What is it with powerful men and weird sex scandals?

'Does anyone really believe that story? I’m also very much a germaphobe, by the way, believe me.'

Just as America’s outgoing President Obama ends a miraculously scandal-free eight years in office (and you can bet there’s been a lot of fruitless dirt-digging by his enemies in those eight years), the incoming President-elect is already weathering an alleged scandal involving a group of prostitutes and a golden shower.

If true, the report has wide and serious implications for the state of American democracy. According to CNN, Russian operatives have collected a large cache of damaging material on Trump, which they’re planning to use against him as he takes up his position as leader of the free world.

One particularly graphic section of this document – which has been published in full by Buzzfeed – suggests Trump booked himself into the presidential suite at the Ritz Carlton in Moscow (where he knew the Obamas had slept) and hired a group of prostitutes to perform a golden shower show in front of him.

Trump has denounced the accusations as ‘fake news.’ But – true or not – what struck about the numerous reactions to the unfolding scandal wasn’t the outright shock at the alleged behaviour of a man taking high office, but an almost-shrugging sense that a revelation of this kind was on the way.

Though the stakes in this particular story are far higher than usual, sex scandals involving powerful men and prostitutes feel almost clichéd now.

Last summer there was the exposé of married MP Keith Vaz, who invited young male prostitutes to his flat for a ‘party’, telling the group he was a man called Jim who sold washing machines. In his role as a Member of Parliament, Vaz had sat on a committee urging for the loosening of brothel-keeping laws. The year before there was the leaked footage of Lord Sewel, pictured taking drugs with a group of prostitutes dressed only in an orange bra and leather jacket.

In fact, the prostitute/powerful man scenario feels so wearily familiar by this point that the question of why men pay for sex (or use prostitutes to enact weird political vendettas) doesn’t even seem to register. In a press conference yesterday Trump said of the allegations, ‘Does anyone really believe that story? I’m also very much a germaphobe, by the way, believe me.’ His instinctive reaction to the story wasn’t ‘as a man about to become leader of the free world, using prostitutes is clearly against my moral code’ but rather ‘Urine? Come on – that’s just gross.’

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