By Rod Van Mechelen
Infidelity: Considered by a man to occur only if he is in love with another woman. Considered by a woman to occur if he looks at another woman. -- Dr. Joy Browne, Why They Don't Call When They Say They Will...and Other Mixed Signals
The Shocking Truth Revealed!
1992 Bellevue, Wash. - It is a little known, but scientifically proven fact that men who have affairs, have them with another person. Yes, this is true. What's more, we now know that most of the people with whom they have their affairs are women. This may seem amazing, and it goes contrary to everything pop-feminists say about men, so before we get into this, a little background information might be helpful.
First, popular wisdom tells us men are far more adulterous than women. According to the Hite Report on men, 72 percent of men married more than two years are not monogamous. (cited in Women and Love: A Cultural Revolution in Progress, St. Martin's Press mass market edition, 1989, Shere Hite)
Then there's the popular belief that promiscuity is primarily a masculine pursuit:
"The view that it is permissible for a man, but not a woman, to commit adultery has persisted almost to the present day. It was 1923 before Englishwomen, for example, won the right to divorce their husbands for it." -- Reay Tannahill, Sex in history
This is a carry-over from the Victorian era when the Politically Correct presumed men were morally deficient, as opposed to the attitude of the present pop-feminist era that says "all men are pigs": "Women, and also religions, train men to perceive of women's behavior as good and men's contrasting behavior as bad." (Roy Schenk, The Other Side of the Coin: Causes and Consequences of Men's Oppression)
Finally, whereas society socializes women to be passive, making them unlikely to initiate relationships, men, cast in the role of primary initiators, often become obsessive about it and find it hard to stop hitting on women even after they have a partner.
Thus, it would seem that all the myths about men are true. Obsessive initiators, most are out there getting illicit nookie, and for that reason, they're morally deficient.
But here's an exciting new theory I call the "Theory of the Carousal Class": If heterosexual men are unfaithful to their female partners, and if all of their illicit affairs are with women, then this suggests (remember, you read it here first!) that an approximately equal number of women are having illicit affairs, too:
"70 percent of women married more than five years are having sex outside of marriage -- although almost all also believe in monogamy." (Women and Love: A Cultural Revolution in Progress, St. Martin's Press mass market edition, 1989, Shere Hite, p 360)
The numbers average out to 21 percent for women and 26 percent for men (The Great Divide, Daniel E. Van Weiss, p 80), but the point is, for every straight man having an affair, there is a straight woman having an affair. Pop-feminist rhetoric notwithstanding, neither gender is either better or worse than the other.
Men and Affairs
Like women, men yearn for the perfect mate. Women, however, expect men to initiate relationships. Yet, they rebuff men so often that, after a while, even thinking about asking a woman out can be painful. One result is that many men "lower their sights." In effect, they only approach women who excite a nominal interest in them. Women, that is, whom they can sexually objectify. That way, rejection hurts less because it means less.
But sometimes Ms. "Nominal Interest" says yes, she keeps on saying it, and he finds himself with a girlfriend or wife. Now he has someone he can depend on, someone who will be there for him, and this can be tremendously empowering: "All I want is to know that someone is really there for me; then I know I could relax and go off and do my own thing." (What Do Women Want?, Eichenbaum and Orbach, p 19)
Because of her, now he can "relax and go off and do [his] own thing." He has gained the confidence necessary to respond positively to the kind of woman he really wants, and who now find him attractive: "Self-assurance, honed to believability by females, helps a man keep his fears in check." (Women Vs. Women: The Uncivil Business War, Tara Roth Madden, p 12) But he isn't supposed to respond to them -- it would be unfair to his wife.
Unfair, but justice of a poetic kind. Women place the burden of initiation on men, then end up with men who "settle for" Ms. "Nominal Interest." From her, he gains the confidence she drained from other men and uses it to sleep with the kinds of women he really desires. In this relationship between women and men, there is a harmony that is almost Taoist in nature:
All the handbooks emphasized that the preliminary yin (female essence) nourishment should come from a number of different women. "If a man continually changes the women with whom he has intercourse, the benefit will be great. If in one night he can have intercourse with more than ten women it is best." (Sex in history, Reay Tannahill, p 172)
The Tao of Adultery
An essential feature of the Taoist philosophy is that there is nothing static in existence except life. All else is in flux: "All the elements are in a continuing state of advance or retreat. When one thrusts forward, another must fall back. When one contracts, another expands. There is no active without a corresponding passive, no positive without a compensating negative." (Sex in history, Reay Tannahill, p 165)
This describes sexual relationships in America well: a woman is passive, so men "hit on" her. She demurs, so they advance. She rejects them, they fall back, their spirits contracting as her frustration grows. Then she responds with "feminine wiles," a small advance disguised as capitulation to which men enthusiastically respond.
Sometime during this cycle of thrusting forward and falling back, she unexpectedly says yes, and bonds to a man. Within their relationship, however, the ebb and flow of active and passive continues until it inevitably oscillates back into the larger universe of relationships where he, his yang (male) essence fortified by her yin, attracts other women like never before.
Pseudo-mystical explanations aside, for many men, simply having a mate can make them feel so much better about themselves that they may eventually wonder why they committed to their spouses in the first place. Love really had nothing to do with it, and now they feel a new confidence that can be the springboard to extramarital sex. Pop-feminists, though, ignore this dynamic, preferring to attribute it to a more superficial and sexist stereotype of men:
There is also something exciting about the newness of another woman, a sense of not yet "possessing" this "object"; of knowing one's wife very well and of feeling secure in "having" her and so the excitement of "getting" her is gone. This sense of going after something, conquering it, mastering it, possessing it, establishing control is all part and parcel of a boy's socialization to the male role. -- (What Do Women Want?, Eichenbaum and Orbach, p 64
In some cases this is obviously true, but it is demeaning and sexist to generally attribute such superficiality to all men. This leads to the inevitable conclusion that the pop-feminists' primary aim is not to promote understanding and facilitate cooperation, but to ratify their party line: "Wives, I have a message for you -- your husband is out hustling women. Those of us with self-respect are disgusted by him, and you should be too." (Women and Love: A Cultural Revolution in Progress, St. Martin's Press mass market edition, 1989, Shere Hite, p 371) This ignores that most men don't cheat, and most women do.
When a man is unfaithful, he violates his partner where she's most vulnerable -- her sexual desirability. What is the male-equivalent of this vulnerability? Are men wounded as deeply by the affairs of their partners as their wives are? Not according to Shere Hite. (Women and Love: A Cultural Revolution in Progress, St. Martin's Press mass market edition, 1989, Shere Hite, p 372)
There is, however, one area in which women really know how to stick it to a guy -- his confidences:
Dubisch also points out the symbolic connection between verbal and sexual pollution: Allowing strangers into the house by telling them the family's secrets is like "illicit sexual penetration." -- You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, Ballantine Books Edition, June 1991, Deborah Tannen, Ph.D., p 110
Men feel violated when their lovers divulge their secrets, "talking about a problem, especially one that reflects badly on him, he views as betrayal." (Why They Don't Call When They Say They Will and Other Mixed Signals, Dr. Joy Browne, p 77) Thus, as far as most men are concerned, women cheat on them all the time. Ironically, such violations form the basis upon which women make and maintain friendships:
Girls' friendships are made and maintained by telling secrets. For grown women too, the essence of friendship is talk, telling each other what they're thinking and feeling, what happened that day: who was at the bus stop, who called, what they said, how that made them feel. -- You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, Ballantine Books Edition, June 1991, Deborah Tannen, Ph.D., p 80
Thus, from the male point of view, female friendships are essentially adulterous. Women do not, however, limit themselves to just this kind of adultery.
Women and Affairs
Pop-feminists might say women have affairs because their men don't treat them right. (Women and Love: A Cultural Revolution in Progress, St. Martin's Press mass market edition, 1989, Shere Hite, p 361) Another reason, as Shere Hite admits, is that "affairs are appealing as sexual experimentation." (Women and Love: A Cultural Revolution in Progress, St. Martin's Press mass market edition, 1989, Shere Hite, p 365) Gives a whole new meaning to the Cindy Lauper song, "Girls just want to have fun."
But what angers pop-feminists are men's reactions to the illicit affairs of women, which they attribute to male-culpability:
"Surprisingly, 60 percent of men's reactions to their wives' affairs are very low-key, sometimes even relaxed, compared to stereotypes of male behavior; is this because many men (72 percent according to The Hite Report on men) are also having secret extramarital sex and feel relieved when they discover they are not the only ones?" -- Women and Love: A Cultural Revolution in Progress, St. Martin's Press mass market edition, 1989, Shere Hite, p 372
Drawing only the most damning conclusion possible, Pop-feminists reject the idea -- don't even consider it -- that male-benevolence could have anything to do with it. In response, we might uncharitably suggest many women are masochistically drawn to have relationships with "bad" men: "Sheer badness attracts them; they are 'good' girls attracted to 'bad' boys." (Women Who Love Men Who Kill, Sheila Isenberg, p 183)
Women in relationships with "bad boys" can become the proverbial "squeaky wheels" that get the most attention. Hearing all their squeaks makes it easy to assume all women similarly suffer, that all men are domineering, sneaky and oppressive. But many men wonder why women stay in relationships with such men -- if there is no objective reason to love the guy beyond the fact he's occasionally nice to her, then clearly she loves him for subjective reasons, and either there are compensating factors, or she is fleshing the relationship out with fantasies about loyalty taking precedence over everything else, including her own integrity.
Ultimately, many women may have affairs because it's the only way to protect their investment in the man they see as their success object: given a choice between having a good provider or a romantic lover, but not both, they will usually choose the walking wallet for marriage and resort "to female 'pornography' (romance novels, soaps, and Better Homes and Gardens centerfolds), or (have) affairs with someone more exciting." (Why Men Are the Way They Are, Warren Farrell, Ph.D.)
Toward a Renewed fidelity
With the advent of the modern women's movement and the sexual revolution, women began engaging in casual sex more while men were doing it less. (Sex in history, Reay Tannahill, p 422) Despite this, the 1990 Roper Organization poll found that 54 percent of women believe men are too preoccupied with sex, and that their "attitude toward men has turned somewhat sour." (The Seattle Times, April 26, 1990, Gary Langer)
Such an attitude is hypocritical, but there is more to it than that. During the past 20 years romance novels, the Soaps and pop-feminist pundits have vigorously portrayed men as sexual predators: "Hunt, pursuit and capture are biologically programmed into male sexuality." (The Seattle Times, February 17, 1991, Camille Paglia, author of Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson)
This chimera of masculinity has biased how women view men -- men are dangerous beasts whom they must control or destroy -- and has disempowered men to the point where fidelity becomes problematic, leading to an escalating cycle of blame and shame pop-feminists use to control men. Does it do any good? "Is everybody happy?" The answer, which anyone can find in the screaming divorce, rape, and suicide statistics, is a resounding "No!"
In the end, there will probably always be sexual partners who are unfaithful, but pop-feminists are making things worse with their unwarranted diatribes against men. A good first step toward resolving the problem of infidelity is to empower women and men.
Among other things, that means discarding the demeaning myths about men and accepting that both women and men are accountable for their own actions, which is what real feminists have been promoting all along.
Rod Van Mechelen
Rod Van Mechelen is the author of What Everyone Should Know about Feminist Issues: The Male-Positive Perspective (the page now includes several articles by other authors), and the publisher of The Backlash! @ Backlash.com. He is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and served for 9-1/2 years on the Cowlitz Indian Tribal Council.