I’ve joked about Russians in the past, posting a picture of a drunken grandma or linking to Putin’s plea for a name for his puppy. We’ve also posted about a pop song devoted to the Russian Prime Minister and a crazy naked guy in a Russian parking lot. It’s all harmless fun, though. They probably think we’re just as crazy. Chalk it up to cultural differences.
But this is a little too much.
At Slate, Julia Ioffe reports on a disturbing new phenomenon in Russia: a staggering number of men are cheating on their wives—and the women are accepting it.
Wandering spouses have become a common trope for the women of Moscow. “Men’s environment here pushes them towards cheating,” Tanya told me, adding that, these days, a boys’ night out in Russia often involves prostitutes. Tanya and her friends are young, educated, upper-middle-class Muscovites, but talk to any woman in Moscow, and, regardless of age, education, or income level, she’ll have a story of anything from petty infidelity to a parallel family that has existed for decades. Infidelity in Moscow has become “a way of life,” as another friend of mine put it—accepted and even expected.
Thousands of years ago, when Russia was a peasant-dominated agrarian culture, sex was a humdrum, everyday activity. This attitude pervaded the land for hundreds of years until the Bolshevik Revolution, which flipped things around, and turned sex into a taboo subject. With the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of capitalism, sex became all too easy to find. And there was nary a man who didn’t, which leads us to today.
Despite its efforts towards modernity, Russia is still a very paternal culture. Men are in constant competition with each other for the best car or the nicest clothes. The cool thing is to have multiple women. One woman told Ioffe that some men are barred from social circles if they don’t:
It’s like having a Mercedes E Class. If you can’t measure up, if you can’t afford it, you aren’t welcomed. It’s easier, I guess, when you have common interests.
Russia’s demographics have led many women to accept their spouse’s infidelity. Between the ages of 15 and 62, women outnumber men by 10 percent. So, it’s harder for a woman to find a man—especially if she’s a 30-year-old divorcee with a few kids. Another woman told Ioffe:
My sister’s husband cheats on her. She knows this for a fact, but she doesn’t cheat on him. When I ask her why she stays with him she says, “I’m going to split up with him over some nonsense? He’ll get it out of his system and settle down.”
But will he really? I’m not so sure the trend is showing any signs of slowing down. Look at the most independent, self-protective woman that Ioffe spoke to. She divorced her husband after finding out that he cheated on her. What’s she doing now? She’s in a relationship with another married man.