The nature of "favouritism" derived from the Empress's peculiar position and her unique relationship with Potemkin. It was undeniably true that anyone becoming a favourite of Catherine's was entering a relationship in which there were three, not two, participants. Favouritism was necessary because Catherine lived in a man's world. She could not publicly marry again and, whether in law or spirit, she already had a husband in Potemkin. Their egos, talents and emotions were too equal and too similar for them to live together, but Catherine needed constant loving and companionship. She yearned to have an effective family around her and she had strong maternal instincts to teach and nurture. These emotional longings were easily as strong as her famed sexual appetites. She was one of those who must have a companion, and often did not change partners without finding a new one first. Usually such habits are more based on insecurity than wantonness, but perhaps the two are linked. There was another reason why Catherine, as she got older, sought younger lovers, even at the cost of her dignity and reputation. She touched on it herself when she described the temptations of Elizabeth's (the Empress who reigned prior to Catherine's husband) Court. The Court was filled with handsome men; she was the Sovereign. Catherine did it because she could - like the proverbial child in the candy shop. Who would not?My emphasis at the end of the passage.
Harumph! A man's world indeed. Powerful older men who get young women are not consider to be risking their "dignity", and if anything it enhances their reputations.
I sure do hate the persistent double standards of the Patriarchy.
And I hate with equal vehemence the servant of the Patriarchy, Evolutionary Psychology, which tries to enshrine an indisputably cultural convention as "nature."