ColumnWhy do women cheat? A recent study has found – prepare to be SHOCKED – that they cheat because they’re horny.
The fact that we needed a study to uncover this deep, dark mystery is the real problem here – not the fact that women are sometimes compelled to cheat. We live in a world that still – in 2014, for god sake’s – is shaken when women admit that they need sexual release.
Why do women cheat? For the same reasons men do. Yet the Internet, upon discovering this study, was shocked to find that women are not sitting around all day, waiting for our prince to deliver us from our idle housewife lives, untie our corsets so that he can have his way with us. But we won’t enjoy it!!!! No, not unless he wants us to appear as if we do, because it turns him on. (And feminism never existed, either.)
It’s fun to laugh at the Internet’s penchant for getting its panties in a twist over things that we should all know by now, yet these antiquated notions about women’s sexuality persist and persist and persist.
The study in question, even though it hints at an obvious truth, is problematic in the ways these studies of sexuality tend to be. It employs a small sample size and was led by a scientist who works for AshleyMadison.com – a website that caters to people in relationships looking for extramarital affairs. Oh, and the participants were actual women using this “cheating site” – those already looking for a fling. (As an aside, next time you date online, unless you’re cool with having your personal life, emails to potential lovers, and other information mined for studies, I suggest you carefully read the terms of service before you click “accept.”)
I’m bothered that we’re even searching for an answer to the question “why do women cheat?” — have we asked this question about men? No, we just assume, as we’re socialized to do, that they are led by their penises and cheat because they want sex. The thing about this study that seemed to surprise those analyzing the data was that women didn’t want to leave their marriages – they just wanted some damn good sex. They wanted to preserve their partnerships for whatever reason – for companionship, children, financial reasons – but they did want sex elsewhere.
Our culture is not quite at grips with the fact that women’s sexuality is just as, if not more, primed for novelty than men’s. The women in this study were between 35 and 45. Because we’re so habituated to the myth of “til’ death do us part” when we sign up for marriage, it can come as a shock when after three, five, or seven years of monogamy – it’s no longer enough.
We’re taught that if we have love, we’ll never desire another man or woman’s body – and more than that, that sex isn’t as important as companionship, financial reliability, good parenting – all the other aspects of marriage. Sex is like icing – if we meet someone who’s offering us a cake made of all the proper ingredients of partnership, we can forego the sweetness we truly desire.
Number one, I say put the icing first when you’re dating. Because if you end up marrying someone who doesn’t make your toes tingle, you’ll miss it later on. That’s the first step – recognizing and honoring our authentic desires and sexual needs, straight from the start, and not settling for someone who’s merely meeting our practical needs. We have other needs, and they must not be kept in the shadows.
Two, when and if you do put a ring on it, know at the outset that even if you’re over-the-moon hot for your betrothed, you may not always be. Don’t be afraid to have that talk. You may not always be, and hey – he might not always be either.
If you’re at the stage where your partner is still getting most of marriage right, but you’re just not sexually attracted to him anymore, first – forgive yourself. You are normal – you are the many, not the few. Those of us who can stay attracted to a long-term partner for many years are rare creatures indeed. If you’re that woman, god bless you, and rock on. But if you’re most women, you may need someone else at some point – and you shouldn’t go through a major shame spiral if you feel it.
Women are socialized to believe that our sexuality is not our own — we learn to navigate other people’s desires before we recognize ours as real. Instead of waiting, and wanting to be wanted, women need to embrace our sexual needs earlier in life — not halfway into our marriages.
Keep in touch with Stefanie on Twitter: @ecosexuality
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Image: Alejandra Mavroski