Can We Please Kill the Headline “He Cheated”?

Tom Matlack believes the ‘cheater news cycle’ cheats us out of more important discussions.

There are two kinds of sexual scandals: those that deal with consensual sex and those that deal with sex that is not consensual. One is newsworthy because it’s a crime and one, frankly, is not. Why is it, then, that spend so much time reporting on consensual sex and under-reporting sexual abuse?

Last week we published the tragic suicide note of Trey Malone, an Amherst College student who was abused and did not receive adequate help. The note, and subsequent controversy around our publishing it, haunted me just as it did when I first read it. As if to bookend the week, on Friday, David Petraeus–who is perhaps the most respected general of our time–resigned as CIA Director for having an affair.

The two events gave me an opportunity to think, and experience first hand, what we talk about when it comes to male sexuality and how we are collectively missing the point.

I don’t mean to be flip, but my first reaction on hearing the story was, in light of Trey Malone who fucking cares about David Petraeus having an affair?

I mean really, people, are we just about done with the headlines about Tiger, Arnold, Clinton and all the rest?

We’ve created this beast which is a supposed “news” infrastructure built around the hunt for the next celebrity bad boy found with his pants around his ankles in the consensual loving embrace with someone he shouldn’t be having sex with based on his marital status.

True love is something that we all aspire to find, I believe. We are hardwired to want love and to be loved. And it’s a difficult thing to do and be. If you are human you know that. We all stumble, fight, and love in the best way we know how. And hopefully we find that one person that we can crawl into bed with and know there is no other who could ever take their place.

Somehow we have gotten into this ground-hog day news cycle of powerful men who have sex outside their marriage as the absolute top story at even the most respected news organizations.

I say: shame on all of us.

Tiger Woods is the best golfer of his generation, perhaps of all time. He cheated like crazy and his wife found out, chasing him around with a golf club. That is sad indeed. Tiger was certainly going to have to pay dearly in his personal life for his lack of fidelity. But he didn’t commit any crime. His transgressions didn’t have anything to do with playing golf.

So under what set of national priorities, does it become imperative for Tiger Woods to hold a huge press conference to admit his infidelities?

In a sense we are culpable in the cheater news cycle. They wouldn’t be holding press conferences to disclose cheaters if we weren’t all watching. It’s up to us to put down the obsession just as much as it incumbent on the supposed hard news outlets to stop playing to the lowest common denominator.


There is a flip side to the Petraeus story: how much does the personal ethics of a man count towards how we judge him in the public eye?

David Petraeus is perhaps the best-known general of our time. The Iraq War—started based on misinformation about weapons of mass destruction—was an unmitigated disaster when he took over. He was the one who finally figured out that when your goal is to create democracy, as futile as that might be, you can’t just bomb the shit out the people you are trying to help indiscriminately. You actually have to win their hearts and minds. To the extent we had even the appearance of any success in Iraq it was due to his change in strategy and leadership on the ground.

How does his screwing around with his biographer rank in importance to turning a mass U.S. killing field into something that resembled an attempt to lift up a nation from armed conflict?  I don’t know. You tell me. On Veteran’s Day we might want to think about his service before humiliating him for consensual sex.


The other thing that happened this week, of course, is that we re-elected President Obama. The most popular tweet of all time was of him hugging his wife after he won. A viral YouTube video shows him crying while addressing his campaign staff.

Who the heck knows what happens behind closed doors, but our President certainly seems like he is devoted to his wife and kids. He appears to be a good guy in his personal life.

So my question is whether or not that matters? And if so, how much?

I also got myself into trouble leading up to the election by questioning how much impact the election, however it would turn out, would really have on our country given how broken, in my view, the system is in terms of money in politics and how similar Romney and Obama are on foreign policy, among other things.

Shortly after the election, someone posted an image of dead Afghan babies on my Facebook wall. The question raised in the post was whether President Obama would be held accountable for the death of innocent civilian children across the globe at the hands of the U.S. Military.

Just like putting stories of infidelity ahead of criminal acts of rape is missing the point, the question when it comes to Obama and Petraeus isn’t whether or not they love their wives. That’s a private matter.

It’s whether or not they made the right call when ordering the death of thousands of human beings in the name of freedom.


As the son of Quaker pacifists, I have a strange obsession with war. I want to know what causes us as men to fight. Along with our sexuality it is a defining part of modern manhood that I can never quite understand. But I do try.

Recently I have been reading the book by the Navy Seal who was part of the mission that killed Bin Laden. I also recently re-watched Black Hawk Down, the story of the 1993 ill-fated U.S. action in Somalia.

In both cases, what becomes clear is how little regard our highest trained troops have for our political leadership. They rarely think about the larger significance of their mission. Their loyalty is to the man next to them. No further.

So let’s start telling the truth about war.  And about sexual abuse. And stop worrying about how men and women attempt to find love and screw it up over and over again. The scandals do nothing but obfuscate the most important issues of our time.

About Tom Matlack

Thomas Matlack is a venture capitalist.


  1. I’m 53 and, having begun my first committed relationship at 20, have never “cheated” on anyone. Nor has anyone ever “cheated” on me. I’ve never had or wanted a monogamous relationship. I’ve spent the bulk of my life in three long-term relationships, of 14, 7, and (currently) 10 years duration. (They keep dying on me.) Cheating was never possible because cheating requires breaking a promise. Our promises involved loyalty, trust, and respect, none of which in my mind and heart have anything to do with the fool’s gold of sexual exclusivity.

    I don’t believe any of my relationships have ever suffered due to the conspicuous absence of monogamy. Quite the reverse, actually. Please understand I’m not claiming to be some sort of paragon of character: I’m as capable of jealousy and insecurity as the next guy. I’ve just managed to avoid enshrining my character defects as virtues.

    I am of course a gay man. No doubt now that my always desperate-to-finally-be-chosen-first-for-basketball peers are achieving marriage equality, we’ll soon be faced with mandatory marriage, mandatory monogamy, mandatory child bearing, and for all I know, mandatory suburbia as well. When it comes to sexuality, we’re still very much the stuff of our hysterical Puritan forebears: anything not forbidden is compulsory.

    I’m sad gay men are following the majority’s example when I honestly believe the world would be a better place if, instead, our alleged vice were to become available as everyone’s versa. My best hope is that we’ll do exactly what the christianists fear we will – change the institution of marriage beyond recognition – but the odds strike me as poor. More likely, we’ll have a 60% divorce rate, an 80-hour work week, selfish ignorant children being raised by minimum wage slaves, and an unexamined (and therefore shakeable) conviction that wealth is the greatest possible good.

    In the meantime, it breaks my heart that heterosexual men are forced to choose between sexual poverty and “cheating.” That the former is called virtue and the latter is the stuff of entertainment headlines (journalism being dead) is a symptom, not the disease.

    “Can We Please Kill the Headline ‘He Cheated’?” No, of course not. Not until we scour the bullshit it’s based on from our minds and hearts.

  2. We put these generals and military officers on a pedestal and worship them and say they can do no wrong….or just look the other way….the stuff that is happening on the side is not important or harmful….that that silly shenanigans on the side has no consequences….that it is only gonna hurt his wife and his lover (ie., it’s just his women….so what?)….Just ignore it all…it has no ramifications on security or top secrets…

    If anything, we need to really look at them all the closer and at all the lies and B.S. they put before the American public….why do we have to eat that garbage?

  3. These evolutionary explanations are the mother of all retrospective explanations. They take things as (we think) they are, then come up with a way evolution “must have” led to it. Some few hundred years ago, when women were thought to be the more naturally promiscuous sex, they would probably have explained that.

    Meanwhile there are species where all this is on its head – females massively larger and more aggressive than males, all kinds of mating patterns, and so on. Plus human cultures that are incredibly promiscuous and some that are incredibly prohibitive.

    “Hypergamy” is a description, not a cause. Why do men cheat? Hypergamy. How do you know people are hypergamous? Look at all this cheating men are doing!

    Then there is the question of why women cheat – which happens quite a bit, is on the rise, and is often neglected in these discussions about “how men are and women aren’t.” In this specific case, fer heaven’s sake, a woman cheated on her husband! Did she do that because of “hyperandry?”

    It’s also beside the ethical point. It’s “the devil made me do it” dressed up in old Greek words and scientific lingo. The problem here was dishonesty and unreliability.

    • Not buying it says:

      ” hypergamy is a description not a cause” !!

      I don’t think you understand what an Evolutionary genetic treat means or even how it operates in nature, human or otherwise, although I studied it, I am not only not an expert in it, but even the experts agree that how it express itself in the real world is complicated, nevertheless it is there Sir, make no mistake about it not only is it a fact of life it is actually measurable , not necessarily exact but no difference then statistical analysis of many other things, that never negates the personal choice & agency of self. on an individual level but on a collective gender level it’s a reality,even if it’s not politically correct to your liking.

      • @Not buying it:: I have to disagree with the idea that personal choice and agency trumps the controls and hard-wiring of our lizard brains. You know as well as any that morality is fluid depending upon cultural expectations and circumstances. What one culture views as immoral in one place and time changes over time. Is it immoral for a person living in Ohio in 1860 to have harbored fugitive slaves? Doing so was certainly against the laws of the nation and of the Bible at that time. It seems in consistent to suggests that on the macro level the rules of morality don’t apply the same as they do more broadly.

        • Not buying it says:


          Reality, nature or evolution is more complicated then 2+2=4, Sir.

          Personal choice & agency , can trump trump hard wiring as we know it at the same time by asking how can you explain self sacrifice for an idea or a belief in total disregard for personal survival & staying alive which is one of the most basic hard wired drive! !!???

          It’s more complicated then just hard wiring, at the same time we know even if millions self sacrificed, the majority of the other millions will not.

          • @Not buying it: What we are saying in some ways is similar. I agree that hard-wiring is not the only consideration when analyzing human behavior. Certainly, at any given moment one can and does trump the other. Morality, whatever we think that means over the course of history, is informed and often shaped entirely by our wiring. Personal choice has a much better chance of balancing the influences wiring with the morality of the times if one is informed of the power and agency of their wiring.

            • Not buying it says:

              I agree with you fully , I think we see the same thing we just describing it slightly different, from our point of view, as a matter of fact what you said explains for example way men make more money then women overall! !! It’s not necessarily due to sexism towards women although sexism towards women does exist, I don’t believe 70 cents to the dollar exist because of sexism for the most part, as much as certain people & ideologies do not like to admit the obvious because it’s politically incorrect & doesn’t feel good or sound right.

              • @Not Buying it: The same can said for the debate surrounding why there aren’t more women in politics. I once asked a gorgeous,independent and fiercely intelligent woman why more women didn’t run for the presidency and she said,” Why be the president when you can marry him?” Her point was, among other things, that a woman can gain the advantages of power without having to make the enemies and make the tough decisions which can isolate one from their pod. Also, the person in leadership must behave in ways that are more masculine without complaint.

                No one wants to hear the leader of the free world discussing how see feels bad because she doesn’t meet some arbitrary standard of beauty.

      • Hypergamy is an observed phenomenon. Of course it exists. Saying that it is “genetic” or hardwired is one step further – it’s asserting what caused hypergamy. I’ve never seen anything estimating its heritability, associating it with a genetic locus, or producing/eliminating it with genetic manipulation (if you know otherwise let me know). Since it’s a fact and everything biological was “caused” by evolution, telling a story about how evolution “caused” anything you observe is easy. Proving why evolution could not have come up with exactly the opposite solution (as it often does in different species, read up on hyenas’ social structure) is what is lacking. These theories, fundamentally, aren’t falsifiable.

        Hypergamy also has to do with marriage, not affairs. That may well be a different thing than “mate choice,” since up until recently marriage had little to do with with the newlyweds’ choices, at least among the reasonably affluent.

        It also seems to be dropping off, and even reversing in some places, as the education gap between men and women narrows, which again rubs up against the idea of this being a hardwired gender difference rather than a product of circumstance. It’s not like women are hard-wired to be less educated, so if all it takes is equal education to reverse it I can’t see how this hard-wiring theory holds up.

        As I see it, you can tell lots of “evolutionary” tales, about either “predatory” men out to spread their seed wide or equally predatory women wanting to move up a social ladder. None of them shed light, most of them just shift blame.

        To me, it’s about two people who did a stupid thing and deceived their spouses and others that were important. Most of the noise about evolution is just that.

        • Not buying it says:


          Okay pat let me turn off the back ground noise, Evolution or otherwise & let me simplify the point I am trying to make, deceiving my wife as negatively it might be perceived when you looking at it throw the lenses of morality regardless of whether it’s religious based or even using an atheist’s moral lenses is what it is if you look at it very objectively & with No personal or societal based judgment, a man cheating on his wife for whatever reason Evolutionary or otherwise an act or behavior that relatively a fair number of men (like wise amen) engage in.

          The point I am making is that person is not necessarily untrustworthy to do his job just because he is untrustworthy to be a faithful husband or wife.

        • Not buying it says:

          @ pat

          It’s almost absolutely unanimous among Evolutionary psychologist the simple fact that the majority of females in many species are hypergamous, heck it exist in males in some species as pronounsd as human females, the difference is it’s not so pronounced in (male humans) because other traits are more useful.

          Some females are less hypergamous then others, but on average it’s a known and acknowledge trait associated with human females worldwide & throw history.

      • Not buying it says:

        ” It’s also beside the ethical point. ( it’s the devil made me do it ) dressed up in old Greek words & scientific lingo.”

        Morality & it’s limits or boundaries is what we as a society decide what it is, it’s not inherently something that exist without us creating it, just like we invented religion, judo-Christian values that are similar to other morality tenant created by civilization that never came into contact with judo- Christian philosophies therefore I certain aspects of morality as we know it were central for creation of civilization all over the world for example ( the ten commandments are shared to some degree or the other ) between any civilization that grow to be called a civilization, morality is an evolving thing that has a place in Evolution only to the degree it gives it’s followers advantage in succeeding Evolutionary speaking, it’s what we humans & a society make of it plus nature.

        • Not buying it says:

          sorry for any typo errors in my comments folks, I am using a so called smart phone with automatic spilling & writing on top of trying to write before the refreshing software swallows what I wrote, sorry again.

    • @Pat: For me, simplistic moralizing, based upon a moment in human history, isn’t sufficient enough to provide logical evidence for why people, not just Mr Patraeus and Mrs Broadwell choose to “cheat”. Besides that we have no way of knowing exactly what the conditions of the relationships were between the parties involved. Most are speculating based upon presumptions about the Judeo Christian ethics of those involved.
      The truth is, according to the latest Kinsey Report,in over 150 countries, infidelity is the number one causation for divorce.
      How do we know that some women choose men for long term relationships based upon his status,power and wealth because proof is all around us.Growing up I came fact to face with this behavior in my mid twenties. Some women, most of them aspiring middle class wannabe’s, openly said they were after “three piece suits” or a men who drove a BMW’s.

      Interestingly, just a decade earlier while in high school, many of these same females used a much different standard for judging how to determine the qualification of potential mates and who to have sex with. Generally speaking, for women in high school and in college they place much less emphasis on material goods as a qualifier of worth in men for the purposes of relationships.
      As you wrote there are exceptions and variations but that doesn’t mean that hyper gamy isn’t among those variations. Personally, I think hyper gamy exists in the preponderance that it does in Western culture because we live in a capitalistic model, Judeo Christian of living and everything has a price.

    • @Pat: I have not in anyway, at least to my knowledge, inferred or suggested that the individuals involved in this scandal are not responsible for what they did. I am not saying that they shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions and to the people they hurt.

      I am saying that if we lived in a society that acknowledged that fluidity of human sexuality and that relationships are not always monogamous and that its OK and not immoral to have multiple sex partners there would be less infidelity and unhappiness around sex.
      In many professions, men are pressured into accepting conventional arrangements as a sign of their maturity and advanced emotional intelligence and ability to comply with the rules of society. For this he is often handsomely rewarded. In major sports of all kinds we have seen a resurgence of this ideology. In sports, men compete to demonstrate who can be the most fatherly and domestic and the advertisers love it.
      Because of these great societal pressures many men and women don’t have the courage or the vision to even imagine that THEY can live their lives differently. Living outside the boundaries and will of one’s culture takes the kind of determination and fortitude that few ever have.

  4. Double Standard much, the woman in this case, from what I have seen was also married, apparantly she is getting a book deal, doing the talk show circuit, and generally going to make a ton of money. AND BTW, that pretty much wraps up what happens to all the women who have affairs with married men.

    • Usually the women that have affairs with these type of men are less recongonized so they receive less public scrutiney for their behavior. Although, I’ve heard plenty of nasty comments for the woman in this case, Monica Lewinsky and Tiger Wood’s mistresses. I don’t know if Tiger Wood’s mistresses got book deals. I don’t remember them getting that. There is a double standard that exists regarding powerful men and entitlement to sex though. Sometimes there is even a code of honor among other men to keep these kind of behaviors under the table. Which is why the CIA agents where allowed to get away with what they had been doing for so long..and seriously..probably still are doing. It’s strange to me how some men rather honor other men’s bad behavior out of a code of “respect” to that man over actually doing the right thing. Such as what also happened when JFK was President.

      • Not buying it says:


        Me cheating on my wife as long as it does not effect the rules of my job (national security, performance of my duties, etc…) shouldn’t be grounds for losing my job or position as long it doesn’t contravene with the rules & laws related to my job or position period, I believe in the case of anybody in the CIA & jobs like it with protocols that prohibit that behavior, they should lose their job man or woman.

        the point is a man cheating on his wife is no different then a woman cheating on her husband when. she is in the public eye due to her position period.

        • I agree that a man cheating on his wife is no different than a woman cheating on her husband. I also stand by what I said above.

      • Not buying it says:

        The act of cheating on your mate in itself shouldn’t be grounds for dismissal, this idea that men in power & women who are attracted to them due to hypergamy should be disallowed since it’s morally wrong on any grounds religious or otherwise is foolish, idiotic & based on emotions.

        Evolutionary psychology proves for a fact & without a doubt women & men will engage in that behavior at any price due to human Evolutionary predisposition.

      • @Erin: It depends on the woman and how her behavior, in a given context, is perceived culturally. Madonna, whether one thinks she is current or not, proved my point recently on Ellen DeGeneres Show and in her personal history, as well.
        She appeared on the show wearing suburban chic dominatrix gear, ( which she told everyone where they could find it online( mainstream com modification of sex,gotta love it!) and in tow she had a clutch of male subs of different races,(mustn’t discriminate when you want to dominate) on leashes. The crowd, one of the biggest for that time slot, went wild. Ellen and her show are

        The point is that Madonna,a woman and feminist icon, with a reputation for fucking the husbands and boyfriends of other women, has benefited from doing so and from otherwise promoting a hedonist sexual lifestyle to middle class American women, which encourages risk taking,variety,control, Madonna has packaged her behavior as revenge-backlash-feminists- sexual -behavior that empowers women, especially young women.

        That she has marketed herself this way, is not accidental. The risks and the costs of stardom don’t allow for much experimentation. So much, too much, is made of the power of slut shaming. To my knowledge, no one has ever called Marilyn Monroe a slut for fucking the First Lady’s husband. In fact, true to form, she has viewed has been written of as a helpless victim, the beautiful woman lured into bed by the hypnotic Svengali like powers of the all powerful “MAN”. As far as Monica concerned, didn’t she deserve to at least suffer some public scorn and condemnation for what she did?

        This is what truly baffles me about your position, you seem to not care at all about the women like Hillary and Jackie who get burned by these women who go after their husbands.Neither Marilyn nor Monica was not raped, they consented. Yet she had the gall to go on national TV defending her self. She did so because positions like yours play politics with right and wrong,are terribly intellectually inconsistent which creates a window for this creepy backlash logic that ignores the duplicity of the behavior of women because blaming men works better. This way we never have the conversation about why women ruin the lives of other women by fucking their partners/husbands. We stay stuck in the same ole discussion which places all the blame on powerful men, which becomes a metaphor for all men.
        The code of honor you speak you could have no way of ascertaining definitively if such a thing exists and to what degree it is practiced if it exists. I hear of and have known of guys getting “ratted out” all the time. Lot’s of guys, just read some of the threads,would not , for a moment condone or ignore Mr Patreaus’ behavior. The biased narrative tells us, without any real substantiation or proof beyond hearsay, that all men can be expected to cover for the adulterous behavior of another man.

        It has also come to light that Mrs Broadwell sent threatening email letters to another woman she suspected of being attracted to Mr. Patreaus.Imagine, just for a moment, if Mr. Patreaus had sent threatening letters…

  5. @Not buyin it: I’m sure you know,for reasons you stated, the other side of this coin,the discussion about why some women behave as Mrs Broadwell did, won’t take place. And,of course, as you noted shit isn’t likely to change.We,as a culture, lack courage and vision. Yet, another missed opportunity.

    • Not buying it says:


      There’s no doubt the men are held to a different standard for the same indiscretions, but I believe their is a huge & detrimental difference in this case compared to for example (Tiger woods & others) in this case Sir we have to admit that it does effect the rules set for their occupations & duties I don’t know if you heard the news that his successor in Afghanistan is allegedly involved in similar indiscretions, the nature of their jobs & the risk to national security makes their behavior irresponsible & reprehensible to say the least.

  6. Not buying it says:

    Anybody who thinks that Extramarital affairs between married men in power and women with their hypergamy tendencies is not occurring right now or in the future is delusional or totally unaware of human nature & evolutionary human gender psychology, the simple fact is sexual relations between consenting adults shouldn’t be anybody’s business unless it affects their job performance period.

  7. Not buying it says:

    I do understand that not having any Extramarital affairs is strongly enforced by the CIA in fact more so then the Army, Navy & Air force for a justified fear of counter espionage & a high risk of infiltration, therefore I can see way he should resign, but the point Tom is making is not that it’s more to do with the hypocrisy associated with high status alpha male’s indiscretions when it comes to infidelity & how unlike women although less in numbers to commit the same indiscretions are for the lack of better word & metaphorically speaking are asked to fall on there sword meanwhile women are looked upon as escaping an unhappy relationship, after all divorce rates as dismal as they are prove marriage to be a dead institution & a temporary state at best.

  8. courage the cowardly dog says:

    The man was given a position of trust because he was believed to be trustworthy. His infidelity to the woman who trusted him most in the world is a betrayal of that trust. You are fishing for a reason to justify infidelity. Alot of politics is involved for a general to rise to the level Petraeus rose to. He was a general who said and did things the President liked and thus he was made commander of our forces in Iraq. As to whether Iraq continues to be stable remains to be seen and his success there is unconfirmed. He should resign. When you cheat on your spouse who can really trust you after that. The person who ostensibly knows you best did not know you well enough to forsee the infidelity. Anybody who cheats on their spouse loses all credibility with me.

  9. What Elizabeth said. James Bond fantasy aside, you don’t want your spooks sleeping around.

    Remember when a faction of The Troops referred to him as General Betrayus, and got in trouble for doing the same thing? Seems like an apt nickname as far as his wife is concerned. More so if he cheated on Other Woman #1.

  10. Me again. Just went and read the heartbreaking Trey Malone note in light of your comment. And actually, I think they are related. I think the lack of caring on the part of Amherst, the systemic corruption at Penn State, and General Petraeus and Paula Broadwell’s grandiose fantasy that became all too real are part and parcel of an arrogance of power and position that we need to beat down every time it rears its ugly head. Period. We can’t let power corrupt or we are sunk. And there is a world of difference between a human mistake and systemic corruption. We need to be supportive in the case of the former and vicious in attacking the latter.

  11. No, Tom. Could not disagree with you more in this case. The relationship was inappropriate while they were in Afghanistan and soldiers under his command were getting killed. He was jogging and flirting, even if sex under the desk didn’t come till he was at CIA. There are so many things wrong. First, if you will cheat on your wife, who won’t you cheat on? Second, even if the first is a private issue, this was a public man, betraying our confidence as a nation. Even if you think the blackmail issue is far-fetched, I guarantee you the people around him were at the least irritated if not demoralized by this bad behavior. And the people around him were responsible for the lives of our fighing men and women. Victim of his own grandiose vision of himself as above the law. Crime and now punishment. Sad, for all of them, but important that we can trust our public leaders to tell the truth, and not to cheat — on anyone. If you want to screw around, get unmarried first. Then do what you want, under the desk or on top or it or whatever. And I promise not to care.

  12. While I agree that a lot of journalism has become focused on celebrities and sensationalism, I don’t want to go back to a time where certain things where kept “hush, hush” because of the public accreditation someone might have earned in their life time. Hello JFK right? Who regularly cheated on Jackie and had the men that worked for him work hard to keep her occupied while he played.

    I think the focus on cheating men is a backlash from previous decades where it was well known and well accepted that otherwise committed men had other women on the side. Such as what happened with the CIA agents who were found patronizing prostitutes but it was pretty well regarded that this had been happening amongst the CIA since the dawn of time. I think the focus on these stories is really the public asking for for more transparency socially and personally. Perhaps a higher level of self-awareness for our personal morals? In combination with fighting against the “old boys club” where men kept codes of honor out of respect for other men but who women were usually largely excluded from.

    I thinking knowing the entire picture of someone, enables us to more fluidly acknowledge them more fully as an individual as well. Here is a decorated General that has earned a lot of respect in his life of work, and rightly so, who dishonored himself and his wife in his personal life. There is a duality there that is probably in all of us. Two sides of us. The one we want people to see and the other side we don’t want people to see. But being able to see both sides lets us see how complex people really are. We tend to over fantasize and put on pedestal men that have successful careers. We mistakingly assume that if they are drive, successful men in public, then they are successful in all aspects of their life. Perhaps knowing that certain public figures cheating habits or relationships habits doesn’t add anything to our political lives. But it certainly adds a dimension to our understanding of our personal ones.

    I can understand your point of view Tom and agree with some of it. But I don’t want to go back to a place where it’s simply understood that rich and powerful men will cheat and that we shouldn’t talk about it. There has to be a medium. I think a lot of the conversation that centers around public scandals is really people grabbling with their own code of honor or ethics and the rose-colored glasses we tend to view men specifically in highly respected positions.

    • Valter Viglietti says:

      @Erin: “I don’t want to go back to a time where certain things where kept “hush, hush” ”

      I agree 100%.
      But, there’s a huge difference between revealing uncomfortable personal secrets, and – because of those secrets – firing someone who’s done a fine job.

      If a – let’s say – surgeon is a cheater, IMO it has nothing to do with his ability (and job) as a surgeon.
      If you were to go under surgery, would you choose a mediocre but faithful surgeon, or a cheating but excellent one?
      Sex behaviour (as long as it’s legal) has little to do with one’s ability on his/her job.

      • I’m caught in the middle of that Valter. I understand what you are saying. But I also tend to think people that can’t make the right choices to respect those in their actual family and even himself (because I think he dishonored himself the most), who they love on a personal level, why would they show that code of honor and ethnics on a professional scale? If a man will do something to his own family regarding looking after his own needs first, he will certainly do it professionally too. At least, that’s how I see it. And when you talk about someone holding a military position or government, they aren’t simply making factual choices. They are also making moral ones. Everyday. They are calling tough shots. Much more tough then a surgeon. When the news hit about Tiger Woods, I really didn’t care. He is a sports figure. He isn’t making choices that influence any of us except other people that really enjoy golf on an entertainment level. But when it comes to politicians and Generals and the likes of that, to me, it’s a bit different.

        So I understand what you are saying. I think some people can do their job well and practice all kind of behaviors on the side.. sometimes. But I also think sex behavior isn’t completely seperate from who a person is and how they do their job in other regards. I just see both sides I guess.

  13. Paul Alexander says:

    One of your best pieces ever. You are improving as a writer. It’s slow improvement, but it’s still improvement.

  14. Two points:

    1) The problem is less about sex and more about honor. These guys broke their promises. There is deceit involved. It is entirely valid to be concerned about the judgment of someone in a high place who systematically lies and deceives to avoid revealing a mistake. First because he’s done that, second because he is open to manipulation.

    2) I question the priorities of society for paying Tiger Woods so much in the first place. He created an image that his behavior belied (again, deception). Richard Daly would have made no headlines for this.

    If what these men wanted was to exit their marriages, there are ways to do so that, however painful, don’t involve deception. We can’t see inside closed doors, but we can see that vows were broken and lies told.

    I also wonder what is going to happen when more women are in positions of power and get caught in affairs (I note that the woman he was having an affair with was married). This will be the true test of the double standard.

    • PastorofMuppets says:

      What riles me isn’t that these guys are having affairs, but they’re doing so at a time when they’re supposed to be leading young men and women in battle. These guys’ decisions are sending people into harms way, and possibly to death … and yet they find the free time to sneak around with a mistress, send hundreds (if not thousands) of emails to their paramours, get involved in a sketchy custody dispute and, basically, focus their effort on getting their d**** wet instead of the mission at hand.

  15. “How much does the personal ethics of a man count towards how we judge him in the public eye?” … “On Veteran’s Day we might want to think about his service before humiliating him for consensual sex.”

    He dishonored himself. When you’re the head of the CIA, you simply can’t have the kind of crummy judgement he displayed by boinking his biographer. By the way, can you imagine the ego on a guy who gets involved with his biographer? A whole new meaning to “GFY.”

    All that is alleged to have happened took place while Petraeus was director of the CIA, not as an army general. That’s important to remember here.

  16. Elizabeth Jackson says:

    Tom, you’ve raised some very interesting questions and you’ve made many thoughtful, valid points. You’ve given your readers much to ponder, and that’s a good thing.
    One journalistic note: you buried your lede. Your last paragraph is very powerful & that’s your lede.

  17. Hey Tom, I love courage when I see it. Kudos to you for having the balls to buck the system and speak out against the way our national press treats heterosexual men. If you’re serious about changing how men are depicted for acting on their natural (God given, if you will) instinct to be non-monogamous, you’re not going to convince anyone by demurely asking, “Can we please kill the headline “He Cheated”? Our culture’s answer to your not unreasonable plea is an unequivocal “No.” Why? Because as women showed us in the 1970’s, and gay men courageously proved over the past decade, it requires nothing less than a monumental revolution backed by millions of people who are confident enough about their sexuality to demand that society acknowledges the legitimacy of their behavior. But heterosexual American men as a group are light years away from doing that. Instead, from every station in life, we bow our heads in collective shame as we roll over in silence while the New York Times, on Veteran’s Day, of all days, strips yet another exemplary man of his dignity and stature. Why? For doing what tens of millions of normal, virile, healthy American men routinely do day in and day out. By not speaking out and defending David Petraeus, we signal to each other that we agree that he deserves to lose everything he has worked for in his life. Shame on us.

    As long as heterosexual men in this country continue to remain silent, we give society permission to use our sexuality against us. We’re in the same place gay men were 15 years ago. It took tremendous courage for gay men to come out of the closet and tell the truth to the people they loved. What will it take for heterosexual men to come out of the closet and tell the people they love the truth about how they honestly experience their sexuality? How many more men have to be publicly humiliated before we unite as a gender and demand changes in attitudes about our sexuality.

    • I stopped reading your article when you used the male chauvinistic term, “having the balls to buck the system.”

      Tom Matlock doesn’t buck the system. He supports the system because he denies that our society believes that men are superior to women.

    • Valter Viglietti says:

      @Richard J. Nocera: “For doing what tens of millions of normal, virile, healthy American men routinely do day in and day out.”

      Richard, do not forget marital infidelity is not just about men cheating; it happens to many women as well.
      IIRC, last statistics I read were: around 70% of men, and 50% of women, cheat at least once in their lives (in the West, at least).

      So the issue is not just about the men (although men are much more blamed than women about this), it’s about the myths of marriage and monogamy. Those myths are highly unnatural, contrived and seldom working, yet our society keeps on clinging to them.
      I’d say it’s about time to debunk those myths.

  18. @You raise some interesting points Tom. Your folk have a great history of pacificism in America which is to be admired. I’ve studied recently the question of why men fight in wars and you should checkout the history of war proganda here and in Britian beginnings with WW1.

    Your query seemed to imply you may beleieve that men are perdispsoed to fightng in wars and such but your will find that this is hardly the case, as the history of you folks will attest,, at least in modern warfare. You will also find that after men found out about the horrors of actual war they stopped signing up in droves. Far too much has been made of the all men love war trope and when investigated, even marginally, one discoverers that just how wromg and dangerous that misguided belief is. Men have been compelled to fight in wars using a variety of powerful proganda toolsand methods; most of them having to do with manipulating his sense of masculinity,essentially, shaming him into fighting. One can clearly see this in the posters of the day.

    Some posters encouraged men to fight to prevent the Kasier menace from raping our women, which, of course, meant white women. There is a rich tradition of draft resistance in this country that because of feminism has been all but buried. And far too many men have accepted this lie wihtout looking closely enough at the issues involved.
    .Many men sign up for the miltary to get jobs, or careers and never intend to fight in any wars. Until the economic meltdown in this country, the military was dreadfully behind in its recriutment goals and there was talk of reinstituting the draft. This history deserves a closeer examination before we judge men as wanting to fight in wars. The men of your culture, because of its traditions and because of its strict avoidance of certain aspects of American pop culture gave the men of that culture a viable alternative to masculinity without shaming because of pacifisim. This one hasn’t figured that out yet. Besides when women and children get scared of the terrorist boogeyman who’s gonna be called upon to protect them?


  1. […] the sex scandal at all. Consensual sex between two adults is not newsworthy, according to his post, Can We Please Kill the Headline “He Cheated”? Somehow we have gotten into this ground-hog day news cycle of powerful men who have sex outside […]

  2. […] the sex scandal at all. Consensual sex between two adults is not newsworthy, according to his post, Can We Please Kill the Headline “He Cheated”? Somehow we have gotten into this ground-hog day news cycle of powerful men who have sex outside […]

  3. […] the sex scandal at all. Consensual sex between two adults is not newsworthy, according to his post, Can We Please Kill the Headline “He Cheated”? Somehow we have gotten into this ground-hog day news cycle of powerful men who have sex […]

Speak Your Mind