Men are the biggest cheaters, right? Women only stray if they’re unhappy in the relationship?
This is the myth that’s gradually being stripped away as more research is conducted - and there's wider discussion on the topic.
Back in 2016 a Globe and Mail survey of over 11,000 people showed that 33% of women said they’d had an affair... which isn’t far off the 40% of men who said the same.
"I'm convinced that we believe this because we presume it, and then socialise other people to believe it," says Wednesday Martin, author of UNTRUE: Why Nearly Everything We Believe About Women, Lust, and Adultery is Wrong and How the New Science Can Set Us Free.
Yes, both sexes cheat purely for physical reasons
"Peel back the language, pay attention to the storytelling and the data, and you'll hear similar things from both sexes: Infidelity is exciting and gratifying for many men and women, emotionally and physically."
The implication is both liberating and disconcerting—for both sexes: women are no more “naturally monogamous” than men; nor are they driven less by their libidos. Far from it. "It's important to avoid presumptions that men are more sexual and are the drivers of female sexual behaviour," Martin says.
It's a common myth that Hollywood films reinforce that men cheat because they aren’t being sexually satisfied, while women stray if their emotional needs aren't met.
Sociologist and author Alicia Walker carried out new research for her book: The Secret Life of the Cheating Wife: Power, Pragmatism, and Pleasure in Women's Infidelity , which included speaking to 46 women who use Ashley Madison—a dating website for those married or in a relationship.
The results? Almost every woman Walker spoke to said they loved their husband and desired to stay married. They weren’t looking to escape an unhappy marriage; they were simply looking elsewhere for sex.
"Unlike what we think about women, the reality is that the women I spoke to are cheating to stay married," Walker says. "They're not cheating for revenge, or to get out of a marriage, or get the husband to notice them through bad behaviour — they were cheating primarily for sexual pleasure and to remain married."
We all struggle
According to Wednesday Martin there’s “a pretty persuasive case that women struggle with monogamy at least as much as men do - and likely more.”
Contraception, greater equality in the workplace, increased independence and the tantalising promise of internet liaisons have pried open the door for women looking for fun beyond the marital bedroom. It’s a door that now open isn't going to close anytime soon. It’s the age old argument — if it's good enough for men—then why not women too?
Perhaps infidelity is the ultimate equality?
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