Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Do Men Cheat More Than Women?

It's not often that the BBCworldnews runs an article that disappoints me. Unfortunately the other day it did, one which was entitled "More or Less: The Maths of Infidelity." The thrust of the article was that even though it takes two to tango an American study found that more men than women admitted to having affairs ergo: men cheat more than women. Most won't see this as a profound or new conclusion since many seem to intuitively believe this anyways.


 Rubbish. My major problem with this view is that it suggests that cheating is innately gender specific, i.e., that males are simply hardwired to cheat more than females. Usually, evolution is then brought into play to account for why males supposedly have more of a propensity to cheat, namely, that since they have a more compelling desire to spread their genes they will have more of an inclination to seek out a multitude of mates. But this ignores the fact that female promiscuity is also prominent in the animal kingdom, especially among our closest living ancestors the great apes. (See for example the Bonobo.)

Curiously though the article didn't try to use evolutionary psychology to explain why men supposedly cheat more than women. Instead, it just threw out some abstract reasons: because men get lonely, because men get bored, because men aren't being sexually fulfilled, etc. The absurdity of these reasons should be clear: they apply equally as well to why some women might cheat also. Additionally, this article only cites one study that depends on the questionee answering truthfully. Perhaps then one could just as easily draw the conclusion from this study that women are simply better liars than men. In short, this article is in no way scientifically sound.

But why do so many people take it as a given that men cheat more than women? Well, because at one time this was certainly probably true, at least up until about 50 years ago. Now, however, there has been a major shift in women's roles in the last several decades that among other things has seen them take up a large portion of the workforce. In short women are not in the home all of the time anymore and so have more opportunities to, well, cheat if they so choose. In other words what I'm trying to get at is that cheating is something more contextual or situational and historically most women have had very confined roles, usually to the household. To put this in terms of the nature vs nurture debate I think cheating is not something innate within males to do (the nature position) but rather is something more environmentally produced (the nurture position) and thus can affect equally both males and females.

At any rate this is a fruitless question to ask since there's no way it can ever be answered with any kind of scientific probability. Still, I'm throwing the bullshit flag on this misguided but widely held belief that men are more prone to cheat than women. Hogswallow.

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