Sex sells, so it comes as no surprise that sex scandals are a hot topic across the country. From high-profile politicians, celebrities, and even presidents, no one is safe from a sex scandal-hungry media outlet. Here are the top ten biggest sex scandals in recent history.
10 Jeffree Star and Kanye West
In 2021, the American people combined two of our very favorite things—conspiracy and sex scandals. Eager fans on social media began circulating rumors that the then alleged divorce between Kanye West and Kim Kardashian resulted from a torrid love affair between the rapper and beauty mogul Jeffree Star. With both men living in Wyoming— and in the same community in California at one point—it didn’t take much for online communities to start pulling theories out of thin air. This conspiracy even led to a direct response from the star himself, in which he debunks the theory. “Let me just say this one time… I like very tall men.” For the record, Kanye is only 5’8″.
9 Kim Kardashian’s Sex Tape
If you thought one sex scandal would be enough for any family, you haven’t heard of the Kardashians. In early 2007, Kim Kardashian was a blip on Hollywood’s social radar—until March of that year, when a now-infamous sex tape was leaked onto the Internet. From there, Ms. Kardashian launched herself into the reality tv stratosphere.
With her mother’s help managing the family’s brands and careers, the Kardashian’s are now one of the country’s most famous families. While some believe that it was none other than Kris Jenner—Kim’s mother—who released the tape to further her daughter’s career, there is no doubt that whoever it was, ushered the Kardashian’s into Hollywood royalty.
8 Pee Wee’s Big Cinematic Adventure
In July of 1991, Paul Ruebens, AKA Pee-Wee Herman, was arrested in an adult movie theater on the charge of indecent exposure. The arrest was scandalous, as Ruebens was best known for hosting a well-loved children’s television program. This scandal proved different than most. Instead of exile and ostracization, people held rallies in support of the actor. Ruebens refuted the charge that he engaged in any illicit activity in the theater but readily acknowledged his presence there that night.
At that time, the court sentenced him to a fine and community service. It wasn’t until 2004 when the actor was again sentenced on additional sex charges, this time for inappropriate content of minors. Claiming the photographs in question were part of a collection of historical, artistic images, Ruebens settled for a $1,000 fine, three years’ probation, and registration on the sex offender list.
7 Arnold’s Secret Son
Although former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had been married to Maria Shriver for just over a decade, it made little difference to him. During his marriage and time in office, Mr. Terminator carried on with his family housekeeper, who would go on to have a son. This was kept quiet, even from his wife, for the duration of his tenure in office. It wasn’t long after leaving office that the LA Times dropped a scathing front-page article detailing the former Governors many indiscretions.
Schwarzenegger was apparently unaware of the paternity of the child. Upon discovering that he was the father, he began supporting the child financially. Both the article and the affair were the direct causes of Arnold’s divorce from Shriver. However, despite the scandal, public opinion of the bodybuilder and actor has changed little.
6 Eliot Spitzer and the Emperor’s Club
Following our theme of the press outing illicit Gubernatorial activity, the downfall of former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer came at the hands of the New York Times. In 2008 the New York Times published an article detailing Spitzer’s outings with an expensive call girl from a prostitution ring called the “Emperor’s VIP Club.” At $1,000 an hour, these forays did not come cheap, both financially and professionally.
He spent a total of $15,000 over six months at this so-called club, according to the information procured by a wiretap placed by the federal government. To avoid impeachment, Spitzer resigned from his position as New York State Governor on March 17, 2008. The fallout from the “bust” of the Emperor’s Club was international. A member of the British Ministry of Defense, who was also connected to the ring, resigned.
5 John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe
Perhaps the most memorable sex scandal in American history is between former President John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. The American public had a rabid appetite for gossip about the young, handsome president and the Hollywood bombshell. The rumors really began to fly after a televised birthday celebration for JFK. Marilyn came out on stage in a white fur coat, which she hastily removed to reveal a bedazzled gown. At the time, this gown was scandalously revealing.
After she all but undressed on stage, she sang a slow, sultry version of “Happy Birthday” directed at Mr. Kennedy (“Happy birthday, Mr. President…”). From there, the American public was hooked. This gave what many consider to be concrete evidence of the alleged affair and the only known photograph of the two together. Others say an affair between the two was impossible. They were rarely documented to be in the same location. Others refute claims that the affair was fiction. Some say that Monroe contacted Kennedy’s wife, Jackie, to discuss the affair.
While we know that Jackie was aware of other affairs JFK had, the rumors of the one between her husband and Monroe was the one that really upset her. Because of her celebrity, the relationship had the potential to ruin her family if proven true.
4 Jerry Springer and His Bounced Check
While best known for his trash TV persona, Jerry Springer also had a political career—peppered with some questionable hobbies. In 1974, while on the Cincinnati City Council, Jerry frequented sex workers. *cue boos from the crowd* After a VICE investigation and a press release that alluded to an anonymous “Cincinnati politico,” Jerry shockingly resigned from his position. He essentially outed himself to the world.
Jerry volunteered to testify in a Kentucky court, claiming that he was guilty of interacting with two women at two separate times, whose services he paid for with personal checks. Rumors have since flown that one of those checks bounced, adding insult to injury. Jerry denies these claims. I mean, come on, a bounced check? Please, stick with the sex workers. Jerry dealt with the aftermath quietly out of the political realm, but in a shocking move, ran to reclaim his seat on the council.
Jerry didn’t stop there. After regaining his seat on the city council in 1975, he ran for mayor and won that seat as well. In 1982, he won the race for Governor of Ohio. Perhaps it was this balance between his scandal and his ability to move and groove in the political scene in the aftermath that made him such an ideal talk-show host. Jerry went on to host the highly successful “The Jerry Springer Show” from 1991 to 2018.
3 Tiger Woods and Many, Many Women
Pro Golf golden boy Tiger Woods seemingly had it all. Wildly talented with an astoundingly successful career, large endorsements and brand partnerships, a loving family… But it just wasn’t enough for the young star. On November 27, 2009, his fortune came crashing down around him. You don’t know what you got, am I right?
It was this day that Woods crashed his Escalade just outside of his home shortly after taking pain medication. This crash brought out the press sniffing around for a scandal. Seek, and ye shall find, soon enough, an alleged mistress was releasing text messages and voicemails sent by the professional athlete. She wasn’t the only one coming forward with accusations of an affair, however. The women who revealed themselves were waitresses and nightclub staff, to models and adult film actresses.
The once-revered golfer attempted to deal with the scandal behind closed doors but eventually released several statements in which he publicly acknowledged his indiscretions and apologized for his actions. Woods lost sponsorships and brand deals and ultimately stepped away from his career and public scrutiny to focus on therapy and repairing his marriage. While that worked for some time, the pro and his wife announced a divorce in 2010. That same year Woods returned to golf, but due to the resulting injuries of the car crash, he never again regained the height as in his early career.
2 NXIVM Cult or Self-Help Club?
NXIVM was originally founded in 1998 under the premise of being a self-help and fulfillment group for young, wealthy professionals. Touting secretive classes called “Executive Success Programs,” high-profile entrepreneurs, business people, and even children of political figures began flocking to the community. Using non-disclosure agreements, NXIVM was able to operate with utmost secrecy in terms of the content of its seminars and teachings.
It wasn’t until 2017 that allegations of an internal secret subsect called “Dominus Obsequious Sororium” surfaced. This internal group was comprised entirely of women. They were physically branded in a secret ceremony and operated under the premise that they were part of a mentorship program. The fake mentorship program’s premise was that senior women would take younger, dedicated female members under their wing. This was, in fact, a lie. The symbol branded onto these women’s skin was not simply a sign that they had been initiated, but rather the founder’s initials. This was unknown to the women involved at the time of their branding.
The women in the group were required to be on standby for founder Keith Raniere’s whims and desires. Some accusations against the group include weight requirements, sexual abuse, and waiting nude for the founder. They were made to film sexually explicit videos, and then the group held these videos against them as blackmail. Once exposed, Keith Raniere was arrested on charges of sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy. They also snagged him for conspiracy to commit forced labor. He was sentenced to 120 years in prison for his crimes against women. NXIVM has since gone down in the books as one of America’s most notorious cults.
1 Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky
What would a list about sex scandals be if we left out the most famous sex scandal in American history? This scandal stands out against the political landscape because this is the first scandal where the Internet played a big role. Compared to today, the news was slower to circulate, and public opinion was relatively muted. But the Internet completely changed that.
Monica Lewinsky was a young intern serving in the Clinton administration. During this time, it became apparent that she was spending a great deal of time with the former president. As a result, she was transferred to work in the Pentagon. However, when Lewinsky began discussing her torrid affair with a coworker, that coworker began recording the conversations secretly (what a terrible confidante). They turned over the tapes to an investigator who was already working on a harassment case against the president. These tapes fueled media frenzy.
Once news broke, Clinton denied any affair with Lewinsky, famously stating, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” It wasn’t until he faced impeachment and was under oath that he readily admitted his wrongdoings. In the following years, Monica faced intense backlash and scrutiny from the public. She has since turned become an advocate against cyberbullying and harassment.