Fame, Not Gender Piques Adulterous Interest

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If you’re a married male celebrity these days, chances are you’re getting caught with your hand (among other body parts) in the proverbial cookie jar.

Infidelity perpetrated by rich, famous guys has been all the rage for quite some time now. From Tiger Woods to Mark Sanford, whenever one of the “beautiful people” steps outside his marriage it becomes HUGE news. Media from all over the country converge and the general public absorbs the gossip faster than Charlie Sheen bangs a 7-gram rock on bender. But have you ever wondered why it’s always the male cheaters who are excoriated in the press, while the litany of female adultresses goes largely unnoticed?

Tom Matlack has, and today he’s pointing out the hypocrisy of the double standard in his piece over at the Good Men Project.

In a lot of ways I agree with Tom. We’ve heard an awful lot about unfaithful men while female celebrity affairs are overlooked. Matlack highlights Tiger Woods, Jesse James, Charlie Sheen, Mark Sanford, John Edwards and Eliot Spitzer as men who have been caught, crucified and reviled for not being able to keep it in their pants when they’re not around their wives. Then he (correctly) points out the lack of fanfare following affairs by LeAnn Rimes, Tori Spelling, Ann Heche and Jennifer Lopez. Matlack then goes on to criticize Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love, for extolling the virtues of a woman leaving a stale marriage in order to go gallivanting around foreign countries indulging every sexual instinct that arises.

“Why do we have a national obsession with men’s infidelity? Is this some kind of backlash against the sex trade? A hidden gender war buried deep inside our collective subconscious? I just don’t get it, and it’s beginning to really piss me off.”

I get where Matlack is coming from. And at first glance, I agreed with just about everything he said. But then I thought about it some more and realized he’s missing a few very basic, but extremely important elements. Celebrity Cheating (a reality show in the making if ever there was one) does not become top-notch tabloid fodder based on the gender of the person who strayed. It’s totally based on the level of fame and the specific people involved.

Tiger Woods is the most obvious example.

Yes, if Tiger had simply cheated it would’ve been big news. But the reason it became OH-MY-GOD-DID-YOU-READ-THE-LATEST-ABOUT-TIGER news is because of who he was. A child prodigy golfer with a squeaky clean reputation for hard work, excellence and perfection. Both on and off the course. Tiger never said anything even remotely controversial during interviews, which is unbelievable since he is the most influential black athlete in a sport that’s known for being white as the driven snow. We grew up with Tiger. We rooted for Tiger. And we all knew about Tiger’s unbreakable bond with his father. This guy was a consummate professional in every sense of the word, and for all we knew he was just as sensational at being a husband and father as he was driving the ball at Augusta.

That’s why it was so unimaginable to hear about the first affair. Then the next woman. Then 10 more. The sudden shift from golf’s golden boy to degenerate sex addict, combined with the shady details of his car accident and alleged club to the head from his wife, made this story an unstoppable force.

Likewise with John Edwards. Here was a vice-presidential and presidential candidate with the world at his fingertips. And even though he lost, the world was sympathetic towards him because his wife, Elizabeth, was diagnosed with breast cancer. But then we find out he not only cheated on his wife, he fathered a child with another woman and then went to extreme lengths to lie about it. I repeat, the man fathered a baby with his mistress while his wife was dying of cancer.

And hell, let’s throw Brad Pitt into the mix as well. He’s married to one of the world’s hottest and most likable women in Jennifer Aniston. A woman most guys would cut off non-essential body parts just to be near. For Pitt to “upgrade,” there was really only one option. One woman hotter and sexier than Aniston. And amazingly, he went for her.

These stories were not spectacular and widely covered because all three were men. They were gargantuan deals because of the individual circumstances. The ultimate family man turned man-whore. A presidential candidate with a sick wife we were all pulling for turns into a condomless deviant with no regard for his dying wife. And the most beautiful couple in the world breaking up so he could bang the one woman hotter than she is.

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Now compare these stories to Matlack’s adulterous female counterparts.

LeAnn Rimes is a celebrity, but unless you’re a diehard fan she’s not uber-famous. Tori Spelling hasn’t been important since Donna Martin graduated from 90210. And Anne Heche? I asked my friend if he knew who that was and he said “Isn’t that the dude who married Ellen?”

My point is the general public doesn’t care enough about those women to get that upset. They’re famous, but certainly not on the level of our gentlemen philanderers. And in the end, they’re just not famous enough for people to care.

But I also have another theory.

I believe there are just as many female cheaters as men. Possibly more. But please take a look at how careless the men are. Tiger Woods actually left one of his mistresses a voicemail. WITH HIS NAME ON IT! John Edwards was so careless as to get his girlfriend pregnant. And Brad Pitt voluntarily shot a movie opposite Angelina Jolie. Of course he was going to cheat! That’s like walking into a room with a starved pit bull dressed in Lady Ga-Ga’s meat dress and not expecting to get hurt.

Women are much smarter about cheating. And a helluva lot more covert.

It’s rumored that Farrah Fawcett had an affair going for 11 years she managed to keep secret from Ryan O’Neal. Eleven years!! Now THAT’S how to have an affair. No voicemails, cell phone records or love child. Honestly I think it’s because men—whether they want to admit it or not—secretly want people to know about their conquests. Even the ones they aren’t supposed to have. But women, for the most part, are still very wary of being labeled a “slut” or “home-wrecker.” Thus the secrecy.

But whatever the explanation is, I think the level of public outrage concerning cheaters is more about fame than gender.

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12 thoughts on “Fame, Not Gender Piques Adulterous Interest

  1. I keep failing the math quiz security question!
    The biggest difference between men and women when it come to infidelity is the emotional aspect. A guy can cheat with the goal of stalking and getting strange. When women they cheat have an emotional bond/ connection. That to me is the worst betrayal of a relationship, not the physical act.

  2. “Women are much smarter about cheating. And a helluva lot more covert.”

    This made me think of a truth about teaching that my wife discovered when she taught in a public school and then in an all-girl’s school. Boys aren’t subtle. If two boys have a problem with each other, there will be a fight in the schoolyard (or hallway or classroom). You can tell from 20 feet away which boys are friends and which aren’t.

    Girls, meanwhile, are much sneakier. They don’t go for the all-out-war that boys do. Instead, they tend to maintain an appearance of friendship while stabbing the person in the back. It’s much more devious and harder to prevent because you can’t just look at a group of girls and figure out which among them is the one being picked on.

    Perhaps something similar happens with affairs. Men, lacking subtly, fall hard making stupid choices that they are unable to cover up for long. Women, meanwhile, are more covert and able to give the appearance of being completely faithful while having an affair on the side. (Of course, this is all in general. There are subtle men and non-subtle women. Also, standard disclaimers about cheating being insanely stupid and harmful to all involved apply.)

  3. Aaron all fair points. I guess this all started for me by talking to female friends who openly talked to me about cheating and their female friends who cheat. No shame whatsoever. It just hit home since my life was basically ruined because I was caught cheating 15 years ago now, forcing me to ask the tough questions about being a good father, husband and man that ultimately became The Good Men Project.

    What I heard again and again from women, was that when a woman cheats its the guy’s fault (“her husband is an asshole, so I told her to go for it”) and when guy’s cheat its the guy’s fault too. How can that be right?

    Thanks for you thoughtful response.

    Tom

  4. One thing to ponder. Its pretty much a mathematical impossibility for more men to cheat(unless they are gay), because it requires a female to be a part of the cheating. Afterall, the women involved are perpetrating a deceit against either the other wife or their own husband. Though its so much easier to blame the big bad man.

  5. Sully: I think you’re right. If I asked my wife if she cheated on me, I’d really be asking if she had sex with a guy. And that ain’t right.

    TechyDad: I think you’re onto something there. Very good point about guys being entirely unsubtle while women have a “mean girls” mentality.

    Tom: Granted, I was focusing on the celebrities. That’s chilling about your female friends and their lack of remorse. I can understand cheating by women who are in abusive relationships or in a marriage where they give their all but receive no effort in return. Although I think simply leaving the person first is preferable to stepping outside your marriage. But if these women cheat on loving husbands because they’re bored, then that’s horrible. And to blame him is even worse.

    TfT: Good point. I guess I was talking about which gender instigates the cheating. I know it takes two to tango, but I’m focusing more on who perpetrates the infidelity more often.

  6. I think that in your need to analyze who gets the most public blame allows you dance to dance around and never touch the real issue. It is just so easy to judge and point fingers and think you know the whole story. Unless you live inside that marriage, you cannot begin to understand the complex dynamics of a relationship in the present, let alone the history of two lives that two people bring to a marriage. There are all kinds of cheating for all kinds of reasons and to need to lump them together and put them in a labelled box is more harmful than helpful. AND who follows-up on remorse, growth and how two people move forward. No, it’s just the sensational that gets the headlines and often in very hurtful ways. It is a human journey of growth, this life, and to learn to judge is one of the hardest lessons of all. What goes around, comes around.

  7. Important correction, sorry. To learn NOT to judge is one of the hardest lessons of all.

  8. Aaron

    I think the better question should be. “How do we define infidelity”. How many men have sex outside the marriage, yet they still love their wives and dont want to leave? How many women stray emotionally first because they no longer love their husbands and then they leave? It seems were so focused on the sex rather than the issues. This is a similar way that abuse is treated. Physical beatings are ultimately worse than emotional ones, or are they?

  9. TitforTat–
    What about men who cheat with single women? Or men who cheat with many people? Yhat would make the numbers for men higher.

  10. I understand that emotional cheating is considered worse than a one-night-stand for example. Well, let me tell you, that one-night-stand (although it meant nothing to the guy doing) it HURT LIKE HELL for a looooong time and eventually ruined my relationship! Women cheat too, but sex is sex. If the man’s intention is not to hurt, are you (poster and commenters) saying that the woman’s intention is to hurt when SHE cheats. Because sex is sex is sex is sex…once any party takes that step, only pain follows.

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