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The Story of a Sexual Obsession

by Michael O'Brien

John F. Kennedy’s Women: The Story of a Sexual Obsession


Millions of people around the world consider John F. Kennedy a great president. He tried to reduce the risk of nuclear holocaust by miscalculation. He was a catalyst for activism among the nation’s youth, as shown by his support for the Peace Corps. His major speeches on civil rights, détente with the Soviet Union, and the nuclear test ban were brilliant. Finally, he grew in office. The Kennedy of 1963 was a different, more mature, more capable leader than the Kennedy of 1961. “What was killed in Dallas was not only the president but the promise,” wrote the New York Times’ James Reston.

On the other hand, there were unfortunate blemishes and failures on Kennedy’s record. Among them was a serious weakness involving his personal attitude toward women. He was nearly a pathological philanderer and was usually incapable of viewing a woman as anything but a sex object.


Like many Irish-American women, Rose Kennedy, John’s mother, was exceptionally chaste, even within marriage; but her husband, Joseph P. Kennedy, became a notorious philanderer, and his behavior profoundly influenced his second son. While working in Hollywood in the 1920s, Joe, a wealthy businessman, rented a large home on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills where he often beguiled dazzling young women. With one prominent actress he had an extended sexual affair. In 1925, at age twenty-six, Gloria Swanson was Hollywood’s reigning sex goddess, earning about $1 million a year. In the late 1920s Swanson often came east to visit Joe and even accompanied him and Rose on a trip to Europe. Joe belonged to the Bronxville Field Club in Westchester County, New York, where the local newspaper reported that Swanson and Joe played tennis together at the club.

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