I often think these are men who lacked confidence with girls when younger, and probably married in their early twenties.
Perhaps they were too busy doing homework and holiday jobs – always striving to succeed and make a fortune. No time to attract the opposite sex. So maybe they didn’t have a chance to sow their wild oats much, or indulge in the wild sex the younger generation talk about.
But once such characters reach the top, their ego has expanded and their narcissism is running riot. And by then they have marvellous new levers at their disposal. As Henry Kissinger said: “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” Having seen him charming the ladies at a party once, I think he may just be right.
Of course, ambition and testosterone are intimately connected. It seems that alpha males invariably have lots of both, and are driven to conquer in various different directions – work, sport, sex.
All this takes money and energy but then top dogs usually have large quantities of both of those, too. Some psychologists put forward the theory that chief executives are not really driven by a desire to sell more products or amass great riches: in truth it is all a substitute for being a rock ‘n’ roll star and having lots of groupies.
The examples of tycoons destroying their marriages – and sometimes endangering their careers and companies – thanks to their lusts are legion. So many of the business elite leave behind a trail of broken marriages, desperate infidelity and emotional chaos. Perhaps they need the drama to enliven the sterile atmosphere of the boardroom. Or possibly such forbidden fruits are available to them for the first time only when they have risen to great corporate heights, and the thrill of it all goes straight to their head and loins.
There is, of course, something disturbing about the idea that so many businessmen making all these serious decisions might be constantly distracted by their outsized sexual appetites. Yet we are all human, and far more influenced in our behaviour by our basic instincts than many of us care to admit.
Sociologists, anthropologists and biologists should do more studies on the motivations of entrepreneurs and politicians, to help us understand better the secrets of power. Scientists should look at the interaction of adrenaline and testosterone, and work out how their combination can create a dangerous cocktail for certain high achievers.
In fact, I fell into business as a way to meet girls. At 18, my university parties were so riotous I was threatened with being thrown out.
We shifted our get-togethers to a local nightclub and my co-host had the brilliant idea of charging guests to attend. Suddenly our parties had become a business, and I was hooked on capitalism by accident.
Since then I have attempted to become respectable and act my age. So far, I reckon I’m doing rather better than the Italian prime minister.