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Is Male Infidelity, Uh, Hardwired?
July 31, 2003 8:50 PM   Subscribe

Is Male Infidelity Hardwired? The Washington Post reports on an academic study by the International Sexuality Description Project that "found that men everywhere--whether single, married or gay--want more sexual partners than women do." Part of the research may have come from this web site, which is run by the author of the survey.
posted by kirkaracha (42 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
From the Post article:
More than a quarter of heterosexual men wanted more than one partner in the next month, as did 29.1 percent of gay men and 30.1 percent of bisexual men, the study said. Just 4.4 percent of heterosexual women, 5.5 percent of lesbians and 15.6 percent of bisexual women sought more than one partner.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:52 PM on July 31, 2003


1) Wanting and 2) Acting on your desires are two different things. Infidelity is a choice.
posted by Samsonov14 at 8:59 PM on July 31, 2003


I don't want to join all the FPP-bashers we already have here on Metafilter, but isn't this basic evolutionary biology? I mean, isn't this another "they spent money on this?" study?
posted by uosuaq at 9:03 PM on July 31, 2003


From the article, I found it interesting that women were far more likely to admit watching pornography only if they were anonymous. I've always suspected this.
posted by bobo123 at 9:05 PM on July 31, 2003


Oh for god's sake, not another one of these "we can find global differences between genders" pieces of pseudo scientific nonsense... One more time: Differences between individuals are greater than differences between groups. Repeat until this is understood. Some men feel that they are fundamentally monogamous, and act accordingly. Some women do too. Other men and women do not feel or act that way. The End.
posted by jokeefe at 9:11 PM on July 31, 2003 [1 favorite]


Is Male Infidelity Hardwired?

Wired for fucking, maybe.
posted by the fire you left me at 9:18 PM on July 31, 2003


I get a laugh from the monkey studies done periodically that show a male with his harem, and the females are always trying to cheat on him with lone males that hang around the perimeter.

"See, see!" is implied "It's normal for women to cheat, because primates do!"

But what they never mention is what happens when the dominant male catches one of his harem with an outside male. Basically the same thing as what happens in Texas.

QED if cheating is normal because primates do it, so is double homicide. At least in Texas.
posted by kablam at 9:18 PM on July 31, 2003


Damn straight, jokeefe.
posted by Samsonov14 at 9:20 PM on July 31, 2003


Sweet. I like to date scientists.
posted by vito90 at 10:32 PM on July 31, 2003


..pieces of pseudo scientific nonsense... One more time: Differences between individuals are greater than differences between groups.

Yes.

However, am I wrong to assume that you're not familiar with statistics - population sampling, bell curves, degrees of freedom, probabilities and the like?

Not that I agree or disagree with the findings of the study, but to rationalize the invalidity of all studies with a very narrow view comparing the individual subjects' differences versus that of an entire population, that speaks of a lack of understanding of the concept of the study itself.

It's a population-wide probability, not a final judgement of your personal (in)fidelity.
posted by jazzkat11 at 10:59 PM on July 31, 2003


Damn evolution, screwing with people's ethics all the time.
posted by raaka at 11:01 PM on July 31, 2003


Name an ethic that doesn't have an evolutionary component.
posted by jazzkat11 at 11:03 PM on July 31, 2003


Yeah, what everyone else said:

1) Wanting and 2) Acting on your desires are two different things. Infidelity is a choice.

And especially:

Name an ethic that doesn't have an evolutionary component.

...although I might add "an evolutionary component as its rationalization."

I've never understood the cheating thing because of the concept of honesty. If you're honest about being non-exclusive, much pain can be saved and there's no "cheating." But, in the "real" relationships I've been in, other women never crossed my mind. So maybe I don't understand the whole concept here?
posted by Shane at 6:22 AM on August 1, 2003


A bit ridiculous because it's impossible to tell how much of this behavior is caused by biology and how much by society. In pretty much every society (at least that I know of) there is far more emphasis put on female sexual "purity" than male. As it says in the article:

Because of society's double standard, Fisher said, women are hesitant to report their true sexual desires. . . But she also found that women's scores changed depending on how confident they were of remaining anonymous. . . The men's answers did not change significantly, indicating they were less concerned about their opinions being discovered.
posted by witchstone at 6:23 AM on August 1, 2003


Damn straight, kablam!

Women don't like to hear it and pussy-whipped men don't like to hear it, but men like to fuck as many different women as possible.

It is not a matter of quality, but of quantity. That is the essential difference between men and women. A woman can have one child a year, so those genes better be good. A man can potentially have hundreds, so it's better to just flood the market, so to speak.

And infidelity is no more a choice than eating is.
posted by eas98 at 6:30 AM on August 1, 2003


"...other women never crossed my mind."

On second thought, that sounds a little too extreme. I guess I should say, never crossed my mind as anything but nice scenery. I'm human.

posted by Shane at 6:30 AM on August 1, 2003


eas98: Just a second, there. I'd agree that men have their biological imperatives; but women have them too.

In fact, women *have* two. The first is to get the (determined by I *wish* I knew what) "best sperm donor"; but then, to have the best "provider type" to help them raise their offspring. NOT NECESSARILY THE SAME MALE.

But this raises the point. Advantage here lies with "sperm donor but not provider" males for producing the most offspring. Disadvantage lies in males who are chosen *solely* as providers. They get shafted. However, after years of letting females get away with this, in the "post fidelity in marriage" era, THE LAW is now hoping to shift the balance back towards "provider males", giving them a say in NOT raising children NOT their own.
posted by kablam at 7:45 AM on August 1, 2003


eas98, do I really need to point out that eating is necessary for survival, but non-monogamous behavior within the framework of monogamous commitment is not? And therefore infidelity is more of a "choice"?

Surely not, and I'm feeding the troll. [sigh]
posted by clever sheep at 7:46 AM on August 1, 2003


if, as some believe, the male imperative is to "flood the market", what would ever be the benefit of even pretending to a monogomous relationship? Within such confines one cannot flood the market nightly, and think of all the spermy flood victims that perish even while the alpha male is making up some sort of story to explain his upcoming Tuesday night absence.

The "hard-wired male" should never have to worry about the moral or social implications of infidelity, because, logically, he would never be so "soft-wired" as to enter into an arrangement demanding fidelity.
posted by taz at 8:18 AM on August 1, 2003


Jesus, anytime anyone says anything 'controversial', they are labelled a troll. [sigh]

Assuming our basic urges are to eat, sleep, and reproduce, I feel that it is appropriate to make that connection. I will also point out that it is quite likely that we humans would not be around today to be discussing this if men (perhaps women, too) did adhere to the "framework of monogamous commitment". So, that should take care of your "necessary for survival" complaint.
posted by eas98 at 8:26 AM on August 1, 2003


The "hard-wired male" should never have to worry about the moral or social implications of infidelity, because, logically, he would never be so "soft-wired" as to enter into an arrangement demanding fidelity.

Ahh.. Never underestimate the wiles of a woman. ;)

Seriously, though, it's not called the battle of the sexes for nothing. Women want providership out of a male, and men want their various things from a woman. The arrangement is merely one of convenience.

A man may elect to enter into an arrangement 'demanding fidelity', but that does not turn off his instincts (although he may suppress them -- we can debate the merits of that), and it certainly does not guarantee that he will remain monogomous.
posted by eas98 at 8:32 AM on August 1, 2003


eas98, I would be the last one to underestimate the wiles of a woman... but, really, what's the point of all this investment of energy, time, and creative deception when all that vitality could be spent on one night stands? Night, after night, after night. Especially if the point is impregnation - 7/7 is where it's at.
posted by taz at 9:04 AM on August 1, 2003


eas98:

Jesus, anytime anyone says anything 'controversial', they are labelled a troll. [sigh]
Not quite. I object to the statement that "infidelity is no more a choice than eating is" because it's illogical, not because it's controversial. You can cease to do one and survive; cease to do another and you will die. One is a choice. The other is not. Simple.

Assuming our basic urges are to eat, sleep, and reproduce, I feel that it is appropriate to make that connection.
I like to assume that we have evolved past slavery to our basic urges. Your mileage may vary. In addition to which, reproduction with a single female would still address the "basic urge" to reproduce; infidelity is not necessarily warranted by your statements (though please note I accept that additional partners would increase the likelihood of passing on genes). As an illustration of monogamous reproduction as fulfillment of basic urges, I refer you to wolves and swans.

I will also point out that it is quite likely that we humans would not be around today to be discussing this if men (perhaps women, too) did adhere to the "framework of monogamous commitment". So, that should take care of your "necessary for survival" complaint.
I can't make out the logic here. Are you positing that humans would not have survived to present times if they adhered to monogamy as a social standard?

Because my response would be that by the time social standards arose such that a framework of monogamous commitment was recognized, we were probably already comfortably perched at the top o' the food chain. I don't mean to imply that sexual pairing and access hasn't been an issue since the cave-painting days, of course; just that, by the time guys could sign marriage licenses and fight pistol duels and such, I don't think infidelity was still a matter of survival of the species.

Here's what's at root of my case: you can argue nature until you're blue in the face, but it's only half the equation. The rest is nurture. Infidelity may have a biological basis, sure, but it's not a "biological imperative." Imperative equals must and there's no must about infidelity. First, you've incorrectly conflated infidelity and reproduction. It's easy to avoid infidelity, in fact--just don't enter into a contract of monogamy, and you can reproduce as much as you want, home free! Second, even reproduction is no longer a biological imperative. Plenty of people are childless by choice in today's society.

A man may elect to enter into an arrangement 'demanding fidelity', but that does not turn off his instincts (although he may suppress them -- we can debate the merits of that), and it certainly does not guarantee that he will remain monogomous.
I do not argue about the lack of a "guarantee". What I do argue is that any modern male can argue that he bears no responsibility for infidelity thanks to biological imperative. Such a claim on the part of an individual would demonstrate severe lack of the cojones that are blamed for the misbehavior.
posted by clever sheep at 9:07 AM on August 1, 2003


Language self-clarification: "What I do argue is that any modern male can justifiably assert that he bears no responsibility" et cetera.

Off to do twenty pushups for the bad writing.
posted by clever sheep at 9:18 AM on August 1, 2003


...And upon walking away for a cup of tea, it occurs to me that we feminists are often derided as "man haters." Yet in this case I'm giving men a lot more credit than you are! Whatever commitments you may make and violate, you are certainly capable of more morally consistent behavior.

I crack up when I think of the further ramifications of a modern world where we're well and truly helpless in the face of our basic biological urges. Darn it, the next time one of my pals playfully snatches away the last few bites of my L'il Debbie snack cake, there will be BLOOD, I tell you, BLOOD!!!

...It's all about survival, right?
posted by clever sheep at 9:32 AM on August 1, 2003


Well put, Clever Sheep. Well put. I was going to add my views, but you took care of it for me.
posted by aacheson at 9:48 AM on August 1, 2003


Then again, there are strong arguments against using nature as measure of ethics.
posted by NortonDC at 10:18 AM on August 1, 2003


yup, nicely put, clever sheep.

Women don't like to hear it and pussy-whipped men don't like to hear it, but men like to fuck as many different women as possible.

how do you know you speak for all men? Perhaps you like to fuck as many different women as possible, but why isn't it possible that some men are happy in monogamous relationships? Women enjoy fantasizing and checking out men even while in monogamy, too - sexual beings have sexual thoughts - but actually following through on that after having promised not to is not a hard-wired trait; it's a choice.

if you want to have an open relationship, make that clear from the start - or remain a bachelor who fucks different women all the time. But if you agree with a partner to a monogamous relationship, then you have taken responsibility for learning to tame that desire.
posted by mdn at 10:27 AM on August 1, 2003


.pieces of pseudo scientific nonsense... One more time: Differences between individuals are greater than differences between groups.

Yes.

However, am I wrong to assume that you're not familiar with statistics - population sampling, bell curves, degrees of freedom, probabilities and the like?


jazzkat11, you are not wrong; degrees of freedom sounds to me more like a great name for a band than what I'm most familiar with (I'm a lit geek). I tend to go off when I'm confronted by what I can only see as the staggering intellectual laziness, the sloppy methodology, and the obvious agendas that are found in evolutionary "psychology". And I find deeply suspect that the "conclusions" of this work tend to reinforce current stereotypes of gender behaviour, ignoring or discounting the deeply complex ways in which society is structured. How can any observer, going by this scanty "evidence", parse out some universal and fundamental instances of biologically driven behaviour that can be constantly correalated with the way people actually live their lives?

It makes as much sense to take the position that women are biologically impelled to find a different father for each child, so as to increase the number of possible providers and enlarge the gene pool, while constructing social networks with other women for mutual help and support. You could argue this just as well, and find just as much evidence for it.
posted by jokeefe at 10:39 AM on August 1, 2003


clever sheep:

Good points, and worthy of consideration.

I just want to make a couple of comments.

What if the "basic urge to reproduce" was actually (for males) a "basic urge to reproduce with many females"? I don't know if that is the case, but it very well could be.

I like to assume that we have evolved past slavery to our basic urges.
I would like to also, but the fact remains that we still must eat, and still must sleep. Why throw out the 3rd arbitrarily?

Nature vs. nuture is not mutually exclusive here. It is my nature to inseminate many females. I will still perhaps nurture only one set of children (and their mothers, I suppose), though.

I am not 'excusing' the male instinct. Just explaining that it is there, like it or not. :)
posted by eas98 at 11:02 AM on August 1, 2003


Is it just me, or does the usual position that women somehow "trick" men into marriage ignore certain important facts? Remember, patriarchal societies have traditionally been quite quick to enforce the standards of marriage. It's logical if you think about it, because when you have primogeniture, knowing who the father is is quite important. Whereas in a society where property is passed along the female line it doesn't matter because you always know who the mother is. Of course, women do get a provider out the arrangement, I'm not contesting that, just the idea that men are somehow inherently gypped.
posted by e^2 at 11:15 AM on August 1, 2003


What if the "basic urge to reproduce" was actually (for males) a "basic urge to reproduce with many females"? I don't know if that is the case, but it very well could be.
eas98, if you're already conceding to having no evidence to support that theory, what should I contest? Or, more to the point, why should any observers support your position?

You apparently have a strong urge toward polyamory. I would urge you, then, not to enter into a monogamous contract, which would then put you in jeopardy of infidelity if you did not have the self-will to control your impulses.

I do not address you in particular in order to make a personal attack; I do it because I want to emphasize the individual nature of the situation. mdn already asked you in a previous post, "how do you know you speak for all men? ...Why isn't it possible that some men are happy in monogamous relationships?" Do you have an answer?

[Sheep: I like to assume that we have evolved past slavery to our basic urges.]
I would like to also, but the fact remains that we still must eat, and still must sleep. Why throw out the 3rd arbitrarily?
I'll clarify further. I must eat or die. I must sleep or die. However, I will not die if I do not reproduce. Clearer?

In addition, when I say that "we have evolved past slavery to our basic urges," I mean just that. It does not mean that the urges have gone away; it means that we can elect to control our responses to them. We are no more driven to infidelity/reproduction than we are to eat the moment we determine that we are hungry, or to sleep every time we feel tired. You choose what you eat; you choose when to sleep; you choose whom to reproduce with and under what circumstances. And hopefully, when you make agreements to reproductive monogamy, you choose to uphold them. In modern society, in this context, biology is not destiny.

Nature vs. nuture is not mutually exclusive here. It is my nature to inseminate many females. I will still perhaps nurture only one set of children (and their mothers, I suppose), though.
I never stated that nature and nurture are mutually exclusive; to the contrary, I stated that both are necessary to understand the foundation of human behavior.

Further, you may claim that it is your "nature" to inseminate many females, but I think you're closing your eyes to a world of "nurture" involved in that urge as well. For example, (and I apologize in advance for the armchair analysis), making statements such as this one, and the prior gem that "Women don't like to hear it and pussy-whipped men don't like to hear it, but men like to fuck as many different women as possible," seems designed at least in part to emphasize to the world at large what a manly man the writer is.

I am not 'excusing' the male instinct. Just explaining that it is there, like it or not. :)
And I reply that the male instinct can be controlled, because men have evolved sufficiently to make rational choices--including the choice not to marry if they feel incapable of committing to a monogamous relationship.

I mean, really--THINK about the corollaries to holding the position that men can't really control their biological urge to reproduce, regardless of social strictures. It would spell the end to women in the workplace, and to modes of dress that were not all-concealing, such as the burqua. That and more, to avoid an epidemic of rape.

As I said before, please give men more credit than this!
posted by clever sheep at 11:48 AM on August 1, 2003


Hmm. I was being flippant earlier, but to explicate: the idea that all human behaviour can be distilled into species/self survival strategies is really missing the point. If we never acted against our urges, we would have been dead ducks long ago.

As with most things, there is tension, a wire atop which we struggle to right ourselves, constantly losing and regaining our balance. If constant, efficient reproduction was the imperative that some argue, there would be little room for the arts, science, philosophy or love. And, ultimately, there would be little reason to continue to reproduce... Why? so our offspring down the line could experience a poke and a sigh and die happy? Doesn't it seem that reproduction strategy is perhaps not an end in itself, but a step on the evolutionary stairstep?
posted by taz at 11:52 AM on August 1, 2003


Oops, sorry--should've italicized your statement,
I am not 'excusing' the male instinct. Just explaining that it is there, like it or not. :)

Didn't mean not to give you proper attribution.
posted by clever sheep at 11:54 AM on August 1, 2003


Is it just me, or does the usual position that women somehow "trick" men into marriage ignore certain important facts?

How do you get tricked into marriage in the first place? Do you wake up stinking of tequila in a little hacienda next to a chapel in Mexico? Sounds vaguely fun. But she better pay for the honeymoon.
posted by Shane at 11:56 AM on August 1, 2003


wait... does that mean that I should be... married?
posted by taz at 12:19 PM on August 1, 2003


Or, to put it better, that men are the ones who don't want commitment, whereas women do and work their wiles to see it so. So how does that accord with men being the ones to propose?

Shane — what, are you looking to be "taken advantage of" in the best sense of the phrase? That's what your word-image calls to my mind. *wink*
posted by e^2 at 12:22 PM on August 1, 2003


clever sheep:

This is not a debate about how men should be. It is about how they are. You, as a woman, are telling me how you would like them to be. I, as a (manly? hehe) man, am telling you how they are.

I would urge you, then, not to enter into a monogamous contract...
Trust me, if it weren't for the fact that by and large most women don't accept that, a vast majority of men would do so. As it is, a very large percentage of men are doing it, just behind their women's back. :/

As I said before, please give men more credit than this!
Ah, they typical feminist. Men don't need to be excused for who they are. Why do men have to accept everything about a woman and her behavior, but a man is admonished and somehow ostracized for his? It is true -- the feminization of society here is well under way.
posted by eas98 at 12:28 PM on August 1, 2003


am i the only one *amazed* by the disconnect between the WashPost article and the actual study? are they even talking about the same study?

WashPost: "a study of more than 16,000 people from every inhabited continent found that men everywhere -- whether single, married or gay -- want more sexual partners than women do"

study: "Equally unremarkable was our finding that men tended to describe themselves as more promiscuous (or less exclusive) than women did. This was to be expected, given that men are often rewarded for promiscuity in North American culture, whereas women are often punished for similar desires and behaviors-a consequence of the sexual double standard (Sprecher, McKinney, & Orbuch, 1987)."

isn't the study more concerned with whether sexual infidelity is related to character traits? from my reading (albeit painful and boring), it has almost nothing to do with gender differences (which, imo, are almost completely products of social structures).

i think WashPost is pushing its own private agenda: selling papers. the researcher, whose quotes in the WashPost article don't jive with the study, is simply happy for any attention at all.

if women had any power at all in this world, they'd be fucking all sorts of men like crazy. that's just my opinion.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:43 PM on August 1, 2003


eas98, I'm beginning to suspect you once again of trolling. Please respond in such a way that proves me wrong, or I'll discontinue replying to your statements.

You wrote:
This is not a debate about how men should be. It is about how they are. You, as a woman, are telling me how you would like them to be. I, as a (manly? hehe) man, am telling you how they are.

From where I sit, you are arguing that men are incapable of controlling their biological urges to reproduce. On the contrary, I am arguing that despite the presence of biological urges to reproduce, men have evolved sufficiently to control their behavioral impulses.

Read that again. Are you sure you want to win this one? And before you reply, get out the dictionary and look up "Pyrrhic victory."

Trust me, if it weren't for the fact that by and large most women don't accept [reproduction without commitment], a vast majority of men would do [it]. As it is, a very large percentage of men are doing it, just behind their women's back. :/

That's irrelevant to the question of whether infidelity is a biological imperative, rather than a matter of poor impulse control and bad-faith contractual behavior.

[Sheep: As I said before, please give men more credit than this!]
Ah, they [sic] typical feminist. Men don't need to be excused for who they are.


I think you have seriously misinterpreted my statement. I ask that you concede that men, as a gender, are fully capable of impulse control and civilized conduct. How (how? how? how?) is that in any way related to excusing or not excusing men for "who they are"?

Why do men have to accept everything about a woman and her behavior, but a man is admonished and somehow ostracized for his?

You're piling unsupported generalizations one on top of another in this thread. Would you care to provide even a smidgen of attribution for your statement that "men have to accept everything" but are themselves "ostracized" et cetera?

And while you're at it, this bit of business remains from our previous round:
mdn already asked you in a previous post, "how do you know you speak for all men? ...Why isn't it possible that some men are happy in monogamous relationships?" Do you have an answer?

It is true -- the feminization of society here is well under way.

If men genuinely are the unevolved, knuckle-dragging cro-magnons you seem determined to make them out to be, then the feminization of society sounds like our only salvation to me.
posted by clever sheep at 1:24 PM on August 1, 2003


if women had any power at all in this world, they'd be fucking all sorts of men like crazy. that's just my opinion.
There are plenty social circles out there where this is already the case.
posted by afx114 at 4:26 PM on August 1, 2003


This is not a debate about how men should be. It is about how they are. You, as a woman, are telling me how you would like them to be. I, as a (manly? hehe) man, am telling you how they are.

how do you know how all men are, though? Why don't you just present this as a personal thing? Tell your future girlfriends that it doesn't matter how they wish you were, the fact is that you are hardwired to cheat on them. Why extend your personal traits to apply to your entire gender?

Trust me, if it weren't for the fact that by and large most women don't accept that, a vast majority of men would do so. As it is, a very large percentage of men are doing it, just behind their women's back. :/

I am always open to non-monogamous relationships, but have only dated one guy who was interested in that. Plenty of guys seem perfectly happy to be exclusive. Perhaps your data is not conclusive. Maybe you're just young and enjoying the novelty, or it could be that you're an unusual case - in any event, I don't think you can claim to represent your entire gender.

Ah, they typical feminist. Men don't need to be excused for who they are. Why do men have to accept everything about a woman and her behavior, but a man is admonished and somehow ostracized for his? It is true -- the feminization of society here is well under way.

This has nothing to do with a desire to fuck lots of people, if you're conceiving that as a male trait that's being unfairly judged. The point here is dishonesty: if you promise to be exclusive, and then sneak around and break that promise, you're breaking a primary principle of human ethics. The promise is essential to human interaction, and a breach of that contract makes you unreliable and immoral. Fucking lots of people is fine, as long as those people are fine with it. If you can't find people to fuck who don't mind sharing, then you have to restrain yourself, exactly as you have to restrain yourself from raping people if no one wants to have consensual sex with you. Rape can be defended by (this bullshit) evolutionary biology stuff too, but we can easily see the fallacy - right?
posted by mdn at 6:51 PM on August 1, 2003 [1 favorite]


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