It’s a shame the Strauss-Kahn and Schwarzenegger scandals erupted the same week. One was an attempted rape, and the perpetrator ought to be prosecuted to the fullest extent. The other, a consensual affair, was the more common of today’s scandals and deserves a closer look.

Frankly, I could care less about the sordid details of Schwarzenegger’s personal relationships. But the frequency with which scandals like this erupt – Bill Clinton, John Ensign, John Edwards, Mark Sanford, David Letterman and Roman Polanski, to name a few – makes it hard not to acknowledge that a cultural shift may be, in part, to blame for such widespread dishonesty and infidelity.

Certainly, in cases like Schwarzenegger’s, the blame falls largely on the man – or, more specifically, the man in power. But we shouldn’t ignore the role that modern feminism has played in laying the groundwork for these scandals.

For decades, feminists have undermined the value of marriage and encouraged a laissez-faire sexual culture. Coupled with academic, professional and economic opportunities, “the pill” and other forms of contraception have certainly given women a great deal of freedom. Still, that freedom doesn’t come without a cost. One has to assume, in fact, that it’s this “no strings attached” sexual culture that has made so many women think it’s permissible to have an affair with a married man.

For now, most people are just interested in the details of the Terminator’s love-child. But perhaps after the dust settles – and before the next scandal erupts – we might think more about the cultural changes that have brought so many of these affairs into the spotlight. In a society where gender roles have largely dissolved and romantic relationships are a thing of the past, we may have lost perspective of healthy sexuality and relationships.  

I guess we found out (again) this week that despite all the benefits – in the classroom, on the athletic field, in the workplace – there are also some serious consequences to gender “equality.”

Sabrina L. Schaeffer is managing partner of Evolving Strategies and a senior fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum.