“Why fall for a weak man?”

That’s what Kerry Washington, star of new drama, “Scandal”, said when I asked why women fall for powerful men during a Ustream chat with the cast. Washington plays Olivia Pope, a crisis manager and consultant who’s having a steamy affair with the most powerful man in the Free World, the President of the United States.

The saying goes that “art imitates life,” and these fictitious characters copy countless love stories and scandals between women and prestigious men. The list is endless: Jay-Z and Beyonce Knowles-Carter (though powerful in her own right), Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky and even Herman Cain and Ginger White.

Washington may be right. Women don’t want “scrubs,” but are the perks like money and access the only draw to these men? A group of women weigh in to dispel the myths and discuss why falling for the crème of the crop may not be as simple as we think.

“Power is a Relative Term”

Renee Jefferson , a luxury salon owner in Houston has dated men ranging from attorneys to politicians. “It was the power, who they are that made them stand out or set themselves apart from everyone else,” she says.

“They have lots of money, they control people in large numbers, and they may also be extremely bright in what they do,” says Karla Moore, owner of NineGPS, a matchmaking service in Atlanta. “Women interpret them, in my opinion, as really sexy.”

So who’s the powerful man: the guy in charge of the fries at McDonald’s or the influential businessman? Dating and relationship coach, Morgan McKean, says the definition of power is based on each woman’s DNA makeup, education, experiences and perception. “Power is defined in wide, broad strokes as a man who can create a better lifestyle than the one I can create on my own.”

Must be the money? 

Let’s address the obvious. The sweeping generalization is that women are attracted to these men because they see dollar signs only. Though that may be true for some, money for personal gain isn’t always women’s primary motivation.

McKean compares seeking a mate to the survival of the fittest concept in nature, suggesting that a woman considers if that man will be able to provide for her and their family, so they can thrive. “This is not because she is a gold digger, and this where the misconception comes in.”

The rewards from dating a powerful man don’t always come in Tiffany boxes. They can be intangible, as well, such as boosts to self-esteem. “When we choose a partner, if we’re emotionally healthy, we look for someone who adequately reflects what we believe about ourselves.”

Our past experiences matter

Jefferson, raised by her grandparents, says her attraction to influential men stems from her upbringing. “My grandfather was definitely the man of the house. When I look for a man, besides the fact that I have God who brings total completion, I look for someone I can depend on in all calibers.

From another perspective, some women like men of power because they didn’t have that in their household—they didn’t grow up with fathers, and so they are looking for a sense of security.”

It’s in Our DNA

Los Angeles realtor Chantay Bridges breaks down her experience with a powerful man. “I discovered one of the true draws for women is the magnetism of a powerful man,” say says. “Their knowledge, insight, presence, makes you want more of it. You find yourself being mentored, sheltered, you even feel protected as if he were Super Man himself.”

McKean says women are genetically wired to want these men. “DNA is always looking to evolve into a strong and better version of itself; women believe that a more powerful man will create strong off-spring and that he will have the wherewithal to provide for her and her young.”

Simply put, women want the good stuff, and that isn’t sex or lavish vacations, but genes. Social dominance, or the idea that groups dominate in hierarchical order, explains it.

“Social dominance is real,” says Moore. “We want the best for our children. We want to breed the brightest children, we want them to have social skills, etc.”

The dominant group has the most ability to survive due to intelligence, wealth, athletic ability, musical talents, etc. “We pick up on that on a subconscious level when we choose our mates,” McKean says.

Whether women are intentionally seeking these dominant men or falling for them unknowingly, they should be aware of the downside of dating a powerful man. “Women need to be mindful that when they’re looking, there could be double-edged sword involved. A woman that wants a powerful man may pay dearly with other dynamics that are not going to work for her.”

Alisha Tillery is a freelance writer and blogger living in Memphis, Tennessee. She maintains a blog covering culture and lifestyle, Because I Said So