A bit of a loaded question, if you ask me.
A quick Google search and our friend Oprah pops up first with a 2008 survey on why men cheat that is no longer on her site. Oprah is nothing if not a good barometer of what the average sheep is thinking. The average sheep believes that most men, if not all, cheat. Perhaps ironic, but another Oprah link is second on that search.
Third, however, is a link from Answers.com…Why do men ALWAYS cheat?
Sweeping generalizations are always the perfect way to sway things so that the one stating them can make their entire group into victims. Questions like this show that how a question is phrased is just as important as actually asking the question. Could do an entire post on the sweeping generalizations of men-haters (or women-haters or whomever-haters)…but that is another post for another day.
To take a direction from Douglas Adams…we know the answer but are asking the wrong question. Let us re-focus here. What is cheating?
According to the web definition in 2011, it is:
- adulterous: not faithful to a spouse or lover; “adulterous husbands and wives”; “a two-timing boyfriend”
- cheat: a deception for profit to yourself
- cheating(a): violating accepted standards or rules; “a dirty fighter”; “used foul means to gain power”; “a nasty unsporting serve”; “fined for unsportsmanlike behavior”
Quick aside here…October 17, 2013 there is a slight add on here, and the web definition has dropped the first part of these three. However, the original 2011 order of these is rather intriguing. The order might even suggest a sweeping generalization agenda that was already touched on earlier.
The first definition uses the word “faithful”, bringing up ideas of religion and tradition. People make these promises about the rest of our lives while having no clue what the future holds, but tradition and religious practices teach that this promise is binding above and beyond all others. An unknowing promise will hold precedence over any logical discoveries about the person that it was made to.
The second definition suggests deception. Hiding aces up the sleeve, or promising without intending to follow through. Deception is cheating, without argument…unless you are playing poker in which case deception is the name of the game.
The third suggested definition falls very close in step with the original. Violation of accepted standards.
A quick step back to the second definition. If a promise…any promise is made with deceptive purpose, then it is cheating. Most do not enter into monogamous relationships intending to cheat, however, and anyone making a false promise on monogamy deserves to be labeled as a cheat.
With that out of the way, let us just focus on the first and third.
Who set these standards? Who created these traditions? Is loving one person, and one person only, even natural?
Richard Dawkins brought up a good point…
Even sticking to the higher plane of love, is it so very obvious that you can’t love more than one person? We seem to manage it with parental love (parents are reproached if they don’t at least pretend to love all their children equally), love of books, of food, of wine (love of Chateau Margaux does not preclude love of a fine Hock, and we don’t feel unfaithful to the red when we dally with the white), love of composers, poets, holiday beaches, friends . . . why is erotic love the one exception that everybody instantly acknowledges without even thinking about it? Why can a woman not love two men at the same time, in their different ways? And why should the two — or their wives — begrudge her this? If we are being Darwinian, it might be easier to make the case the other way, for a man sincerely and deeply loving more than one woman. But I don’t want to pursue the details here.
Perhaps the tradition of fidelity is more about shutting off natural instincts than anything else. A way to control people through tradition and religion by creating a false goal and distraction. When looking at a grander scheme and seeing that marriage and monogamy are relatively new concepts in the human condition, it makes one wonder if they are the right concepts.
Not to suggest that people should go out and get laid by every Tom, Dick and Mary…although, the ensuing orgy would be fantastic, but the obvious issues of disease are too hard to over look.
So this cheating…is it in the person lying to himself or herself in promising something that goes against his or her nature?…or is it in the realizing s/he cannot live within a promise made that had unforeseen consequences s/he now understands?
The instinct here is that sex feels good. With society now being so sexualized in culture and with the teachings of safe sex practices…perhaps we need to evolve our thinking on the concept of “Why do men cheat?”
Perhaps men are being cheated by tradition. Perhaps men simply cannot live up to the ideals we once held as tradition. Perhaps we need to be allowed to go with their instincts more…so long as they go safely.
Whatever it is, there is no easy answer yet. With the further exploration of the human brain and the human condition…well, it may never be an easy answer.