It’s not the sex, it’s the secrecy.

The Wall Street Journal reported last Friday that a lawyer for Donald Trump paid an adult-film actress $130,000 one month before the 2016 election in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with the then-candidate 10 years earlier. On Thursday, the Journal reported that the lawyer, Michael Cohen, used pseudonyms and a private company to mask the exchange. Stephanie Clifford, stage name Stormy Daniels, says the liaison was consensual. Cohen and Trump say it never occurred at all.

We all blinked no more than once at this revelation, in part because it did not actually reveal anything we didn’t already know. The president has been accused of — has boasted of, on tape — far worse. This episode, viewed in the hierarchy of all his violations, is more a curiosity than it is an outrage.

But maybe the reason Trump’s behavior should bother us is bigger than the notion that a commander in chief should meet a rigorous standard of morality just because. Maybe it has more to do with the practical pitfalls that breaches such as this one carry with them.

There’s evidence that Daniels wasn’t the only woman to book alone time with the then-reality TV star. In “Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff quotes former chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon as asking, “What did we have, a hundred women?” before saying that a lawyer “took care of all of them.”

Adult performer Jessica Drake accused Trump of offering her $10,000 for sex the same year he allegedly slept with Daniels, and she claims she can’t say more because of a nondisclosure agreement. And, according to a separate Journal story from just four days before the election, the company that owns the Trump-friendly National Enquirer awarded a former Playboy centerfold model $150,000 for the rights to her story of an affair with Trump in, yes, 2006 again. Then, the tabloid quashed it.

The problem here isn’t Trump’s repeated ethical lapses alone, although they do induce a certain squeamishness. The problem is the possibility of blackmail against a presidential team willing to pay big to cover up misbehavior.

Trump’s actions, clearly, are out of sync with our collective ethical code: Eighty-four percent of Americans disapprove of adultery, and probably more than that disapprove of adultery that occurs with a porn star four months after a man’s wife gives birth to their first child together. By breaking that code and then aspiring to an office that requires the support of Americans who abide by it (or at least believe they do), any politician puts himself in a vulnerable position. Either he risks a ruined career, or he does whatever he can to quiet things down.

When that politician is the president, whoever’s in the know wields a dangerous amount of power over a figure who himself is tremendously powerful. If a foreign country acquires damning information about the United States’ leader, it could, either by threatening to expose past indiscretions or by laying a sexual trap, twist international policy to its benefit. A domestic group could also hold dirty little secrets over the man in charge to draw special favors.

That — not some vague concept of the president as perfect role model — is what makes it newsworthy that a president or presidential contender may have paid a bunch of people not to say they had adulterous sex with him.

Trump’s case differs a bit from the typical politician’s; he didn’t have much good-guy credit to start with, and whatever he did possess he has long since spent, so the Daniels affair doesn’t seem to have hurt him so far. But it doesn’t matter whether an admission from someone such as Daniels does hurt Trump. It only matters that he thinks it might. We’ve now heard from multiple women who claim that Trump slept with them and didn’t want the world to find out. We’ve heard that his lawyer went through contortions to hush up a hush-up. What we don’t know is what else the president and all his men would do to keep something hidden.

New details about the Stormy Daniels situation emerge every day now, all unverified. They include tales about Trump’s preferences and peculiarities, from his fondness for Forbes magazine to the comparison Daniels says he made between her and his “beautiful, smart” daughter. The salaciousness entertains us, and it repulses us, too. But it’s the secrecy that should scare us.

Read more:

President Trump is the freest man alive

The president, the porn star and us

The sexual revolution isn’t going away. It never really happened.

The #MeToo movement should end Hollywood’s narrow thinking about sex