Unlike most everything else she did in her life, Amanda, a 41-year-old executive at a Boston-area creative agency, began her affair without much thought. It was just drinks with an old friend. When drinks turned to dinner, and dinner turned to sleepovers four months in, she didn’t stop it. It wasn’t weakness at play, she thought, but something else.
“As awful as it was to my family, and I knew it was awful, I couldn’t resist the draw,” Amanda, whose name we have changed to protect her privacy, says today. She had a thriving career (and salary to match), plenty of friends and interests, a devoted husband, a beautiful home by the beach. And yet what she liked most, she says, besides the great sex, was the ability to be someone else for a while.
So a woman, probably bored in her marriage, has an affair. It being 2019, this must be interpreted as a new dawn for women.
Once assumed to be the purview of powerful men — a notion #MeToo has done little to debunk — adultery has become something of an equal opportunity endeavor.
As I’m fond of saying, modern feminism is largely about encouraging women to adopt the worst behaviours of men.
Numbers from the National Opinion Research Center’s 2016 General Social Survey, meanwhile, show that although the percentage of men who admitted to infidelity has held steady over the past two decades, the percentage of wives who reported having affairs rose almost 40 percent — a trend that’s holding steady in 2018, says Tom Smith, director of the survey.
Or maybe just more are admitting it?
There’s also economics. The increasing number of female breadwinners means more women are not financially reliant on men.
Yeah, we’ll get back to that in a minute.
The fact is that good old-fashioned lust appeals to plenty of women, too.
Many experts now believe that women struggle as least as much as men and probably even more with monogamy,” Martin says, “and that they actually require variety and novelty of sexual experience more than men do.”
And as women have more agency regarding who they pair up with, they’re more willing and motivated to make a move when something’s not working.
It’s ironic the article contains this passage while also mentioning the MeToo movement. Here we’re being told that women’s sexuality is a lot like men’s in that they too enjoy lots of hot sex with strangers, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t have it if they can get it. But we’re also told women are subject to an increasing volume of unwanted sexual advances from men on the street, in bars, and at work. Well, what do you expect? If you go around telling men that women are up for sex in the same way they are, i.e. right now behind the nearest dumpster, they’re going to chance their arm with every cute girl they run into.
Fewer women are marrying out of need, Fisher says; instead, they’re marrying to please themselves. But that also means when they’re dissatisfied with something, they can feel justified to go elsewhere.
That certainly seems to be the modern view of a relationship. You’re committed right up to the point that something better wanders by, then you jump ship.
That’s not to say they want to go so far as divorce — and, in fact, even as adultery is on the rise, divorce rates are falling.
Probably because women have worked out that even if they commit adultery, the man is the one who gets cleaned out in the divorce. I doubt this situation is sustainable.
Martin puts a more overtly feminist, or at least sex-positive spin on it: “Why would you get divorced just because you want to have sex with someone else? What is that equation? It makes no sense to lots of women, just like it makes no sense to lots of men.”
Everyone wants to have sex with someone else. The difference is you give up your ability to act on those impulses in return for the benefits which come with a monogamous relationship. One of the most common self-delusions among certain people is that you can have regular sex outside the marriage while keeping the benefits of a monogamous relationship. You can’t.
Amid the political spotlight on gender equality, there’s also not a little bit of earned rebellion going on, a backlash to the idea that if a woman cheats, she’s damaged and slutty, but if a man cheats, he’s, well, a man.
Oh, not this rubbish again. I dealt with this in my book (which I’m sure everyone on here has bought by now given the fact I’m writing this on my yacht). Past a certain age, somewhere between 25-30, there is nothing admirable about a man embarking on a string of one-night stands, and nobody is impressed by a man cheating on his wife especially if there are kids involved. The reaction from his friends is largely one of disappointment, concern for his long term welfare, and an outburst of “WTF are you playing at, man?” But I’ve noticed when women cheat her friends rally around and say “well, I’m sure there are good reasons why she did that” and inform her husband or boyfriend that he needs to work on the relationship.
Playing the role of the “good wife” — whether that means dutifully making dinner or, you know, not fucking the neighbor — is no longer desirable for most women.
I’m sure going to work every day and paying down a giant mortgage isn’t desirable for most men in isolation, but being a mature adult means making sacrifices for long-term goals, maintaining impulse control, and disavowing short-term gratification.
“The ‘privilege’ of infidelity has historically belonged to men. But female infidelity is the most radical but also the most basic version of female autonomy. And in that sense, it’s very much about power.”
There’s this odd idea among modern feminists that having a string of meaningless sexual encounters with men is empowering. Countering that view is one I heard from a Turkish woman who wasn’t brought up in the west, and she thought the real power of a woman comes from withholding her sexual capabilities and wielding them sparingly. I’ve gotta say, I’m with the girl from Izmir on this one.
“Men and women alike cheat when there’s no perception of ‘problems in their relationships.’ Plenty of women are in it for the sex.”
My marriage is fine honestly, I’m just sleeping with someone else.
Science confirms this, Martin says, pointing to the work of researchers Alicia Walker and Marta Meana, whose studies conclude that women’s sexual desire is no less strong than it is for men, and that, in fact, such desire could be stronger due to an evolutionary draw to increase one’s chances of healthy reproduction.
I don’t think anyone denies women’s sexual desire can be pretty damned strong. I’m just not sure this means women want to sleep around more.
The fact that Amanda is the family breadwinner didn’t factor into her affair, she says; she never considered the affair something to which she was entitled.
And this is the bit I wanted to come back to. I suspect a large part of the problem is Amanda doesn’t respect her husband because he’s not playing the role of provider, so she’s seeking fulfillment with from some “old friend” who’s probably out-earning her.
At the same time, Amanda says that she thinks her equitable marriage probably made her less satisfied in the bedroom
Exactly. Women don’t like to marry down, they like to marry up. If hubby isn’t earning what she is, she’s not going to want to sleep with him for very long.
“Wanting some heteronormalcy isn’t something people want to talk about in that bourgie Brooklyn world I live in.
Brooklyn. Who would have guessed?
Eventually, Susan says, she realized she was confusing power with novelty. She called off her affair and talked to her husband instead. “I had made something happen for myself,” she says. “It was a way of claiming independence. But once I had that, I understood: People who are truly empowered don’t need to lie or betray trust.”
Well, fancy that. These women are basically living out the lives of characters in beach-holiday romance books, all the while thinking they’re doing something new.