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.
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.