monogamy may be even more difficult for women than it is for men
Experts are challenging long-held ideas about gender and fidelity.
This post originally appeared on Tonic
It’s a widely held belief that monogamy comes more naturally to women than it does to men. A lot of people subscribe to a narrative that says the sexes are just “wired” differently, with women having evolved to be monogamous and men to be promiscuous.
There’s just one problem with this line of thinking—it’s not true, according author Wednesday Martin’s latest book. In UNTRUE: Why Nearly Everything We Believe About Women, Lust, and Infidelity is Wrong and How the New Science Can Set Us Free , Martin offers a provocative read based on the latest research studies and interviews with experts in human sexuality that challenges us to think differently about women and sex. She sets the record straight on a number of false beliefs about female sexuality in particular, including when and why women cheat.
I recently spoke to Martin about what inspired her to write this book and the most surprising things she learned along the way.
In your book, you suggest that a lot of our beliefs about why women cheat are just plain wrong. One of them is the idea that, while men cheat for sex, women cheat for emotional connection. What’s the real story here?
In the US, we've embraced the notion that women step out because they want "emotional intimacy." But research by numerous experts including Alicia Walker suggests that many women are cheating for the same reason men are—they want great sex. The women I observed and spoke with at sex parties were certainly not seeking emotional connection. They told me, "I'm here for no-strings attached sex." We need to account for this reality in our thinking about female sexuality, and keep learning more about it.
Meanwhile, self-reporting about motivation is tricky, experts explained to me. Women who are told that women cheat for emotional connection will tend to report that they are seeking emotional connection in their extra-pair involvements. Similarly, men who are told that men cheat for sexual excitement will report they are seeking excitement. Peel back that language and what you are likely to see, as infidelity experts like Tammy Nelson tell us, is that male and female motivations are more similar than we've previously acknowledged.