Sex Scandals, Gender, and Power in Contemporary American Politics
by Hinda Mandell
April 2017, 247pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-4327-3
$66, £49, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-4328-0
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

As seen in the 2016 presidential election campaigns of Clinton and Trump, gender roles and sex scandals have tremendous importance in our political system—and consequently, for society at large.

The increasing tabloidization of politics and focus on politicians involved in sex scandals is both problematic and important. This book examines how gender impacts political sex scandals in the United States, in the past and today; explains how political sex scandals contribute to the mistrust of government; and identifies why these titillating events do have serious consequences for our political system.

When a major political sex scandal occurs, it occupies as much as 25 percent of all news coverage in the United States. Even if people may deny it, they enjoy “consuming” and talking about political sex scandals. Written by a former journalist who has frequently explored the intersections of politics, sex, and gender in the United States, Sex Scandals, Gender, and Power in Contemporary American Politics investigates how political sex scandals contribute to the mistrust of government and why these titillating events have great significance in our frenzied media environment.

The book makes use of comprehensive descriptive data (including statistics) to explain how political sex scandals are a representation of society’s broader gender dynamics, conveying subtle messages about power and morality. It addresses the roles of men and women in political sex scandals over time, the increasing tabloidization of politics, and the often-overlooked consequences of sex scandals for the political system. Readers will see how the types of sex scandals that politicians are typically involved in differ by political party, and that all major political sex scandals have involved male—not female—politicians engaged in bad behavior. Author Hinda Mandell also documents how scandals’ multiple negative effects for the politicians themselves and for society include turning politics into a spectator sport, contributing to the mistrust of government, the questioning of politicians’ competence and judgment as a group, and politicians’ diminishing effectiveness in office.


  • Explains how sex scandals regarding political figures significantly impact people's opinions of politicians and government as well as how sex scandals harm the U.S. political process
  • Demonstrates how political sex scandals are a representation of society's broader gender dynamics, conveying subtle messages about power and morality
  • Offers data and statistics about political sex scandal occurrences, including breakdowns of political scandals by party lines and the most common type of political sex scandals
  • Supplies extensive analysis of how voters respond to different "types" of political wives (such as the supportive political wife versus the absent political wife)
Hinda Mandell, PhD, is assistant professor in the School of Communication at Rochester Institute of Technology. She is coeditor of the book Scandal in a Digital Age. A frequent blogger for The Huffington Post and NPR outlets, Mandell's essays on topics ranging from politics, gender and parenting have appeared in Politico, Boston Herald, Chicago Tribune, USA TODAY, and the Los Angeles Times. She is a former correspondent for The Boston Globe. Her academic writing has been published in Women's Studies in Communication, Explorations in Media Ecology, and Visual Communication Quarterly, among other outlets. Her website is


"Mandell offers a painstakingly researched, revealing, and amusing exploration of sex scandals in U.S. politics. . . . This makes for a highly detailed and comprehensive analysis of the phenomenon of sex scandals, as well of the underlying realities of power relations among men and women in politics. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty."—Choice, February 1, 2018

"Engaging and funny. Hinda Mandell weaves sex scandal stories into a twisted tapestry that shows us new dimensions of gender and power, new dimensions of political machination, and new dimensions of scandal as a political genre. At once juicy and erudite, this is the book to read on contemporary sex scandals."—Joshua Gamson, University of San Francisco

"Mandell takes the complicated topic of political scandal and adds important new analysis and insight about gender. Scandals receive a considerable amount of media attention because they are sensational and titillating, but Mandell digs deeper to investigate their larger consequences. Beautifully written and powerfully argued, this is an important addition to the literature on scandal."—Alison Dagnes, Professor, Shippensburg University

"Mandell’s analysis of what she calls the scandal of 'political sextracurricular activities' is extensive, in both time period and methodologies (textual analysis, online surveys, two different sets of interviews). The thread of gender woven into this project makes it particularly distinctive as well as significant, as Mandell examines political wives, women engaged in scandalous behavior with politicians, and the rare female politician involved in her own sex scandal. This multidimensional analysis is an important contribution to the conversation about political sex scandals, the media attention they garner, and their many potential consequences."—Joan L. Conners, Randolph-Macon College
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