Why Do We Forgive Adulterous Women?

Most people cheat for the same reason: monogamy can be difficult and boring, and taboo sex with a new partner can be incredibly hot. Men acknowledge it. Why don’t women?

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In a post on the double standard regarding adultery, the author asks, “When was the last time a woman got dragged through the mud for cheating?”

I offer a slightly different question: When was the last time a woman was exposed for cheating—and the story wasn’t crafted around a narrative of love?

It’s true that the conspicuous distinction between Tiger Woods, Charlie Sheen, and Jesse James on the one hand and Elizabeth Gilbert, Tori Spelling, and LeAnn Rimes on the other is that the former are all men and the latter are all women. But a more significant distinction is that the adulterers in the first group all sought extra-marital sex, seemingly, for its own sake. But the adulterers in the second group were all portrayed as having fallen in love. In fact, in all of the examples Tom provided of infamous female adulterers, the women ended up leaving their husbands to form serious relationships with the other men.

The lesson here is that our culture is intolerant of adultery when it seems to flow purely from libido. But when adultery is bound up in story of love, well, we’re willing to look the other way. When Brad Pitt fell in love with Angelina Jolie and left his wife for her, his reputation didn’t suffer. But if ever we should discover a female celebrity with an otherwise solid marriage who is caught serially cheating with dozens of random men, we would see outrage akin to that leveled at Tiger Woods.

It’s a peculiar feature of American culture that we tolerate adultery in the name of love but abhor cheating when it’s fueled by libido. After all, a full-blown love affair is much more likely to end a marriage than a one-night stand. If our condemnation of adultery were primarily about maintaining marital stability, we would cast a much harsher eye on a spouse who allows himself to fall in love than we do on one who merely allows himself to get hot and bothered. But instead, an adulterer only needs to declare his hopeless love and, ideally, marry the person he cheated with, and all is forgiven.

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This peculiarity can be explained by our culture’s deeply romantic view of marriage. In the United States, being “in love” with one’s spouse is not only considered fundamental to a good marriage, but is often the sole criterion on which a marriage may be considered legitimate. A marriage might be otherwise functional in a financial, emotional, and practical way, but if one or the other partners is no longer “in love,” the marriage is declared broken and a sham. There is no other culture in the world that emphasizes the primacy of romantic love within marriage to this extent.

Amazingly, there are people who still believe that women’s libidos are tied strictly to their desire to obtain a long-term commitment from a man. … The conventional wisdom is best summed up with one tiresome cliché: men use love to obtain sex and women use sex to obtain love.

And due to this romantic perspective, there is more sympathy for cheaters who we think did it for love. The thinking goes something like this: if the cheater fell in love with someone else, then they must not have been truly in love with their spouse. And if they weren’t truly in love with their spouse, then it wasn’t a good marriage anyway. By leaving their spouse for their true love, the cheater is actually doing their spouse a favor by letting them find true love elsewhere.

But for cheaters who do it just for the sex? Well, they’re scumbags.

The double standard comes into play when our culture’s romantic view of marriage is mixed up with our misconceptions about male and female sexual desire. Here, the conventional wisdom is best summed up with one tiresome cliché: men use love to obtain sex and women use sex to obtain love.

Amazingly, there are people who still believe—despite glaring evidence to the contrary—that women’s libidos are tied strictly to their desire to obtain a long-term commitment from a man. This mythology conceives of female sexual desire as weak and barely worthy of notice, a mere device intended to serve a woman’s true heart’s desire: landing a husband. Therefore, if a woman already has a husband and she cheats on him, there must be a good reason! To wit:

The romantic ideal says: Adultery is forgivable when it involves falling in love rather than sex for its own sake.

The myth of female sexuality says: Women never have sex for its own sake.

Therefore: A woman adulterer must have done it for love, and can be forgiven.

This myth persists even though the rates of male and female cheating are quickly achieving parity. Like Tom, I personally know of more women who have cheated than men. And conventional wisdom notwithstanding, their motivations sure look a lot like those of men.

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Leaving aside the minority of men who exhibit Charlie Sheen–like compulsive sexual behavior, most people seem to cheat for the same reason: because monogamy can be difficult and boring, and taboo sex with a new partner can be incredibly hot and enticing. Most men acknowledge this depressing but obvious fact. But many women won’t admit it, even to themselves.

Instead, women develop complex narratives to explain their cheating by pointing to problems in the marriage: her husband was neglectful or didn’t make her feel attractive, they weren’t connecting emotionally, they weren’t having enough sex. Time and again I’ve listened to women give me these so-called explanations for their affairs, when it’s perfectly obvious that these marital complaints are post-hoc rationalizations. The plain and simple reason for their affairs—the failure to resist an overwhelming sexual attraction to a new guy—doesn’t even cross these women’s minds because it violates the myth of female sexuality.

But I’m not convinced that the beginning of an affair feels much different for a man or a woman. Imagine a married person who meets someone at work and feels instant chemistry: conversations flow, smiles sparkle, and the attraction is palpable. The married person is tormented by dreams about their co-worker. They think about their coworker while they’re having sex with their spouse. Their heart races and their pupils dilate around their coworker. And eventually, on a business trip together, they end up having sex.

Now if the married person were a man, how would he interpret these feelings? He’d likely say to himself that he was very attracted to his coworker and finally gave in to his sexual desire. Simple.

The truth is, adultery is never truly about “just sex.” Every act of cheating involves some mixture of emotions, which range from bare appreciation of beauty or desire for validation to deep longing. The Greeks had a word for this: Eros.

But how would a woman interpret the exact same feelings? She’d probably begin by analyzing all the things that might be wrong with her marriage, and wonder about all the ways that her coworker might be better for her, and maybe even consider that she’s destined to be with this new person. She couldn’t possibly believe that she did it for pure sexual desire because she’s been taught that women don’t do such things—in fact, women are constitutionally unsuited for such behavior. So there must be a problem with her underlying relationship! She just needs to figure out what it is!

Just as women have been socialized to emphasize an emotional narrative surrounding their sex lives, men have been socialized to focus solely on the physical, to the exclusion of any larger emotional context. But everything humans do involves emotion, and a man’s sex life is no exception. Perhaps if cheating men began using the language of emotions to describe their indiscretions, the public would allow them more leeway. Mark Sanford used this strategy and seemed to garner more sympathy than is usually afforded to politicians.

The truth is, adultery is never truly about “just sex.” Every act of cheating involves some mixture of emotions, which range from bare appreciation of beauty or desire for validation to deep longing. The Greeks had a word for this: Eros.

But in English, we’re stuck with two wholly inadequate words: lust, which is defined as debased and transitory, or love, with all its connotations of permanence, commitment, and obligation. And until our culture stops polarizing male and female sexuality by insisting that men only lust and women only love, the adultery double standard will prevail.

If one day we can admit that women desire sexual novelty and the passion of a new lover just like men do, maybe we’ll start blaming women for cheating. Until then, we’ll invent justifications and back stories that absolve women adulterers of guilt.

—Photo dimitridf/Flickr

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Comments

  1. I think it’s more complicated than you are making it out to be. Of course women have raging libidos and sexual desire, but there does generally need to be some sort of connection for a sexual encounter to take place. From my admittedly limited experience, men can hop on a plane to Vegas and have sex with any hot random stranger who seems up for it, while women rarely do this. We might have sex purely for pleasure outside our marriages, but there has to be some sort of emotional connection to our partners.

    This could also be a simple safety issue, though. Sex with total strangers can be extremely dangerous, for women. There is also the issue of sexual pleasure. What are the odds that a totally random stranger is going to be able to bring me to orgasm? No pleasure + possible psycho = no random sex.

    There definitely does seem to be a double standard, though. But I think it’s a complicated standard.

    • Andrea, you overlook the basic fact… those men who are hopping on those planes to Vegas have sex with strangers….

      Female strangers, mostly.

      So your whole ‘women don’t have quick casual one night stands’ is bogus. Maybe *you* don’t but you can’t speak for all women.

      If not, who are all these men having sex with? Themselves?

      • Good point. I guess I assumed a lot of sex was taking place with professionals – women who trade sex for cash, which is perfectly legitimate enterprise, as far as I’m concerned.

    • Jesus, enough with the MRM rants. So tired of the same b.s. complaints in every thread whether or not they are relevant to the topic at hand.

      If you think you are getting recruits this way Eoghan, think again. I was sympathetic to a lot of the MRM points until it became MRM week and all the psychos came outta the closet and ranted on every single page.

    • Sex with strangers can also be dangerous for men, no question about it. I claim that it is particularly dangerous for women because women are, on average, smaller than men. That means if any given woman ends up in a physical altercation with any given man, she is likely to lose. I don’t think it’s misandry to note than men are still, on average, physically bigger and stronger than women. It would be misandry to assume that EVERY man is willing or interested in using that force to hurt women. Clearly, that is not true, and the overwhelming majority of men are kind and decent and use their strength to protect women. But it doesn’t take EVERY man to create an atmosphere of danger. It just takes ONE.

      You seem like the male version of the fly-off-the-handle screeching feminist harridan. Neither one is especially attractive.

      • Actually, that’s a very good point. In my day, I had lots of sex with lots of different men and never had a bad experience. In fact, most of it was pretty great. I haven’t personally met any men whom I felt posed a danger to me, but it seems to me that these men DO exist.

        I’ll have to think about it.

        • Andrea

          If you were a bisexual women who liked to have one night stands with strangers and both the genders were of average size and shape, just as you would be. Out of the two which one of the two has the potential to cause more of a physical threat?

          • titfortat,
            Since Andrea doesn’t answer, I’d guess the woman would be much more likely to hit her. Most men would NEVER hit a woman – no matter what. If her girlfriend hit her people would be reluctant to help her, it her boyfriend hit her …. guys would come from everywhere to help.

      • Clearly you dont understand violence. You can be just as violent without ever raising a fist to an individual. Sometimes one needs ask themselves if maybe their words are a violent expression of what is buried in their soul. I need look no further than countless MRA/feminist individuals to prove this point. Do you fit that bill?

      • The difference between you and I is I do not hide my image or information. If anyone is posing on here it is you sir. Click on my name and you will clearly see who I am. I am John, a man who does not concur with all of your sentiments. Though you do have some valid points. Now afford me the same courtesy.

    • Catullus says:

      You haven’t been on Adult Friend-Finder before, have you?

    • Chimichanga

      You dont need to go to prison to have that concern. I have been out countless times in the past when that was a concern for me and my friends. Potential physically vulnerable situations should make us all pause to ponder the outcome.

    • I have not once in my lifetime ever considered the threat of “false rape accusation, paternity fraud, hypergamy” and I have yet to meet another man who has either. Does that mean the threat doesn’t exist? Probably not. But I’d be surprised if it is something that crosses men’s minds in any significant numbers.

      On the other hand, I do know several women who have been assaulted sexually by men in their lifetimes. I would say that most of, if not all the women I know consider safety a significant issue when sexual encounters are considered. Not one of them is a ‘mysandrist’, rather they are simply concerned about their immediate well being.

      Men do get abused too, and sometimes it’s by women. But for this discussion, I think Andrea’s initial comment is perfectly reasonable.

      This is just my perspective.

      I don’t understand why these discussions turn so defensive and hateful so quickly. If men and women stopped to listen to each other, I mean truly listen, we would have less division and more understanding.

      I’d like to suggest to some of the posters here who seem to be so angry, why don’t you try to be helpful and constructive rather than perpetuate all this noise???

      • Transhuman says:

        Men, rightly or wrongly, are not as fearful as women. Most men are under the mistaken belief they can take care of themselves, women do not. Men actually suffer more violence than women do, when you consider all forms of violence, but are less afraid of it. The lack of fear men feel doesn’t make them safer.

  2. Sounds like you and the “female hypergamy” apologists could have a terrific debate.

    • Blixa Scott says:

      Care to expand? Who/what are the female hypergamy apologists?

      • Catullus says:

        It’s wrapped up in the imaginations of millions of male ditto-heads, who take the commonplace observation that women want men who can pull their weight and mix in their own frustrations. My cousin makes twice what the guy his wife left him for makes. Of course he might have kept her if his idea of a birthday gift wasn’t a crumpled twenty-spot in a blank card he got at a convenience store on the way to the Padres game. But no, he sings the hypergamy tune, gritting his teeth all the while at the two kids his ex has had by the new guy.

        • Catullus says:

          The more I look at the wider beliefs of many men who lend credence to hypergamy, the more I see a self-stultified man exactly as Henry Miller describes him. Sad, too, because the answers propogated by Epicurus are as elementary as they are elegant.

          There is no god to uplift or condemn us. There is no life after this one. What we really need is easy to obtain (to which I would add, if we but remove the barriers to all). What really pains us is easy to endure (if only we’d truly act like peers).

  3. It is one of thousands of anti-male double standards that are hardly even surprising in a feminist man-hating world.

    However, it is not a very relevant one. The ugly stamp of feminist hate is rather faint. Discussions about infidelity are more likely to lead to woman-bashing, which is counter productive and completely contrary to the MRM mission.

    We fight to protect men, and children, from feminist hatred. We have NOTHING against women. I will not participate in a discussion that is likely to quickly devolve into woman bashing. Both men and women are occasionally unfaithful, and in about equal numbers. This is not a gender issue.

    Societal acceptace of female infidelity, while condemnining male infidelity, is a gender issue. Howevwer, it not important enough to entertain the inevitable woman bashing that will follow.

    Count me out.

    • People who hate men are not feminists, period. The goal of feminism is to break down roles based on flawed stereotypes (women = nurturers, men = workers, men are sexual, women aren’t etc.) so that people can choose to parent, work in their area of interest, express their sexuality and ultimately are more able to determine their own course in life without being told that “men don’t” or “women don’t” do or feel ______.

      Neither men nor women deserve a pass for infidelity, but the real issue here is that people’s sex lives are part of public dialogue at all. No man or woman who has an affair is automatically less qualified to do their job unless there is job-specific wrongdoing involved. It’s just lurid fascination that male and female public figures tap different PR scripts to try to answer before it destroys their careers.

      If you are working for rights, your goals are in line with those of feminism. If MRM targets feminists, then it’s like (anthropomorphized) apples attacking oranges because they don’t want to be picked, ignoring the fact that the orchard owner is doing it for profit. Bad legal policy or an inadequate education system isn’t the result of misandry, it’s the result of powerful people, men and women, making or perpetuating bad policy.

      I very much hope that activism supporting rights, justice and resources for all people doesn’t turn into infighting between feminist women/men and people who want rights for men, because that is movement self-cannibalism and will ensure that the fight doesn’t go where it needs to: toward policy (in any realm of life) that is flawed.

      • Scavengergirl says:

        I agree. Feminism isn’t about hating men & I wish people could get that through their heads.

        What exactly is “feminist hatred”?

        • “If you are working for rights, your goals are in line with those of feminism.”

          Feminism is hate, and you know it. The current feminist campaign to dehumanize and humiliate young boys is proof enough of that. The objective of feminism is to reduce men and boys to a status of slaves who must work as beasts of burden at the command of their feminist owners.

          Besides, this story is about banalities like free passes for infidelity. If we are going to discuss the feminist orchestrated man & boy holocaust, it should be in a proper forum. Not here.

        • The intentional propagation of negative stereotypes about men in order to obtain increased public funding is the principle way in which feminists express hate.

          The more hot air that feminists pump into their fantasy construct of the “deranged predator” male, the more public funding is made available to them. Once this formula became the primary avenue for funding feminist programs, the hate war was under way. It has never stopped. Today, the main target is no longer men, but boys. There is no limit to the darkness within the heart of a feminist.

  4. “If one day we can admit that women desire sexual novelty and the passion of a new lover just like men do, maybe we’ll start blaming women for cheating. “ – Blixa

    I don’t think women always desire sexual novelty and passion in necessarily a “new” lover “just like men do”. I think many woman would be happy with the same partner if *he* brought sexual novelty and passion through new sexual adventures. Where as a man might be happy with okay sex as long as he had a new partner to indulge with. One isn’t better then the other because both can hold unrealistic expectations. While women can be just as gulity of impulsive negative sexual behavior, I do still think most women crave stability and deeper emotional intimacy. Which is why these women ended up making these relationships long terms ones when they cheated. Not saying it was the right way to go about it and I am not giving them a free pass but you’re never going to see a woman go on a bender sleeping with male porn stars and running wild like you’ve seen with such male figures like Tiger Woods and Charlie Sheen. Women have sexual desire just like men do. But women’s sexuality isn’t a mirror image of men’s own impulsive behavior. It’s the reason why when women go to a male review they laugh about it and hoot, they aren’t turned on. But when a man goes to a female strip club? They are very turned on.

    “Until then, we’ll invent justifications and back stories that absolve women adulterers of guilt.” – Blixa

    But we have done the same for male adulters that’s relationships turned into committed ones too right? Just as you showed with Brad Pitt. So this isn’t really jsut a female/male issues as it is a social acceptance of cheating for love for cheating for sex.

    • Wanted to add to my own post, lets just look at how much Charlie Sheen as gotten away with. A man with children by two different women. Who I’ve read some comments from other men that think he is “the man” because he’s banging strippers right next to the hotel room of his own family.

      • catullus says:

        Thin ice, Erin, thin ice. Are women ‘getting away with something’ when they have children by different men? Is it any less ignominous when they ‘bang’ other men away from home?

    • Blixa Scott says:

      Hi Erin,

      I think you’re right that the extreme end of the cheating spectrum (Charlie Sheen, etc.) is populated mostly if not entirely by men. But my sense is that your much more common, every-day type of cheating (i.e. the office affair) looks very similar between men and women.

      You said “I do still think most women crave stability and deeper emotional intimacy.” I agree. But I think most MEN crave stability and deeper emotional intimacy too.

      In my experience (and let me just give the standard caveat that we’re all biased towards our own social groups and anecdotes and subcultures within which we move, etc.) many men AND women essentially want to have their cake and eat it too.

      I think many of us want the stability and intimacy of a long-term pair bond AND we want the passion and excitement of a new partner. But we also most decidedly don’t want our partners to have anything on the side. So we’re sexual hypocrites stuck in a conundrum. Historically, powerful men have solved the problem by having a wife and having mistresses. So they did get to have their cake and eat it to. But most people don’t have this luxury, so they negotiate a compromise — usually monogamy.

      Our experiences are obviously different, and we can agree to disagree, but I think many women DO desire sexual novelty with a new partner. And I think it’s a problem to deny this for two reasons:

      1. Because if women think it’s abnormal or even just highly unusual, then it leads them to over-analyze their desires and imagine there must be a serious reason if they experience an extra-marital attraction (whereas men just think it’s natural), which leads women to giving too much credence to those attractions, which in turn can lead to unnecessary marital dissolution.

      2. Because if men think it’s abnormal for women to desire sexual novelty, they unnecessarily blame themselves if their partner strays, and may not require that their partner take full responsibility for her actions.

      • I don’t know very much about cheating, but I was under the impression that the majority of infidelity occurs because of fear, not greed. People do not “want” more than they have, but they think that their partners may “want” more than them — and so they cheat preemptively.

        However, I could be wrong. I certainly never felt like cheating on my wonderful wife. However, I missed no opportunity to cheat on a violent GF that used threats of police-violence to keep me from leaving the relationship.

        Why is cheating an issue on “The Good Men Project”? This is a gender neutral issue, both men and women cheat equally. Is this to be “The Good Person Project”?!? I don’t get it.

      • catullus says:

        Of course women want sexual novelty. Kudos to you, Blixa, for bringing it front and center to this thread. We all seem to dance around the idea that it’s just plain fun and easy, too, to perpetuate the stereotype that men are shallow and women are deep.

    • J.G. te Molder says:

      Why thank you for misandrist sexist post, Erin. Perhaps you should look up the article right here on the goodmenproject.com of a man who went to a strip club, and totally was not turned on, and neither were all the other men present who went to sit at the bar talking to each other.

      Congratulations further on continuing to reduce men to lusting pigs, and exalting women for having no ability to just lust and need a connection to feel anything.

      I’m certain that all the femi-nazis at NOW and co. that design propaganda posters to shame boys for being boys, and claim male babies are just abusers and rapists waiting to happen, will pat you on the back for towing the party line.

    • Catullus says:

      No one here argues that all women’s desires are indistinguishable from the putative desires of men. I wonder if you simply just subscribe to the shopworn idea that men are shallow, women deep.

  5. I think the reason we are so quick to forgive, or at least be incredulous about, female cheaters is due at least in part to the way we (society) view men and the archaic gender roles we appear to want to cling to until the bitter end.
    Society generally perceives women as being the domesticators of men, as though they are some wild marauding band of lions that must be brought in and quieted with emotional sex and meatloaf every Wednesday night in place of their thrill-of-the-chase bloody zebra steaks and glorious anonymous fucking behind the baobab tree.
    In fact, see how easy it is to charactize one sex through statements about the other? The two side of the same coin theory regarding gender is a good one in most cases, but when we are discussing fidelity, it is frequently misleading. Women, due to their archetypal roles within families, are most always viewed as being tied to home hearth and husband, with all three being her primary focus. Men, otoh, are stereotypically viewed as wanting to be FREE from those things, perhaps even constantly suspected of actively looking for a way out from under the confines of familial responsibility.
    Given all this, it’s no surprise that we are so quick to belive that men always DO cheat, always WILL cheat and always WANT to cheat. It’s crap. There are faithful men out there…lots of them. Employing the coin theory, we unconsciously assign the opposite motivations to women, saying that women are more loyal, more commitment friendly, more ‘mature’ etc etc. In our minds, men will forever be the ones who seek out a bit of strange, not women.
    So what about women who do? Why is it so hard for people to believe, or even be comfortable with, the idea of women wanting sex just for the sake of sex? It is a bit hard for our brains to accept. A woman who is clear about her motivations, i.e. just wanting to have nsa sex, is viewed as defective, loose moralled, slutty and as though there is something *wrong* with her…then the killing blow…she is compared to a MAN. Its the same man=bad/woman=good equation that we usually see when discussing sex and sexuality. The point that the author makes about men using love to get sex and women using sex to get love is a good one, and is maybe most often the case, however, there are anomalies.
    When a woman cheats, we say “Well her husband must have been neglecting her” or “She was just empowering herself, he couldn’t give her what she needed” or “She’s having a midlife crisis”. For men we say “Well, what did you expect? He’s a man” or “He’s an asshole” or “How could he do that to her?”. For women, there are *reasons*; for men, there is blame.
    And too, what the author says about rationalizing away the woman’s culpability because she ‘got her needs met’ or ‘fell in love’ outside of her marriage, definitely has it’s place. But men do this too! And we castigate them for doing so. It seems like when a woman strays its the husbands fault for not meeting her needs, and when a man strays is STILL his fault because he didnt try to work it out with his wife. Because we blame men in virtually all scenarios, there is no room to hold women accountable…we simply refuse to label a cheater a cheater without considering their gender, which, for some reason, ALWAYS changes the application of responsibility.

    • Blixa Scott says:

      Natasha, bravo! You make many excellent observations, and this has got to be one of the greatest sentences I’ve read lately: “Society generally perceives women as being the domesticators of men, as though they are some wild marauding band of lions that must be brought in and quieted with emotional sex and meatloaf every Wednesday night in place of their thrill-of-the-chase bloody zebra steaks and glorious anonymous fucking behind the baobab tree.” That made me laugh out loud!

      • Thanks :)

        As a woman whose been behind the baobob tree once or twice, I think you’re right — it’s ridiculous to think that women don’t have the same types of libidinal urges as men.

      • Blixa

        I would disagree with you, this is probably the best sentence I have read in a while. Especially considering its source, a woman.

        “we simply refuse to label a cheater a cheater without considering their gender, which, for some reason, ALWAYS changes the application of responsibility.”

    • Chimichanga says:

      Excellent post! Now, if only I can find a baobob tree and not be considered super slutty or too threatening to men…

      • Something tells me you’d have a hard time finding a tree to your liking chimichanga, given that you : “…do have to take into consideration the “danger factor” when even acknowledging a man in public”.
        Further,
        “I don’t know why [you] do[]n’t “get it” and that every aspect of the world isn’t studied and quantified down to simple figures.”

        Or, yanno, the simple fact that not every man is a fucking rapist.
        In my experience, you normally have to at least LIKE men to have sex with them properly.

      • Something tells me you’d have a hard time finding a tree to your liking chimichanga, given that you : “…do have to take into consideration the “danger factor” when even acknowledging a man in public”.
        Further,
        “I don’t know why [you] do[]n’t “get it” and that every aspect of the world isn’t studied and quantified down to simple figures.”

        Or, yanno, the simple fact that not every man is a rapist.
        In my experience, you normally have to at least LIKE men to have sex with them properly

  6. Anonymous says:

    I would point out another gender double-standard that comes up when people cheat: women have feelings and men have egos. A lot of men’s emotional reactions are dismissed (by men and women) as “just his ego talking.” Gross generalization here, but the stereotype seems to be that when a man needs to feel good about himself he is just stroking his ego (assuming that’s a bad thing), but when a woman wants to feel good about herself she is seeking fulfillment (assuming that’s a good thing).

    These articles have to be brief, so of course they can’t cover everything, but I was disappointed to see very little attention to the possibility that men could also have emotional affairs and not just casual sexual ones. Not all affairs are primarily physical. The emotional ones without any sex can be more damaging to a marriage than the ones that do involve sex. There can be an affair even if no sex took place.

    I think the larger point is that, contrary to stereotype, men may have affairs to seek intimacy, and women may have affairs for sexual adventure. Neither one has the monopoly on any kind of affair.

  7. Henry Vandenburgh says:

    Women’s adultry is like an iceberg. Much more of it than there appears. My first wife stepped out in the first few months of our marriage, and I actually didn’t give it much of a thought– because I have similar tendencies. I had quite a number of affairs with married women, none of them stereotypical “sluts” or “bimbos.” (Not attractive.) I think that open marriages are too “honest” and overheated to be viable, however. So maybe the half-assed compromise is the way to go.

    • Why bother being married? Is it to save rent money? Just curious. Live as you wish. It is no concern of mine.

      • I wonder why Henry would stay married, too. I’m fond of saying that without divorce or adultery, marriage would long ago have been consigned to a curio museum. But that’s because I think the ‘cure’ for adultery is not marrying in the first place.

  8. Henry Vandenburgh says:

    By the way, thanks for the civil and interesting discussion on this thread. I know from having been stationed in Korea (1964) that very quickly I lost interest in porstitutes, so many of us men are interested in intimacy and uniqueness, even in an affair. It’s too much trouble otherwise, in spite of the sexual thrill. I tended to have affairs over periods of time, and interestingly I think, usually knew the woman for several years as a friend first.

  9. Her source is feminist anti man/boy hate doctrine. Feminism is hate. That is all that it is. It has no interest in women’s rights, or even in women’s privileges. It has only one interest: the dehumanization and demonization of men and boys.

  10. Thanks, Tom and Blixa, for a refreshing view of a complex issue. Another angle is what’s missing: the aftermath. Regardless of the bs people tell themselves and others to justify their actions, the reality that’s left behind is often ruined lives: broken families, traumatized pertners, scarred children who will forever struggle with trust in relationships. And it’s remarkable how the “other” -who is enabling the “committed” person to cheat- is let off the hook. If people want to cheat: fine. But have the decency to take responsibility for the years of pain you leave behind. Better yet: think about it before-hand! On another note, in my limited experience with married people who cheat, they are treated thusly: if the man strays, it’s his fault. Just a slob who wants thrilling sex. If a woman cheats, it’s the man’s fault. Just a slob who, if he was a good husband, wouldn’t have been cheated on.

  11. He’s referring to the stereotype, and I have heard that double standard too.

  12. I think men cheating is much more complex than people understand. Men don’t always cheat with someone for physical benefits… in fact, many times… the women they cheat on their wife is not as attractive as their wife. Sometimes even significantly less attractive. So what fills that gap? Emotion, affirmation, perhaps feeling they are with someone who understands them. (Things usually attributed to women who cheat.)

    But on the other hand, I’d venture if there was someway to check this… the men that women cheat on probably are more attractive than their husbands. Just my guess, no way to really prove this though.

    • Blixa Scott says:

      Based on anecdote, I’d say you’re right. But of course, there’s no hard data that I know of — people don’t generally like to talk about this kind of thing with researchers!

  13. Henry Vandenburgh says:

    Being married is a good thing with the right partner. And I don’t agree that the drama of breakup, abandoned children, etc. must necessarily follow with dalliances on either part. I think the unrealistic expectation of super-monogamy has probably conditioned the need for “disasterous” consequences of this trauma-drama sort.

    Funny, I don’t like organized swinging, which I saw once (did not participate.) Not relationship oriented enough, I guess.

  14. I think you raise many valid points but miss the biggest factor here. This double standard with relation to adultery is extremely common and extends to, almost every aspect of life. In general women have rights and men have responsibilities. Women’s mistakes are not judged as harshly as those of men. This is often stated, pejoratively, as the “pussy pass.” It’s effects can be seen everywhere but are most dramatically shown in the sentencing disparity between male and female criminals.

    In fairness though, there is an area where women are judged much more harshly than men and that’s in parenting. A father who does a minimal amount of parenting can be viewed as a decent father where a mother doing the same would be considered a terrible mother.

    Both of these cases are wrong in my opinion.

  15. Just to consider, sex starts and finishes in your head. I have found that sex and novelty in a marriage are bounded by the power dynamic of the relationship. If the dynamic is unsuitable, you seek arousal (good feelings) elsewhere. Cheating starts in your head. I don’t think extra-marital sex makes much difference, it only confirms the dysfunction. At some point the power structure of the relationship will render one of the partners intimately inaccessible. Sexual novelty I would think is a direct reflection of the relationship novelty, bounded by the power dynamic. Sex in a marriage can be much like a summary statement to reconcile against the relationship. Like a bank statement at the end of the month.

    Sexual novelty and intimacy is also an expression of personal maturity. I f my partner cheats on me (for me it doesn’t require extra-marital sex) I have to ask which direction the intimacy isn’t flowing. But better she be gone to pursue her course and for me to be free of the abuse applied to justify it.

  16. Lol….idk…I’m having trouble trying to classify any type of sex I’ve ever had as being “wholesome” haha….

    But — yes, the ‘virginal’ attributes applied to women are why we (as a society) are still mostly shocked when we see a woman behaving with the sexual attitude that we typically apply to men, i.e. serial sexual encounters and/or nsa sex. These aren’t necessarily ‘male’ sexual behaviors or preferences, just the ones we apply to them.

  17. I’ll admit that women’s solidarity, which I generally applaud, has one huge flaw. It’s the near-unanimous affirmation of women’s emotional expectations as always being reasonable. Even sentiments that are unbecoming in children are somehow expected to be taken seriously if expressed or demanded of a man by a woman. I’m hardly an expert, but I suspect this has arisen in tandem with the triumph of Nat Branden’s odious take on ‘self-esteem.” It also dovetails nicely with—you guessed it—the stereotype that men are shallow, women are deep.

  18. Yes, I can see that it’s changing, and I am very glad of that. But I am very nervous of a MEN’S movement that claims there are no real differences between men and women.

    Example: lots of things utterly SUCK about divorce laws, but I truly believe that most children, especially young children, need their mamas. I would rather see laws that make it difficult for women with young children to divorce than see young children having to split custody with their fathers. Not because fathers are not important – they demonstrably are, but rather because there is, or ought to be, a special relationship beween a young child and his mama.

    Some women are just bona fide witches – zero maternal instinct and all about the shoes and the clothes and screw the kids – but the vast majority of women are not like that at all. Most babies are better off with their mothers.

    So how do we create a world where fathers can be fathers without being at the mercy of vindictive women? I don’t know. But I hate to think some misguided notion of Pure Equality will be our answer, because the only ones who suffer are the children. Ok, not the only ones. But they suffer the most.

    • Anonymous says:

      Getting a little far afield from the cheating question here, but if you’re saying the mother is the more important parent, I respectfully disagree, or at least I would say there are some problems with that statement. There are lots of individual cases where the mom is better at childrearing than the dad, but when men are forced to be parents they can do just as good a job as women can. (I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I agree with Gloria Steinem on this point. Let the flak commence.)

      The idea that men aren’t as good at taking care of children is an idea that’s holding women back. This puts pressure on women to stay at home, treats divorced dads as exiles, and heaps guilt on women who let fathers be the main childcare providers. Let’s just stir up the can of worms further and note that men are often defined as far less trustworthy with children, which is horrible to men who are trying to parent and gives a pass to men who want to opt out. Defining childcare as feminine also has the great side effect of keeping it an unpaid or extremely low paid job.

  19. This is an interesting article/thread and one that hits home for me. Twenty years ago, when I was still single, I was involved in a series of one-night stands with women I didn’t know. At least a half dozen were married women who initiated the sexual activities. I never sought them out, they just seemed to “happen”. In some cases, the women were fairly aggressive and made it clear that they wanted sex and nothing else.

    At the time, I was in a phase of sexual grieving which took the form of subconsciously trying to take back power through promiscuity following a drug-induced rape I experienced at the hands of a female acquaintance. Fortunately, that phase did end before anything tragic occurred, but I took some really stupid chances back then with women I didn’t know. During that period, I seldom sought out sex partners but I never said no to those who approached me. It was as if it were just understood that I was not going to say no. I am not basing this on the ugly stereotype that all men want sex at all times from whoever is offering. Rather, I think I was transmitting “yes” nonverbally, if that makes sense.

    In the moment, I didn’t see it, but in retrospect it was very dangerous for a variety of reasons. Obviously, sexually transmitted diseases were a threat. Then, there was the possibility of angry husbands finding out and getting violent, among other things. Further, I didn’t know these women and had absolutely no reason to trust them. They could have easily lied and made all kinds of claims if discovered. Fortunately, I did not have to confront such a situation.

    Interestingly enough, the response I’ve received since becoming a sexual violence speaker has been completely lacking in criticism for the married women who slept with me back then. I have been asked several times if I forgave myself, but strangely enough the same people have nothing negative to say about the women who cheated.

  20. I think more people are breaking the behavioral models illustrated in the article everyday. I’m pretty sure people are marrying later and more people are simply not marrying at all.

    I think there are limitations when it comes to trying to describe intimacy between the pure lust and fully committed romantic love endpoints. This is probably because there is more than one variable. There’s more than just sexual attraction and emotional connection going on. Class similarities and differences might be part of that.

    But cheating isn’t the answer. If you’re cheating, you’ve taken a commitment and then invented your own rules. The answer is going to be defining what kind of relationship structures you need and then communicating that to voluntary partners. I know several people who aren’t as worried about fidelity as one might think. Mostly, they just want to be informed and safe.

    So in conclusion, the dichotomies in this article are fading.

  21. Why don’t we ask the question why women get off with light sentences when they rape boys?

    To the Editors of GMPM:

    In another series of comments, James asked for evidence of adult women getting off light after drugging and then raping underage boys.

    Here is a March, 2011 case from Astoria, OR. Adult woman plies kids, including a 14 year old boy with booze, gets him drunk, has her way with him, and then is sentenced to….. 30 days. Boy is too ashamed to come to the sentencing hearing.

    Question to GMPM editors — are you outraged? will you speak up? will you run a piece?

    Silence = Death.

    http://www.koinlocal6.com/news/local/story/Astoria-woman-pleads-no-contest-to-raping-14-year/sp6cQmcuFESd8N8qpRgapw.cspx

    • If it is true that victims of pedophiles may grow up to be pedophiles, then we have to ask ourselves what is going to happen to young girls after they have grown up under the notion that girls mature faster than boys, ie., girls look for older boys with more expensive toys, like cars, etc., and the idea that girls are molested or raped more frequently than young boys. So, wouldn’t you then expect that more young women would have a tendency towards pedophilia, given that they may constitute the majority of it’s victims?

      • Miss Kae Oz says:

        When it comes to children, boys and girls are molested and raped mostly the same percentages. It is after puberty starts the gap starts to widen.
        And it is not true that victims of pedophiles grow up to be pedophiles. Majority of victims grow up with other issues. This is why pedophiles have such a hard time in prison. Many people in prison were victims of pedophiles and have zero tolerance for them.

    • Miss Kae Oz says:

      that is not just women. Men often get just as light of sentences when it comes to statutory rape.
      Montana man serves 30-day sentence for rape of 14-year-old girl
      http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/26/montana-rape-sentence-release

  22. Feminists have fashioned women into professional victims and men into default perpetrators.. When you already demonize and entire gender from the start, it becomes impossible to talk about fair play and equality: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plkeKMTDM9g

  23. I agree women find sexual novelty and the passion of a new lover as desirable as men do, but I think more men than women are able to have emotionless sex. If women were just as able as men to do so, why wouldn’t we see more Tigress Woods in the news?

    • Women cheat worse then men do. It’s just that women are much better at hiding it. A man will cheat on a woman and feel guilty about it. A woman is always looking for clues that a man is cheating. She monitors him automatically. It’s her second nature. A woman on the other hand will pick a fight with a man in order to create the distance and an excuse for time a part in order to do her dirty business and she will feel righteous about it because in her mind she and her man just experienced a temporary break up, even if only for the later part of the afternoon.

    • So because women “have emotions” when they cheat it is somehow excusable?

      Women cheat just as often as men, they just lie about it and hide it better. A woman will take that shit to the grave, a man might confess or might just not bother to hide it as well. Check the statistics before talking about how “you think” men cheat more often.

  24. This article has an astounding lack of self-awareness.

    The writer uses the entire article to repeatedly state “men are X; women are z” as absolutes, and then in the second-to-last paragraph uncorks this gem

    “And until our culture stops polarizing male and female sexuality by insisting that men only lust and women only love, the adultery double standard will prevail.”

    Good grief.

  25. A woman will lose a man to another woman and she will go on to marry another man, have his child, divorce him when the relationship gets stale as day old bread, marry another man who will adopt her previous child, drop another kid for him, and then drop him and the kids cold if and when Bozo the Clown gives her a call saying, “Baby girl, I made a mistake, would you come back to me?” Of course she will. And then she’ll say goodbye when he is stale as day old bread. And from there she’ll rotate her love and affection if the men in her life are that dumb.

    • What? Harry, have you ever even met a woman?

      • I could say the same about you.

      • Miss Kae Oz says:

        It sounds like Harry has met a woman, and had a lot of trouble and a broken heart and ego.
        He has the blame pattern of a man hurting in denial of any responsibility.

        • Its true what he said. No broken ego or broken heart… Well actuallyy heart breaks for women who live that type of lifestyile. Boyfriend hopping tryingto fill a void afraid to be alone. I believe the problem these women have is they are too easy to give it up. They believe its ok for them to have as many sexual partners as they want. Yes they are free to do so, but there is no question that these women end up in clear messes as he atated different daddies for her children hopping around. Most of the time and most women form bonds/connections when being intimate with a man. Deny it if you want, but men do as well unless they sleep aroind for an ego boost which is pathetic. When ppl have multiple partners they get all fkd up and sex becomes less special hence more failed relationships. Look at the stats. Women are closing the gap on adultery. Great now both species suck :/

  26. Whatever. I’ve seen women get dragged through the mud for cheating countless times in my short life.

  27. Louise says:

    Many women are beaten, raped and killed because their partners THINK they’re sleeping around. A Saudi woman was killed because her husband had a dream that she committed adultery – this he did with complete legal impunity. I do not believe that there is an equivalent to this with women as the perpetrators.

    • The same legal impunity as Elin Whatsername had?

    • The same impunity as Lorena Bobitt?

      • Miss Kae Oz says:

        You do know Lorena Bobitt was beaten within an inch of her life and raped violently by her husband many times, yes? That THAT is why she did what she did, to escape.
        There are more facts to these stories than what are in the gossip rags.

    • chiefkilljoy says:

      I was once broken up with for something I “did” in an exgirlfriend of mine’s dream. But females are the logical, fairer sex right? lol

  28. Excellent observations. It occurred to me while reading that manufacturing a back-story describing loneliness and emotional neglect in monogamy implies a vulnerability and neediness that a lot of men might not care to own up to.

  29. Not true. This articles thesis is truly not true. Both men and women are condemned when they are unfaithful, but how they are condemned differs.

    Men, being called the masculine sex, are more openly condemned. They appear on news, they are openly ridiculed, punched, etc. All hostility is clear and in the open.

    Women, the so called gentle sex, are condemned in more silent way. This includes, talk at the back, openly staring, jokes, etc. Their punishment is silent and hidden but as painful.

    We are not really forgiving with women, we are just more “discreet” about it.

  30. This article creates a false premise and totally misses the point of why MOST women cheat!

    It has nothing to do with falling in love. That is the result. What is the cause.

    I have worked with thousands of people going through divorce. Women cheat when the men they are married to stop paying attention to them, stop talking to them, stop adoring them, stop listening to them.

    I will admit, there are some that it’s all about sex, but for men, it’s MORE about sex.

  31. It’s because women and men are deluded into the concept that women are the default victims and if sahe cheated on you then the man must have been inadequate or driven her to do it. The same is not true in reverse. it’s brainwashing at it’s worst.

  32. The sad truth is that men and women cheat. I don’t think there is a statistic that proves who does it more, nor is there a statistic which proves why either gender does it. I believe everyone is an individual and some may cheat for love, some may cheat for pleasure, but the fact is, everyone who cheats, does it out of selfishness, and that is hurtful.

  33. Bottom line: Men and women both cheat. Whether it be out of lust, boredom, loneliness, “love”, etc. it’s never right. It is a dishonorable way to treat another person. If. you simply must have another, at least have the integrity to end things with the one you’re with. And in those instances where one feels “driven into the arms of another” from emotional/sexual neglect (yes, it can happen!) I still think you will be respecting yourself more by just leaving the one that is not doin’ you right.than by.cheating.

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