Loyal spouses or lousy seducers?
May 2, 2007 11:01 PM   Subscribe

Are Americans fidelity adepts, or just inept seducers?
posted by pwedza (67 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
European Men Are So Much More Romantic Than American Men
posted by homunculus at 11:28 PM on May 2, 2007


The Wikipedia article on flirting is interesting, especially this paragraph.
"The origin of the word flirt is obscure. The Oxford English Dictionary (first edition) associates it with such onomatopoeic words as flit and flick, emphasizing a lack of seriousness; on the other hand, it has been attributed to the old French "Conter fleurette", which means "to (try to) seduce" by the dropping of flower leaves, that is, "to speak sweet nothings". This expression is no longer used in French, but the English gallicism to flirt has made its way and has now become an anglicism.
Wikipedia is, of course, an authoratative source on everything, so take that with a grain of salt. Salt probably won't be so useful in the art of seduction though, I imagine.
posted by Effigy2000 at 11:39 PM on May 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wikipedia is, of course, an authoratative source on everything, so take that with a grain of salt. Salt probably won't be so useful in the art of seduction though, I imagine.
posted by Effigy2000 at 11:39 PM on May 2 [+]
[!]


oh I don't know, what about the old wives tale of sprinkling salt on someone's tail?
posted by infini at 11:45 PM on May 2, 2007


From homunculus' link:

I just got back from a semester abroad in Europe, and let me tell you, it truly was the most magical, amazing experience of my entire life.

Sounds like someone got laid.
posted by three blind mice at 11:48 PM on May 2, 2007


Wow, charges of seduction. I thought that we were a bit averse, but man.
posted by pwedza at 11:52 PM on May 2, 2007


Sorry, meant to link
posted by pwedza at 11:52 PM on May 2, 2007


Evidently, only men can be guilty. (see last paragraph)(need to go to the library for the rest I suppose)
posted by pwedza at 12:00 AM on May 3, 2007


Its all them erogenous zones those Euro men have, they exude Teh Horny.
posted by fenriq at 12:10 AM on May 3, 2007


Don't get me wrong, pwedza, I'm like totally straight, but um. That portrait shot of Sinatra is... interesting. (The profile pic ruins it though.)
posted by Firas at 12:13 AM on May 3, 2007


In contrast to the onion link, an article about American women being "seduced" by Paris a little more than a century ago.

extract:
More damaging to women, though, was the idea that each summer Europe was being invaded by armies of pretty, young, empty-headed American "flirts." (This was rather ironic, since, for most young American women, European touring posed quite the opposite problem: dealing with ogling men and suggestive comments.) Henry James, who was regarded as perhaps the most incisive observer of American behavior in Europe, was probably the major purveyor of this idea. His 1878 novel, Daisy Miller, about a very pretty and very superficial young American girl whose flirtatiousness with European men ultimately leads to her death, made her name synonymous with this stereotype. Concerns spread over the dangers courted by women such as she, who did not realize that what constituted innocent flirting in America was taken much more seriously by European men.
posted by pwedza at 12:20 AM on May 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


also from the article:

Until the turn of the century, the word flirt, which entered the French language in the late 1860s, soon after it originated in America, was used mainly to describe American women. This reputation for flirtatiousness was particularly fascinating for the French bourgeoisie. The men would find it quite baffling that young virgins would engage men in frank exchanges with sexual undertones and yet have no intention of following up on this.

(some things never change)
posted by pwedza at 12:22 AM on May 3, 2007


The men would find it quite baffling that young virgins would engage men in frank exchanges with sexual undertones and yet have no intention of following up on this.

Fuck me. I think you should just boiled down the mystery that is Serge Gainsbourg into one sentence.
posted by phaedon at 12:49 AM on May 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


I was just on a rant the other day about a friend who told his wife he'd fallen out of love with her (he'd been having an affair for three years). What I hate a lot more than adulterers are adulterers who confess because they feel guilty and want absolution, essentially victimizing their spouses twice. I mean if you're going to have an affair at least have the decency to keep it discreet until your deathbed at least.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:18 AM on May 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


Most cultures where Tariq has spent time—besides ours—conform to the system in which one's wife, sister, and mother are treated one way and "spared" what a man saves for his mistress.

*raises eyebrow*
posted by liquorice at 2:18 AM on May 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


One man's sister is another's...SILF?
posted by maxwelton at 2:30 AM on May 3, 2007


What I hate a lot more than adulterers are adulterers who confess because they feel guilty and want absolution, essentially victimizing their spouses twice.

No, the worst are the adulterers who blame their spouses for their own adultery. Men tend to blame the woman's looks (as if they were come-hither beauties themselves) as a justification for cheating, while women blame the man taking them for granted (as if they weren't doing the same thing) as a justification. It's never their fault, oh no. Always the other person's fault for not being perfect.

As an aside, I love the double standard so many young men have about supporting victims of cheaters. There can be two identical posts on Something Awful, one by a man complaining that his wife cheated on him, one by a woman complaining that her husband cheated. The article written by a guy will contain dozens of "sorry, bro, her fault entirely, she's a whore" comments, but the article started by a woman will be full of "it's YOUR fault! You got FAT! You're probably UGLY! IT'S YOUR FAULT ENTIRELY YOU EVIL WHORE!" comments. (beats head against wall) And then the same posters whine that they never get laid. I wonder why!
posted by watsondog at 2:40 AM on May 3, 2007


Are Americans fidelity adepts, or just inept seducers?

To quote Family Guy, "Can't it be both?"

I think we spend a lot of time being afraid of having new people reject us, which leads us to get more attached to the one we're with, which leads us to be more afraid of risking that on having new people reject us...

A wise man said: If what they say is "nothing is forever," then what makes love the exception?
posted by thethirdman at 2:42 AM on May 3, 2007


liquorice -- I wondered about that too. I mean, if they're so very comfortable with seduction and adultery, what's so disrespectful or taboo about how you treat your mistress that everyone else would want to be "spared" it?
posted by gignomai at 2:42 AM on May 3, 2007


watsondog: It can get even worse than that. I once had a cheating lover do that and then get mad at me for "making [them] out to be the kind of person who could cheat on someone" (in conversation with them), thus increasing how terribly difficult it was for them to deal with the fact that they had cheated.
posted by gignomai at 2:51 AM on May 3, 2007


I'm not sure why hiding the truth from you partner is somehow considered "decent". The decent thing to do is to be upfront about it and let them make the choice if they want to stick around or not.

gignomai: I know, and why the link between wife, sister and mother? That sounds less related to anything sexual and more to do with respect.

It doesn't even make sense to compare statistics to different countries where the culture is usually much more unevenly balanced and women may have no choice but to stay in the marriage regardless of their husband's infedlity.
posted by liquorice at 2:52 AM on May 3, 2007


No liquorice, the decent thing is to have the balls (or ovaries) to pull the trigger on your relationship yourself, and then move on to the next lover, or not to cheat in the first place. I am of course excepting couples that have an "agreement". Openness is not exactly the same thing as honesty, it's another way of transferring guilt, somewhat like Watsondog's beef against adulterers who blame their spouses.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:13 AM on May 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hmm. I don't think the most proper post-adultery action is always 'confess' or 'terminate without confession.' I think one can make a case for optimizing towards the pretend-nothing-happened stance. Tricky question though.
posted by Firas at 3:24 AM on May 3, 2007


Speaking personally, yes, I am an inept seducer. I didn't read the whole article, but assume that it means I am no good at picking up chicks, which is completely true.
posted by poppo at 3:37 AM on May 3, 2007


There is as usual a middle ground, a way ut of these problems:
serial marrage, and lots of them.
posted by Postroad at 4:21 AM on May 3, 2007


I truly enjoyed that interview with Rapaille. It serves to remind me of an essential difference between French and American mindsets.

To generalize (yes, I know, tons of counterexamples abound), the French seem comfortable with simultaenously holding two entirely contradictory views on the same topic while Americans are utterly incapable of it personally or politically. I think something similar extends to the difference between how the men in the two cultures handle something like adultery. French guy: I love my wife, but my affairs are my business. American guy: I love my wife, but this affair I'm having, that my wife doesn't know about is tearing me to pieces with guilt and burning a hole in my marriage; i must confess to expiate my wrongdoing.
posted by psmealey at 5:30 AM on May 3, 2007


The problem with cheating is the lying. If I can't trust someone, I can't be with them. I don't see how that would be any different for Europeans, unless your social/economic situation is such that you can't afford to leave, which I think may be the case in some of these situations.

Why is it mostly men that get away with cheating in Europe?
posted by empath at 5:37 AM on May 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


Did anyone else find that first article to be kind of androcentric? Describing women in terms of their appearances (but not men), nodding approvingly as "Henri" dictated to "Anna" where her place was, with token quotes from a woman whose cheating is much less stereotypically threatening (emotional cheating. Men don't care about emotions. Or cheating with other women! That's just hot, right?) than the men interviewed, even its title... I'm actually interested the debate on whether monoamory is really an ideal arrangement, but it was very hard for me to focus on what the article's substance when its execution was so distracting.

(And no, I didn't make it through the whole thing, so if it redeems itself in the last page and a half or so please feel free to inform me.)
posted by AV at 5:51 AM on May 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


Women seem to get away with it, too -- not just men, though perhaps "get away with" is the wrong vernacular. The word "libertine" is, after all, French in origin.

In my (limited) observation, adultery in Europe seems to be very much the sort of thing that is tolerated only so long as it is not flaunted; what happens behind closed doors stays behind closed doors. Make it public, and things seem much more American.

I think it boils down to fundamentally different views on sex. Americans see sex as something inherently shameful, and tend to be preoccupied with sexual morality. I'd chalk this difference up to religious history, but then Europe had the freakin' crusades. Maybe distance from the yoke of religion? Despite the history and all the old churches, much of Europe is functionally agnostic. Our church attendance as a nation is certainly among the higher in the world.
posted by kaseijin at 6:07 AM on May 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Silly me, I spoke waaay too soon. From the second article:

The purpose to be thin is to attract a man to get pregnant. Then you have the baby and want to get skinny again, why? To get pregnant again. So finally you say, "Enough is enough, I am fat and I am going to stay that way. I don't want to get pregnant again."

[HEAD EXPLODES]
posted by AV at 6:07 AM on May 3, 2007


That MSN article was moronic.

Human beings elsewhere seem more aware and less terrified of the fact that a person is born alone and dies alone

I don't know about you, but my momma was there for one of those.
posted by ND¢ at 6:15 AM on May 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


ND¢ writes "I don't know about you, but my momma was there for one of those."

You're not fooling anyone, Unit 736. Public records show you as being from Vat 27-B-246.
posted by Bugbread at 6:23 AM on May 3, 2007 [4 favorites]


The MSN article, being an MSN article, was a pretty lame puff piece I couldn't even get through. I thought the other was at least pretty colorful, though it just barely had anything to do with the abstract for this thread...
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:30 AM on May 3, 2007


The second article was silly and was a little bit "French men drive like this, but American men drive like this", but it was interesting. I suppose that if you are trying to describe a country as a whole, then you have to speak in stereotypes. I often think that there is no such thing as America as a nation. We may all watch the same television and eat at the same Applebees, but what does someone from Minnesota really have in common with me, a person from South Carolina? I suppose it is the Southerner in me that sees myself as more a citizen of my state than a citizen of the United States, but because we are all so different, I don't think that you can put many labels on Americans as a whole. However, I think that some of his were pretty good.
posted by ND¢ at 6:45 AM on May 3, 2007


As an aside, I love the double standard so many young men have about supporting victims of cheaters. There can be two identical posts on Something Awful, one by a man complaining that his wife cheated on him, one by a woman complaining that her husband cheated.

All the more reason to avoid GBS.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:03 AM on May 3, 2007


The problem with cheating is the lying. If I can't trust someone, I can't be with them. I don't see how that would be any different for Europeans [ . . . ]

But if it's a kind of unwritten social rule that "cheating" will probably happen once in awhile, and that it's no big deal so long as it's handled with discretion, then it's not, strictly speaking, a deceptive practice.
posted by treepour at 7:56 AM on May 3, 2007


Everybody can handle lying in a relationship. And lying doesn't necessarily decimate trust. People lie that they turned the air conditioner off when they accidentally left it on. They lie that they mailed the bills yesterday, when they actually forgot and mailed them today. They lie that they liked a movie that their spouse gushed about, when really they thought it was mediocre.

The issue, then, isn't whether you can trust someone who lies, but whether you can trust someone who lies about important stuff. Nobody divorces a spouse because they're untrustworthy because they said they took the dog for a walk when they really didn't. Lots of people divorce spouses because they're untrustworthy because they had an affair. The difference, probably, is the importance you place on fidelity.

So the question about whether you can trust someone who lies about an affair doesn't come down to whether the problem is the lying or not, but the lying about this particular issue.
posted by Bugbread at 8:06 AM on May 3, 2007


Did anybody out there read the front page headline that the chairman of british petroleum resigned yesterday because of sex scandal?

So maybe all you godless Europeans ain't so sophisticated as you like to claim.
posted by bukvich at 8:09 AM on May 3, 2007


But if it's a kind of unwritten social rule that "cheating" will probably happen once in awhile, and that it's no big deal so long as it's handled with discretion, then it's not, strictly speaking, a deceptive practice.

Yeah I agree. You shouldn't hurt the ones you love, but shit happens. When it does, you can either be a dick about it and have a long-term affair where your mistress calls your house late at night and you are going to your son's soccer game to meet up with her, or you can be a different kind of dick and run to your wife and tell her all about it and ruin both of your lives. Or, you can face the fact that something happened, but that you still love your wife, and you can be honest to the person that it happened with that nothing can go on between the two of you, and you can move on with your life.

There is a sort of demilitarized zone inbetween being perfect and being a dick. You try to stay in the perfect zone as much as you can, but just because you hit no man's land doesn't mean you have to keep going.
posted by ND¢ at 8:14 AM on May 3, 2007


To generalize (yes, I know, tons of counterexamples abound), the French seem comfortable with simultaenously holding two entirely contradictory views on the same topic while Americans are utterly incapable of it personally or politically. I think something similar extends to the difference between how the men in the two cultures handle something like adultery. French guy: I love my wife, but my affairs are my business. American guy: I love my wife, but this affair I'm having, that my wife doesn't know about is tearing me to pieces with guilt and burning a hole in my marriage; i must confess to expiate my wrongdoing.

I think that this goes to the center of it - aversion to ambiguity.

(And yes, the first article is by no means brilliant. But it does throw out the idea that Americans and French cheat in equal amounts and that Americans seem to be particularly bad at coping with it.)

So on seduction:

In France, seduction is not directly linked to fornication. Its not because somebody makes eyes at you that they are going to sleep with you. Seduction is simply part of the ambiguity and contrast of social life in general. If you can't "seduce" to a certain extent, you may not go far. In short, seduction is not the act of some ravishingly handsome guy hiding behind corners waiting to tempt and entice your wife into sleeping with him. [see definition below] It is more part of general interaction. (which by no means suggests that people are sleeping with each other at every chance)

In the States, we tend to like things black and white. We are quite averse to ambiguity and uncertainty. Seduction is just not really part of our set of social skills. [On Tyra the other night being "seductive" was characterized as showing leg or wearing a low-cut blouse -- my wife - who is French - spit coffee out her nose] And, as it is foreign to us, we tend to have a particularly negative view of it. Or else we are clinging dearly to the ideas American forefathers had of seduction:

This is the definition provided by law.com:

seduction
n. the use of charm, salesmanship, promises, gifts and flattery to induce another person to have sexual intercourse outside marriage, without any use of force or intimidation. At one time seduction was a crime in many states, but if the seducee (usually female) is of the age of consent and is not drugged, intoxicated or otherwise unable to consent, seduction is no longer criminal. However, just as adultery lingers in the criminal codes of some states, so does seduction.

[I'm not sure if seduction was criminalized anywhere in Europe]

But if Americans are just as unfaithful as thier European counterparts, why do we handle it so badly? Unreal expectations? Naive idealism?

Many Americans tend to have an image of a libertine Europe where anything goes. We have funny movies where kids go to Europe to be liberated. [I forget the title. . .] But, our idea of a European sexual free-for-all seems to be more of a figment of our imagination. (Of course, we have American Pie too, but that is not really about seduction, right?)

Anyway, for me, this goes beyond unfaithfulness and loyalty. It goes to people being quite hung-up and hostile - moralistic even - and ultimately quite conflicted and unhappy.
posted by pwedza at 8:15 AM on May 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm with the "what an insanely sexist bit of drivel, this is" contingent.

Having the good fortune of living both in America and abroad, I can tell you that people, the world over, do not like to be betrayed.
posted by dejah420 at 8:24 AM on May 3, 2007


Er... having "had" the good fortune....missed a past tense verb "to be", as I currently do not spend half my year in Europe...mores the pity.
posted by dejah420 at 8:27 AM on May 3, 2007


That MSN article really is a piece of shit. Bunch of shallow observations wrapped around sexist stereotypes, and written in the Penthouse Forum idiom ("I asked these questions of Anna, 30, an American with a European background and a 1960s Italian art-film look: a decadent face, a slim, curvy body in a tweed pencil skirt."... really? Fuck you, Mr. Author). to boot.

For my own part, it's the cultural differences between Europeans and Americans that fascinate me. How adultery is handled (generally speaking) between and among different cultures, is just one tiny aspect of huge fascinating picture.

Many Americans tend to have an image of a libertine Europe where anything goes.

That's quite funny, and somewhat true, but is at odds with my own observation. In my own time there as a student, by and large, I saw American students behave much more promiscuously than the Europeans did (sole exception: Danish flight attendants on holiday in Paris for the weekend).
posted by psmealey at 8:39 AM on May 3, 2007


I'm with the "what an insanely sexist bit of drivel, this is" contingent.

Yep. Although that MSN article included one female cheater, it was otherwise androcentric and many of the statistics used were for countries where male cheating is high but female cheating is punished severely. Basically, then, I strongly suspect that the higher rates of cheating around the world correspond to lower status of women. Americans and the French cheat less because women are less subservient in our cultures.

All that said, and putting aside how crappy that MSN article was in all respects, I do agree that the idea is absurd that one single person can function through a lifetime as every possible necessary partner. I personally think a more functional family unit is a variety of group marriage where roles are diverse and change over time.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:42 AM on May 3, 2007


it has been attributed to the old French "Conter fleurette", which means "to (try to) seduce" by the dropping of flower leaves, that is, "to speak sweet nothings". This expression is no longer used in French, but the English gallicism to flirt has made its way and has now become an anglicism.

Just in case anyone is tempted to take that seriously, it's complete bullshit. (As is the idea that Europeans are somehow better people for cheating with flair and conviction.)
posted by languagehat at 8:54 AM on May 3, 2007


I do agree that the idea is absurd that one single person can function through a lifetime as every possible necessary partner.

Maybe, but surely the remedy is serial monogamy, not group marriage (which as far as I know has historically worked out as poorly as lifetime fidelity).
posted by languagehat at 8:56 AM on May 3, 2007


As is the idea that Europeans are somehow better people for cheating with flair and conviction.

I don't think that this is necessarily the idea. The contrast is that Europeans assume themselves - not that they are "better people". Its that they are ultimately "better off".
posted by pwedza at 9:36 AM on May 3, 2007


I strongly suspect that the higher rates of cheating around the world correspond to lower status of women

Hmm, liberal men in the US are much more likely to cheat than conservative men (20.1% vs 13.1%) . Do male liberals have lower opinions about women or just less rigid views about sex? In support of the latter, liberal women are more likely to cheat as well.

So here's another idea, the gap between male and female cheating as a metric of gender inequality. According to the GSS, liberal women cheat 83% as much as liberal men, but conservative women cheat 44% as much. Indicating either less of a double standard or less dependency (women who depend on their husbands to eat need to stay obedient). Independently rich women apparently cheat significantly more often than rich men do!:
The survey polled nearly 600 men and women with net worths of more than $30 million . . . More than 80% of both the men and women surveyed were married, although the women’s wealth was independent of their husbands’. Among the respondents, nearly three-quarters of the women surveyed (about 150) said they’d had affairs, compared to about 50% of the men. While the male numbers are in keeping with findings for the broader American population, the figure for women is almost twice as high as the national average, according to sex researchers.
posted by dgaicun at 10:44 AM on May 3, 2007


Hmm, liberal men in the US are much more likely to cheat than conservative men (20.1% vs 13.1%).

That may or may not be meaningful with regard to testing my hypothesis about national populations. I think you're onto something with your speculation about factors relating to cheating in America. But the things that explain differences within a population are not necessarily the same things that explain the same differences between populations.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:49 AM on May 3, 2007


What's especially weird to me about this MSN article (besides the blatant and oblivious androcentricity) is that it seems to portray cheating as this skill we can (and want to!) be better at. We're somehow supposed to envy these international playboys and their virile finesse -- Henri is the fairy-tale adulterer: European, sensual, guiltless, while we Americans are big ol' crybabies who drive onto our own lawn and confess, bawling, to our spouse.

in the grand scale of infidelity around the world, the United States remains junior varsity.



And yet... when "Tariq" is described thusly:

he has maintained a relationship for eight years with a strong, professional woman he loves and respects—and he cheats on her all the time. "It bears no reflection on her," he assures me, and when I search his face, he looks guileless, earnest. "I compartmentalize," he says, shrugging.

...does anyone here believe that to be a completely well-adjusted thing to say? What does that even mean? Is his position something we're supposed to want?
posted by gignomai at 12:09 PM on May 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Cheating seems to be the “have your cake and eat it too” sorta thing. Never really understood it myself. You don’t have to get married. There are other options. You could find a partner who’s willing to, say, swing. Or have a group thing. Marriage is supposed to be a mutual agreement, why try to get away with something extra from a freely entered upon contract?
I suspect the high divorce rates result from so many people thinking they have to get married for some reason. I’m fortunate in that I’m wildly in love with my wife and she with me. I don’t really want to spend any extra attention or time on someone else. I suspect if I ever did have an affair I’d feel like it didn’t happen because my wife wasn’t there to enjoy it with me. (Honey! C’mon, you have to do this chick with me!) And my wife is the same way. We’re both monogamous.
But that’s part of a pattern, we have a relatively small number of aquaintances...we don’t hang out with people from work, etc. The relationships we do have are deep.
Some people aren’t wired that way.
Some folks like to wander the party getting into it with different people. I’d rather get into the nature of life the universe and everything on a more intimate level. People outside my circle are generally non grata. I suspect we’re in the minority though. I see where the schmoozing skills can be socially beneficial.
But a lot of folks tie sex to their personal status, self-image, self-worth, etc.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:11 PM on May 3, 2007


Smedleyman writes "Cheating seems to be the “have your cake and eat it too” sorta thing. Never really understood it myself. You don’t have to get married. There are other options. You could find a partner who’s willing to, say, swing. Or have a group thing. Marriage is supposed to be a mutual agreement, why try to get away with something extra from a freely entered upon contract? "

Probably a game theory thing.

If [FAKE NUMBERS FOR EXAMPLE SAKE, NOT MISANDRYST], for example, 50% of men want to have a long term relationship with a woman and no physical relationships outside of that, and 50% of men want to have a long term relationship with one person, with a purely physical side relationship...

and,

If 10% of women would only accept a relationship with a man where he is getting a little on the side, and 90% of women want to have a long term relationship only with a man getting nothing on the side...

Then, there are only 10% of men who will find a woman who matches perfectly, and 40% who will have no match.

If you're one of the leftover 40%, who wants a main relationship and a little on the side, but whose options are now gone, you've got a choice:
1) Don't get married. Advantages: You don't have to lie to anyone. Disadvantages: You aren't satisfying your goal.
2) Get married, and have a secret affair. Advantages: You're satisfying your goal. Disadvantages: You have to lie.

So the answer to "why try to get away with something extra in a voluntary contract" is probably "because it satisfies my goals, and not doing so wouldn't".

I'm not saying that in defense of it. It still leaves the "lying to your partner" problem. But it does answer the question "why?"

---

And then there's the obvious second possibility: when they married, they wanted only a monogamous relationship, no fries on the side. With the passage of time, their wants changed.
posted by Bugbread at 1:08 PM on May 3, 2007


But the things that explain differences within a population are not necessarily the same things that explain the same differences between populations.

Sure, they don't have to be, I'm proposing that they are - for the reasons given above. Less double standard + less dependency = lower fidelity gaps. Overall cheating could just be a symbol of greater sexual permissiveness as it is with liberals in the US. (and European countries probably do have higher infidelity and better gender equality than (white) USians)

On the other hand a group can have more sexually permissive standards, giving women more overall sexual latitude than a more gender equal society, and still have a greater gap in latitude between their men and women. (a pattern we see with Af-Ams and various places in sub-Saharan Africa)
posted by dgaicun at 1:54 PM on May 3, 2007


Everybody can handle lying in a relationship. And lying doesn't necessarily decimate trust. People lie that they turned the air conditioner off when they accidentally left it on. They lie that they mailed the bills yesterday, when they actually forgot and mailed them today. They lie that they liked a movie that their spouse gushed about, when really they thought it was mediocre.

The issue, then, isn't whether you can trust someone who lies, but whether you can trust someone who lies about important stuff. Nobody divorces a spouse because they're untrustworthy because they said they took the dog for a walk when they really didn't. Lots of people divorce spouses because they're untrustworthy because they had an affair. The difference, probably, is the importance you place on fidelity.


Well said, except that I wouldn't completely discount the damage small lies can do to a relationship, especially the pointless ones. After all, if a spouse will lie about the little things for which there would be little or no fallout from telling the truth, then you can safely assume that *of course* they'd lie about the big things for which there would be significant fallout.

So each little lie is a chip off of the solidity of your relationship, because once it's become commonplace, you realize you can't trust your spouse to tell you the truth about anything -- and while perhaps nobody divorces because their spouse lied about something small once, you bet they get divorced because their spouse establishes a track record of being untrustworthy over time.

The saving grace for a relationship in this situation, of course, is that the little lies aren't easy to catch, and proof is seldom available or worth obtaining, and each individual instance is easily forgotten. So a person can routinely suspect that their spouse is lying to them on a regular basis, but in the absence of proof, prompty forget about each lie. That works pretty well, I'd imagine.

And don't forget, if you lie on a regular basis for little or no reason, you're setting up a social agreement with your spouse that tacitly gives them permission to do the same thing. Suddenly you're both lying to each other about everything, and sooner or later it blows up.

That's why I find it better to tell the truth in my personal and professional lives -- it makes things much easier, and more stable, and frankly if I were doing things that I felt the need to lie about, what kind of person would I be?

I'm fully expecting to see my last paragraph quoted somewhere below, followed by "Liar!"
posted by davejay at 2:09 PM on May 3, 2007


davejay writes "That's why I find it better to tell the truth in my personal and professional lives -- it makes things much easier, and more stable, and frankly if I were doing things that I felt the need to lie about, what kind of person would I be?

I'm fully expecting to see my last paragraph quoted somewhere below, followed by "Liar!""


You'd be the kind of person who just sits around playing Dragon's Liar!

I mean Dragon's Lair. Sorry, mistype.
posted by Bugbread at 2:45 PM on May 3, 2007


“Probably a game theory thing.” - bugbread

Good points. Probably too a lot of people want to play the feild but don’t want their S/O screwing around. Jealousy, et.al.
I suppose I’m thinking while cheating satisfies certain goals and not doing so doesn’t, those goals themselves are illusory. The motivations are false.
I’m reminded something David Cross said when he noticed that they sell porn magazines at the airport - ‘I have sexual urges too, but I can wait more than two hours to jack off’.
Same sorta thing.
I don’t think it’s that hard to find a partner who is into the same stuff you are (respecting your argument form but agreeing with you on the arbitrary nature of the numbers).
And even then, if you’re with the right person, they’d probably follow you anywhere.
Although that St.Augustine thing is a catch-22 (Love, and then do as thou will). I mean I’m pretty sure my wife loves me that she’d forgive me if I ever hit her. Yet although I’m free to hit her, I don’t because I love her. (Probably wouldn’t forgive myself either).
So if I really wanted to I could probably bring another woman into our bed. But really, I don’t want anybody else.
S’what I mean “right person.”
So to me - you either have the “sex” goal or the “right person” goal. (Pity they’re so often oddly bound and mixed)
And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with promiscuity (given protection, and within reason, I mean, you can overdo drinking water) it seems more of a concession to an urge rather than a conscious process.
One could eat candy all day as well. Or drink wine all day. That doesn’t disparage it, but one can develop a refined palate and discover what one truly enjoys vs. doing it to do it.
That and a lot of guys think of their wives as “mom” which I think is also a component of the thrill of illicit sex.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:44 PM on May 3, 2007


Rapaille's whole book "The Culture Code" is all about htis stuff LOADS of fun. He makes these generalizations about cultures about why americans act the way americans do, why we eat the way we do and puts it into a thesis on the way our cultural surroundings permeate us while we're young and explain alot of our behavior, or tastes etc... it's fun and excellent..
posted by stratastar at 4:25 PM on May 3, 2007


Jeez, I can't be the only person on here who finds monogamy to be very good for their sex life. I mean, why mess around with the whole contrived seduction process just to sleep with some probably nervous and self-conscious relative stranger a couple times, rinse and repeat, when you could have someone on a regular basis who feels comfortable with you and knows exactly what you like?
posted by gignomai at 11:29 PM on May 3, 2007


Sleeping with multiple women is largely a self-affirming male act of domination and superiority. The more a woman destroyed her own life to gratify you, and the less effort you invested to bring her to this state, and the less positive your emotions for her in return, the more the sociopathic male ego is rewarded. Alpha Points are awarded for each additional woman, her latent mate value (youth, attractiveness), her chastity (virgin, married, religious), her dignity/status (educated, accomplished), the severity of her desire and debasement (pregnancy, STD, suicide), and the general openness and flagrancy of your own contempt and selfishness towards her.

Additional points are also awarded according to the inferior Beta males who are devastated in the wake. Similar scoring: the more he invested in and cared about her, more points. If he is rich or powerful, more points. If he gets your STD, or raises your cuckoo eggs, or commits suicide in grief, more points.
posted by dgaicun at 2:45 AM on May 4, 2007


To quote the Borat fratholes: 'fuck em and don't call em back, because they don't get our respect'. Listen to any campus meathead or plenty of rap albums, the sociopathic logic of male promiscuity is pretty clear: 'that bitch just wanted a baby by me'.
posted by dgaicun at 2:47 AM on May 4, 2007


dgaicun writes "Sleeping with multiple women is largely a self-affirming male act of domination and superiority."

Evidence?
posted by Bugbread at 7:41 AM on May 4, 2007


Well none of this is kept hidden. All male culture that celebrates promiscuity (from frats, to {certain} rap, to the 'seduction' community) does not attempt to hide its gleeful sexism or celebration of debasement. That by itself is telling.

Surveys of males on college campuses have shown that misogynistic beliefs, humor and propensity toward rape/coercion increases with number of sex partners. Expressing superiority over women is a major motivation for using prostitutes. Male promiscuity predicts general antisocial traits, so, on average, you can predict that a man with higher number of casual sex partners (not the same as # of serial monogamy partners btw) will also have a greater propensity for victimizing others in general (violence, stealing), as well as exhibiting less prosocial traits such as giving to charity or volunteering.
posted by dgaicun at 8:39 AM on May 4, 2007


Is the same true of female promiscuity?
posted by Bugbread at 5:18 PM on May 4, 2007


dgaicun, 'expressing superiority over women is a major motivation for using prostitutes' is an extraordinarily tenous claim and seemingly not even supported by the study you linked to, which is shaky itself (so prostitution clients are more likely to be violent towards women amirite?) It reminds me of the 'rape is about power, not sex' style ideological claims. (It also disgusts me that anyone got 'arrested' for "trying to hire a prostitute on the street", I didn't even know it was illegal. Fucking Texas law.)
posted by Firas at 5:58 PM on May 4, 2007


It reminds me of the ‘rape is about power, not sex’ style ideological claims.

That's not an ideological claim in itself, it's supported by research. Making the extreme version of that argument and enforcing message discipline is ideological. But the latter may be a strawman. Most people I've talked to in rape crisis and such agree that obviously there's something sexual involved in the motivation to rape.

There's lots of evidence for the violent side of the motivation. Things such as statistics on rape victims correlated to sexual attractiveness (not that high) or vulnerability (pretty high) and sexual dysfunction (impotency) during rape. Also, of course, there's psychological profiling of rapists which shows high degrees of anger toward women and urges to violence.

My theory about rape is that it's a unitary thing only in the context of law and the rights of the person violated. With regard to the sociology and psychology of it, though, it's multivariate and specifically with regard to sex and violence, exists on a something like a continuum. I think that certain kinds of acquaintance rapes are dominated by sexual desire with a lesser component of violence. Stranger rapes are the reverse. But that's only a generalization.

At any rate, the strong violence motivation involved in rape is not something academic feminist theorists made up. It's well-supported by real-world, non-ideological research. It's perhaps ideological for someone to blithely claim otherwise. Not that this is necessarily what you're doing—maybe you just aren't that familiar with the subject.

It also disgusts me that anyone got ‘arrested’ for ‘trying to hire a prostitute on the street’, I didn't even know it was illegal. Fucking Texas law.

I'm the last person to defend Texas jurisprudence. But the truth is that solicitation of prostitutes is a crime in many or probably most jurisdictions that criminalize prostitution in the US. Which is most of them. There's really good reasons for this as long as one accepts that prostitution is illegal in the first place. It's not very effective to arrest prostitutes—they tend to factor it in as a cost of doing business. But it's quite effective to arrest johns. And on the social justice side of things, in the case of street prostitution, as a good liberal I much prefer arresting the middle-class and such johns that frequent prostitutes over arresting the prostitutes.

Of course, I don't think that prostitution should be illegal, both because of sex-positive/sexual liberation reasons, and because we're not doing any favors for the disadvantaged women who work as prostitutes by illegalizing it.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:20 PM on May 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


Well, rape is clearly a ferociously violent act. And a dominating one. Ok, so let's drop that segue, because I don't think it's even relevant to what I'm trying to say re: promiscuity & prostitution (the difference is that rape is a transgression while I'm going to defend the other two.)

I'm sorry, but a claim like "promiscous men are worse people" just makes me see red. It reeks of crappy stereotyping. I'd be suspect of research as well because it'd seem coloured by the notion that casual sex is a 'bad' thing. Suffice it to say that I'll accept that this may have been observed but would hold such a claim to a very high burden of proof. And yes, I'd love to know what the data on female promiscuity suggests about their busted pathologies.

Do frat boys get lots of action? Yes. Do they have less mature opinions of women? Sure. So what? My point is that the two are unrelated. I'm not even sure why one needs to bring the 'fast seduction community' into this picture. One night stands are a two-way contract. The temporal objectification of the female partner is reflexive (and reflected.)

As for the study ('Male Customers of Prostituted Women: Exploring the Perceptions of Entitlement to Power and Control and Implications for Violent Behavior Toward Women'), don't even get me started. It starts off with the assumption that there is something wrong in the head of people seeking prostitution, and then identifies these factors, and then goes on to say that since these factors are also predictors of violence against women, we have a nice bit of data on our hands. Give me a fucking break. Here's a guy who can't get laid (in the context/manner he wants to, whatever that entails) paying somebody to fulfill that desire of his. That's abusive? You will note that the traits they identified are "lower levels of education, conservative attitudes toward sexuality, more frequent pornography use, and traumatic life experiences may be related to entitlement to power and control factors, which in turn could be used to justify violence against women." It's not even about prostitution at all. It's working backwards from the assumption that prostitution clients have inbuilt controlling instincts. (Note I don't have ready full-text access so I may be reading too much into one part of the abstract in opposition to the majority of the work done in their 8-dimension analysis. And I do realize that sociological theory is harder to convincingly prove than something like chemistry, but it also means that there is a lot more nebulousness going about that field.)

Look, even though I'd count myself among the people who're into legalizing prostitution for sex-positive reasons among other ones, I know that in the real world the sex market is not like the textile-weaving market. Heck, even if prostitutes were licensed and taxed I doubt people would say, "yeah, when I grow up I'll just have sex for money." (Come to think of it, that doesn't even sound like a stable career plan. What's the shelf-life of a prostitute? Do they save up for retirement?) People get into selling sex for all sorts of reasons, but are often trapped in literal physical coercion to continue doing so (a good study on this was done in the UK [pdf] "For Love or Money: Pimps and the management of sex work".) This study drives home the point that streetwalkers are in much more continuous trouble as sex providers than more upmarket sellers.

Which is a lengthy way to get about to saying that yes, I do think that intervention in sex markets is a good thing. But to be honest, the notion of some officer going undercover as a prostitute on tax funds and nabbing a random dude in jail who sits there being questioned about his motivations by some theorist faintly raises questions of—call me hysterical, but—it does somewhat remind me of ethical issues that are almost Mengele-like were we to extend their implications ad absurdum.

And yes, jailing prostitutes is an explosively bad way of dealing with the problem.

To recap, I really recoil at both of these claims:
→ Promiscous men have worse characters than non-promiscous ones
→ Sex clients have worse characters than people who don't pay for sex

And yes, this is mainly for ideological reasons. As a "good liberal", I'm skeptical of typification in general, and especially when we see behavior-moralizing join forces with character-demonization as in both of these claims. I can be convinced that either is true, but I can't see how research into either can be entirely separated from the taboos relating to sexuality, thus rendering murky the normative behavior against which one would make observations of pathological behavior.
posted by Firas at 11:54 PM on May 4, 2007


Low education is also a prominent socioeconomic indicator in abortion. As are conservative attitudes about sexuality. You know what else low education predicts? That's right, drug use. You can't drive when you're high, can you? Abortion Makes You Crash.
posted by Firas at 12:08 AM on May 5, 2007


I think I agree with everything you wrote, Firas.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:16 AM on May 5, 2007


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