Did anyone catch this article over at HuffPo this week by Vicki Larson — HuffPo title “Why We Shouldn’t Blame Cheaters”? (Larson title: “Is Infidelity a Societal Problem?” — yes, well duh.)
She suggests that the fault lies in the societal assumption that we be monogamous. And people fail at that, a lot like fat people fail at diets.
The infidelity “epidemic” is at least as prevalent as, say, the obesity epidemic… While there’s a personal accountability to obesity — just look at all the how-to-lose weight articles and books that get published each year, in addition to all the diet supplements and weight-loss programs — it’s also seen as a societal issue.
…So, obesity — which affects about as many people as infidelity does in direct ways and many more in indirect ways through higher health costs and taxpayer dollars to fund prevention programs — is seen as something that can be fixed in ways outside just an individual’s control. (Yes, in some cases, genetics is involved in a person’s weight, but some studies suggest genes may play a part in some people’s ability to commit, too.) Infidelity, however, is not. Why? Especially since monogamy appears to “promote unhealthy behaviors” — aka affairs and sex avoidance. And since infidelity is among the top reasons for divorce, there’s a societal cost involved, too. (Bold emphasis mine. CL)
That’s right, chumps — it’s monogamy’s fault. It promotes unhealthy behaviors like affairs. Let’s just liken being faithful to your spouse with high fructose corn syrup — it’s unnatural!
She suggests that we lay off the monogamy assumption in our relationships, and if people felt free to screw around without all the shame and judgment — the committed few would actually stick with marriage. The rest, I guess, will be hanging out in their shag-carpeted, sunken living rooms having swinger parties.
I’m all for people configuring their relationships honestly — whatever they are — and that includes polyamory. Sister wives? I wouldn’t want to share one Mormon doofus, but that’s me. Different strokes for different folks.
But I don’t think the Great Societal Pressure of Monogamy is to blame for cheating — poor character is. And blaming monogamy misses the point — cheating is about the thrill of being dishonest. To “cheat” you need an agreement to renege on. There’s no danger in openness, no illicit sexual high to chase.
It also ignores the power dynamic that is inherent in infidelity. The cheater wants all the perks of a committed partner, and the excitement of screwing around on the side. The secrecy is about gaining advantage over another. All the kibbles for me! None for you! You commit all your kibbles and I’ll just feign reciprocity. Cheaters don’t WANT a level playing field. It’s about control and entitlement.
To compare infidelity to obesity is a false equivalency. No — it’s a moronic equivalency. If I weigh 300 lbs, the only person I am hurting is myself and whoever has to sit next to me on an airplane. Unlike a history of cheating, it would be immediately apparent to anyone that I am obese. And having a fat ass might make you sexually unappealing, but it’s not breaking up anyone’s home or exposing them to STDs.
As if cheaters didn’t have enough excuses. “Hey, pay no attention to that Craigslist ad, I am just suffering from the weight of Unfair Societal Expectations of me.”
Larson’s remedy appears to be lowering the bar and abdicating personal responsibility. The problem is that we expect monogamy? Why do you suppose that is? If we’ve “evolved” to fuck around, well, we’re also wired to be jealous and suffer heartache when we are abandoned. Where’s all the talk of how unnatural it is to bond with other people? Gee, we should really stop doing that. This whole trust thing is really overrated.
No one forces someone commit to being monogamous. Lost in the Monogamy Is So Hard argument is personal choice. Don’t agree to be someone you aren’t. It’s like cheaters are some misunderstood, discriminated against minority — like gays, they’re forced to live in the closet. This article insinuates that people who expect monogamy are like homophobes — narrow minded and rigid. If we’d just expand our minds about sexuality, we’d all be happier.
Cheating isn’t a sexuality issue. It’s a power dynamic issue. It’s abuse. It’s not about a lack of self control or oops I ate too many donuts, it’s a very deliberate set of choices. It takes a lot of planning and deceit to conduct an affair. Cheating is about narcissism — the rules don’t apply to me. Monogamy doesn’t promote unhealthy behaviors — entitlement does.