• Weird History

The Wild And Sometimes Outrageous Sex Lives Of US Presidents

Should the president of the United States be held to a higher standard of behavior than the average person? As we’ve seen time and again, presidents are merely human; moreover, many humans have, to put it politely, unorthodox sexual interests.

You don’t have to look hard to find lascivious presidents in every century. Sex scandals involving John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton are well-known, but even ostensibly boring presidents like Grover Cleveland, Warren G. Harding, and Gerald Ford committed sex acts ranging from eyebrow-raising to unconscionable.

Prepare yourself for a trip through the annals of sexual presidential history. 

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  • John F. Kennedy is one of the most well-remembered presidents in America's short history, primarily due to his tragic assassination in 1963. Yet his reportedly insatiable libido receives just as much attention in popular culture and historical accounts. 

    One of the first of Kennedy's mistresses to gain notoriety in the public eye was Judith Exner. She began her affair with the president not long after divorcing her first husband. She came forward with the affair in the 1970s, much to the public's dismay.

    She did not choose to come forward at her own behest as the FBI was looking into mob dealings and needed to know her involvement.

    Another of Kennedy's rumored mistresses was renowned actor Marilyn Monroe. Many believe Kennedy had a hush-hush affair with Marilyn Monroe, but while there is somewhat substantial evidence of such, we will never know for certain if the pair ever had any sexual contact.

    Famous names aside, many reports indicate Kennedy would seduce just about any woman he met, so much so that today, medical professionals might diagnose him with having a sexual addiction.

  • Photo: Anders Zorn / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Born in 1864, Frances Folsom had a most undependable father. Oscar Folsom cared more about racing his carriage than raising and tending to his daughter's needs. But Folsom did have a male presence looking out for her well-being: Grover Cleveland, whom she affectionately called "Uncle Cleve."

    Throughout Folsom's life, Cleveland sent her flowers and even arranged to get her into Wells College. They often corresponded with one another even after Cleveland became president. 

    A perennial bachelor, when asked why he wasn't married, Cleveland is believed to have often said, "I’m waiting for my bride to grow up.” Most assumed his reply was a joke. But he wasn't joking: Cleveland married Folsom in 1886 when she turned 21.

  • According to Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon B. Johnson, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate, excerpted in The New York Review of Books, the president had a certain habit of exposing his genitalia to just about whomever he encountered:

    [I]f a colleague came into a Capitol bathroom as he was finishing at the urinal there, he would sometimes swing around still holding his member, which he liked to call "Jumbo," hooting once, "Have you ever seen anything as big as this?" and shaking it in almost a brandishing manner as he began discoursing about some pending legislation... Even on the floors of the House and Senate, he would extravagantly rummage away at his groin, sometimes reaching his hand through a pocket and leaning with half-lifted leg for more thorough access.

    Kate Anderson Brower, the author of The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House, also reports that Johnson went to great lengths - much to the annoyance of White House staff members - to install a custom-fitted shower with nozzles that sprayed the president with the force of a fire hose. Moreover, he insisted that one nozzle hit him directly in the nether regions.

  • Photo: Rembrandt Peale / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Thomas Jefferson fathered numerous children with Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman who, at the age of 14, accompanied Jefferson to Paris to look after his daughter in 1787. Today, some voices insist their sexual relationship was consensual, but while it is impossible to know the exact nature of their relationship, it is more likely he forced himself on her as she was enslaved and therefore treated as his property.

    Hemings used her close proximity to the president to eventually free herself and her family from servitude, something Jefferson did not do for any other families that he enslaved.

    While Jefferson's family never believed that the president could have fathered Hemings's children, a 1998 DNA test proved that at least one of Hemings's children was fathered by Jefferson - and the results stated it was likely he was the father of her other children.