The Affairs Of Men
May 20, 2008 8:17 AM   Subscribe

What makes married men want to have affairs? A provocative look at an age-old question from New York Magazine.
posted by you just lost the game (172 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm going to guess it's because guys are really horny and think about sex all the time and are genetically predisposed to lust after anything and everything with pert tits.

However, I haven't read the article, so this is just a stab in the dark.
posted by kbanas at 8:22 AM on May 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Free cooter.
posted by Mister_A at 8:27 AM on May 20, 2008


I don't like the way the author projects his "I’m 52 and have always struggled with the desire for sexual variety" problem onto Eliot Spitzer (and all other men).

My understanding is that Eliot Spitzer and his wife were having problems and were sleeping in separate bedrooms. It doesn't sound like his needs had anything to do with sexual variety. Of course, I don't really know, and neither does this author.
posted by eye of newt at 8:28 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, is there an evolutionary purpose for marriage? Does marriage improve our ephemeral fitness? I'm gonna say no, but I'm a computer dork, not a biologist.
posted by Mach5 at 8:30 AM on May 20, 2008


This will end in divorce.
posted by DU at 8:31 AM on May 20, 2008


Monogamy in humans is an interesting topic, both for its sociological history and its (probably) contrary-to-biology nature.

However, using someone like Eliot Spitzer or Bill Clinton for that discussion is pretty flawed. There's a HUGE other factor involved with people like this--they are motivated by a drive for power. One can pretty easily imagine how this drive might lead to a higher-than-average rate of infidelity.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:38 AM on May 20, 2008


(that said, the Spitzer thing shocked the hell out of me)
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:38 AM on May 20, 2008


Wow - there's something for everyone in that article.
I've had a heart attack, two strokes and a hissy fit - and I'm not even on page 2 yet!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:42 AM on May 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


From my POV, it's the rare long-term committed relationship that isn't a completely toxic road to perdition. My last girlfriend had the same view, so we were perfect for each other, but doomed to failure.

Picking a wife (or husband, depending on the personality mix) is basically picking the person who you will dominate, deceive, and in the long run, utterly destroy from a psychological point of view. At least that's what I learned from my parents.

From what I've seen, men don't even wait to get married to start with the affairs\cheating. By now I've witnessed numerous (almost all) friends and acquaintances cheat on their significant others, as if it meant nothing, right through the engagement!

Between the examples of my own parents, then my friends, and finally having grown up with two older sisters who did not exactly cherish all their partners (and sort of bust their husbands' balls now), a long-lasting, intimate relationship with a woman is just about the last thing I want in my life. One good thing about staying single to my age... you certainly become a hot prospect. However, If I weren't so horny, I wouldn't even date.
posted by autodidact at 8:43 AM on May 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


Well, is there an evolutionary purpose for marriage? Does marriage improve our ephemeral fitness?

Yes. It need only make a positive difference to child survival (which it obviously does), and then we have a selection mechanism in action. It doesn't matter how anyone feels about it; the only question evolution "asks" is, how well does it work?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:44 AM on May 20, 2008


Well, is there an evolutionary purpose for marriage? Does marriage improve our ephemeral fitness? I'm gonna say no, but I'm a computer dork, not a biologist.

Well, humans are generally safer in groups, and it's easier for two people to raise and provide for children than one...I mean, this seems kinda common sense-y....
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:44 AM on May 20, 2008


The answer is "opportunity".

It's like going to the movies. If married couples always rent blockbuster, if they always have their evenings planned out, if they share control of the netflix list... then it's all good.

But, if one too many made-for-television movies get onto that netflix list, if the wife decides to start attending biweekly book club gatherings instead of microwaving the popcorn (if you follow me), if suddenly the husband finds himself with Nothing To Do on the same weekend that Die Hard XX is released... well, leave it to your imaginations.
posted by ewkpates at 8:46 AM on May 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Obviously there's no one answer to this issue, but for a lot of people it's about the excitement that comes with taking risks, and their inability to resist it (this is from page six of the article);

"Janssen has tried to come up with a model for predicting who will cheat, based on two curves: one for sensitivity to sexual stimuli, the other a curve of risk-taking. These traits he calls rather prosaically “gas pedal” and “brake pedal,” though the questionnaire he offers touches on the tremulous drama of being a sexual person in an everyday world."

I would imagine it's not much different, psychologically-speaking, from the thought patterns of gambling addicts.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:47 AM on May 20, 2008


It seems pretty obvious that a genetic predisposition for promiscuity is a trait that strongly increases the numbers of offspring... there's no rocket science here. And traits are inheritable.
posted by crapmatic at 8:47 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


From my POV, it's the rare long-term committed relationship that isn't a completely toxic road to perdition. My last girlfriend had the same view, so we were perfect for each other, but doomed to failure.

Picking a wife (or husband, depending on the personality mix) is basically picking the person who you will dominate, deceive, and in the long run, utterly destroy from a psychological point of view. At least that's what I learned from my parents.


...sucks to be you.
posted by Foosnark at 8:48 AM on May 20, 2008 [5 favorites]


I can't really do any better than Jezebel's response to this.
posted by transona5 at 8:48 AM on May 20, 2008 [7 favorites]


From observing my own marriage and those of my friends, I've decided pretty conclusively that the dynamics of each marriage are wildly different, and it's tough to make universal statements. The POV of this article, and the comments in this thread (especially autodidact's) back that up in spades.
posted by COBRA! at 8:48 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


However, using someone like Eliot Spitzer or Bill Clinton for that discussion is pretty flawed. There's a HUGE other factor involved with people like this

Agreed -- author Arthur Nersesian called them "Suicide Casanovas." It's some strange mixture of risk-addiction, power-as-aphrodisiac, hubris and self-destruction that leads a govenor to spend 80 large on hookers, not a mere desire for some strange.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:49 AM on May 20, 2008


I don't understand this whole "lust for power makes Clinton and Spitzer cheat on their wives" idea. It's lust for some strange is what it is. Both of these cats are smart enough to realize that their infidelity can in no way increase their temporal power, and may in fact destroy that power.

Spitzer and Clinton strayed for the same reasons that other men stray–they are, after all, men.
posted by Mister_A at 8:51 AM on May 20, 2008


However, If I weren't so horny, I wouldn't even date.
posted by autodidact at 11:43 AM on May 20 [+] [!]

Epony . . . oh no, wait, that's auto-something else.
posted by The Bellman at 8:52 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


From the article: A New York friend expanded the point. “My wife tells me that none of her friends are interested in sex … Do middle-aged, married women who are no longer interested in having sex with their husbands expect them to remain faithful? They don’t want it thrown in their faces, but if they think about it for a bit, they have to realize that that intense need is being met somehow.”

Betcha good money that's from The Amazingly Apt Considering The Author's Thesis Totally Made Up Quotes Department!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:56 AM on May 20, 2008 [7 favorites]


And, of course, married women never have affairs - so there's no point exploring the fact that this might be a human phenomenon rather than a gendered one, right?

Our media becomes more useless every day.
posted by never used baby shoes at 8:56 AM on May 20, 2008 [5 favorites]


What makes married men want to have affairs?

The same thing that makes us masturbate. Over and over and over again.
posted by disgruntled at 8:59 AM on May 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Wives weren’t going to allow it, and we men grant them a lot of power; they’re all as dominant as Yoko Ono. “Look, we’re the weaker animal,” he said. “They commandeer the situation.”

If Philip Weiss's wife really had as much power over him as he complains she does, I kinda think she wouldn't have let him write this article.
posted by escabeche at 9:03 AM on May 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


It's an interesting subject, but the asshole author keeps injecting himself and his one dimensional thinking as gossip fact into the article, causing it to read an intellectual piece written by Homer Simpson.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:06 AM on May 20, 2008 [5 favorites]


Every man and woman is individually responsible for their own sexual revolution, as well as the consequences that spring from it. That's supposed to be liberating, not discouraging.

It depresses me beyond words to discuss monogamy with my friends, because most of them see it as all-or-nothing. They have curiosities, desires, and frustrations that are constantly quashed by their concept of what "is done" and what "is not done", as if it's anyone else's business in the world what excites or satisfies them. They claim to be afraid of "guilt", but I think they are more threatened by the possibility that they wouldn't feel guilty at all. Because what would that say or confirm about them?

People like this writer seem to accept that in order to have a loving relationship, they must resign to a life of furtive longing and bittersweet monogamous bliss, but the truth is that they lack courage. If something is a natural part of you, if it is one of your characteristics, then it will follow you all your days if you don't explore it. Whimpering about why you can't or oughtn't is a cop-out. Maybe it's easy for me to take this approach since I was forced to fight for the right to be open about my sexual orientation, but I think that people in straight relationships overthink themselves to death while accomplishing little in the way of testing any actual new ground. When you have society's acceptance around you like a warm blanket most of the time, hopping out of bed for a snack somewhere else can seem like more trouble than it's worth.

I'm not of the belief that EVERYONE needs to join the polyamorous junta, but come on, already. Have all the incredible sex that you can possibly have, and let your bastard grandchildren sort out who shouldn't have done what.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 9:07 AM on May 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


And, of course, married women never have affairs - so there's no point exploring the fact that this might be a human phenomenon rather than a gendered one, right?

Our media becomes more useless every day.


Did you read the article? The differences between male and female infidelity are explored.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:08 AM on May 20, 2008


I’m 52 and have always struggled with the desire for sexual variety.

I'm 37 and I've always struggled with the desire to burn the world, and yet you don't see me projecting my issues onto everyone around me.

"I haven’t ever seen anyone who doesn’t deliver on every single demand their sexuality makes on them."


Is this guy kidding? Every time anyone he has ever know has had an urge, they've had to act on it? He needs to find a new circle of friends with better impulse control.

And he has 8 more pages of this?
posted by quin at 9:15 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


NOTHERMI's point applies equally well to the other aspects of the Viking life. Theft and Pillage, for example, and let the grandchildren (or courts) sort it out (IANAV).

Don't fight your nature. There's no percentage in it (Unless your nature is to select medium risk long term investment vehicles).
posted by ewkpates at 9:15 AM on May 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Our media becomes more useless every day.

To be fair, New York Magazine. The center on the homepage is "GOOD-BYE, UPPER EAST SIDERS. The season finale of Gossip Girl sent us off for summer vacation, but where were the fireworks?" Right next to that is "Shop-A-Matic Browse 115 Vases!"

It's not exactly Am J Soc.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 9:16 AM on May 20, 2008


Have all the incredible sex that you can possibly have, and let your bastard grandchildren sort out who shouldn't have done what.

Up to a point I agree. But as I pointed out in the thread about Buddhism recently, sometimes denial can be an excellent route towards focus.

For me, though, it comes down to whatever you and your partner(s) have agreed on.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:17 AM on May 20, 2008


There are four powerful urges at play here, and I suspect they're all innate:

1) The urge towards monogamy.
2) The urge towards polyandry.
3) The urge towards binary thinking.

Two-person unions have existed throughout history in all cultures. Most of us have a powerful urge to pair-bond. Roaming eyes have existed throughout history in all cultures. Most of us have an powerful urge to explore.

Our urge towards black-and-white makes us want to dub 1 or 2 (but not both) as natural behavior. I think that's crap. I think they're both natural. And THAT'S the Human Condition.

It's our struggle. We'll be struggling with it until we stop being human.

(I also doubt that prudishness is unnatural. I suspect we're built to both like sex and by ashamed of it. I don't think we're likely to wake up one day in a free-love, sex-positive society. Of course, some cultures veer more towards prudishness than others. But it's a matter of degree.)
posted by grumblebee at 9:22 AM on May 20, 2008 [7 favorites]


What a sad piece. Sort of like autodidact's comment is sad; some combination of a failure of imagination and spirit. There are ways to be happy that don't involve being a sleaze, and monogamy is just one option out of many.

When you have society's acceptance around you like a warm blanket most of the time, hopping out of bed for a snack somewhere else can seem like more trouble than it's worth.

The funny thing is that I really don't think that this is an accurate way to describe how things feel from the perspective of a straight person. Just because one's sexuality isn't being constantly critiqued doesn't provide instant happiness and affirmation; at the fine-grained level of an individual life, basic questions of relationships loom really large irrespective of sexuality.
posted by Forktine at 9:24 AM on May 20, 2008


mwahahahahah..... I suggest you all log out and check out the Google Ads for this thread...
posted by HuronBob at 9:25 AM on May 20, 2008


I don't understand this whole "lust for power makes Clinton and Spitzer cheat on their wives" idea. It's lust for some strange is what it is. Both of these cats are smart enough to realize that their infidelity can in no way increase their temporal power, and may in fact destroy that power.

Spitzer and Clinton strayed for the same reasons that other men stray–they are, after all, men.


Mister_A,
Yes, but they are also famous men.
And fame/power increases opportunity hugely - yup, even nice women can find the aura of power makes 'em trampy.

The problem with the author - he's no Spitzer, poor sod:)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:26 AM on May 20, 2008


Simple infidelity and infidelity by visiting a prostitute, or otherwise getting sexual attention through some kind of exchange of power, monetary or otherwise, are very different situations. And no, I don't (necessarily) include things like BDSM in that exchange of power bit. Sure, having sex with a prostitute is quite far away from rape by physical force, or threat of physical force, on the spectrum of consensuality. And yeah, I'm sure there are some prostitutes out there who truly enjoy their work. I doubt they're in the majority. Spitzer's biggest crime, in the figurative sense, and the main act around which any literal crimes revolve, was having sex with a prostitute.

Now, I support legalization of prostitution. But for reasons similar to why I support legalization of drugs, and continued legality of alcohol and elimination of blue laws. But I do not think any of them are good things. They're things that people are going to do, no matter what. And society will be better protected if they are legalized and regulated. In fact, I'd rather see drugs legalized, because unlike prostitution, they are basically victimless. Again, it's perfectly possible for a prostitute to enjoy their work. But for the most part, prostitutes are probably some mix of willing participant, and victim. I support legalization only so that they may be better protected against direct victimization and coercion, and disease.

And yeah, burger flippers and coal miners and desk monkeys and CEOs may all be considered victims and may not do what they do 100% willingly and consensually. They may even be exposed to great health risks. But it's not the same fucking thing. Jesus H. Capitalist. If someone brings up that tired argument, I will personally pay them $1000 to have sex with me, once, and clean my home and cook my meals for half a day. But only if they will do both.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 9:27 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


And to be clear, I didn't use cleaning as cooking as examples because of any gender implications. Those are the only physical labor I have any use for personally.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 9:28 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Did you read the article? The differences between male and female infidelity are explored.

My blood pressure got the better of me before I got there. Next time I'll keep my mouse off the post button.
posted by never used baby shoes at 9:28 AM on May 20, 2008


What a poorly written article. The author seems to neither be able to think critically about information presented to him (anecdotes from friends, evolutionary psychology) nor truly assess his own motivations, sexually or otherwise.

I feel kind of sorry for him.
posted by miss tea at 9:28 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Goddammit. Are people still trotting out the "Spitzer got in trouble for cheating" line? What a horrible writer.

A provocative look at an age-old questionsteaming pile of shit from New York Magazine.
posted by unixrat at 9:30 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Okay, my last lines were hyperbolic (blame my Viking lineage). As others have noted, it's about what discovering what is sustainable and healthy (for YOU) as well as sexually satisfying. If you're in a relatively comfy partnership with someone where that is for the most part not possible, then you're already cheating yourself, whether or not you ever wind up cheating on them.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 9:31 AM on May 20, 2008


And yeah, burger flippers and coal miners and desk monkeys and CEOs may all be considered victims and may not do what they do 100% willingly and consensually. They may even be exposed to great health risks. But it's not the same fucking thing.

I'm confused. How is it different? Given the choice between coal miner and prostitute, I'd choose the later in a heartbeat. Isn't it a matter of personal taste/distaste?
posted by grumblebee at 9:32 AM on May 20, 2008


Agreed, Jody.
posted by Mister_A at 9:32 AM on May 20, 2008


Just because one's sexuality isn't being constantly critiqued doesn't provide instant happiness and affirmation; at the fine-grained level of an individual life, basic questions of relationships loom really large irrespective of sexuality.

Actually, that's exactly what I mean. And that's what many people discover after spending time in that "warm blanket". It can be hard to sacrifice low-level innate comfort in search of high-level specific comfort.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 9:35 AM on May 20, 2008


Braverman was impatient with the idea that the marriage couldn’t fulfill this man’s needs. “What does it mean that she’s not interested? How long has she not been interested? We know that age does not end sexual arousal or interest, we know that’s a myth. Was there some argument about something else, feelings hurt? What happened? Did one person feel abandoned?”
I felt that Braverman was missing the point, and making me feel guilty to boot


No wonder he can't get layed.
posted by Floydd at 9:36 AM on May 20, 2008


Marriage is best understood as freedom from sex, ie. from the need to invest effort in the pursuit of sexual pleasure, effort that can be redirected toward other pursuits.
posted by No Robots at 9:40 AM on May 20, 2008


Shit, I'm not even married and I want to have an affair.

I blame TV and movies.
posted by Eideteker at 9:41 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't understand this whole "lust for power makes Clinton and Spitzer cheat on their wives" idea. It's lust for some strange is what it is. Both of these cats are smart enough to realize that their infidelity can in no way increase their temporal power, and may in fact destroy that power.

You have the causality backwards, Mister A-- men seek power, at least in part, *to get women.* So it's hardly surprising that powerful men stray since they sought the power in the first place to enhance their ability to do so-- or at least, the inclinations run together because power increased reproductive success throughout our evolutionary history. And throughout our evolutionary history, powerful men were seen as entitled to harems-- it's only very recent that we shame them for it.

But this article was bland, predictable and did not add anything to the excessive coverage of the subject-- I do agree with Jezebel as well.
posted by Maias at 9:42 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Grumblebee, I suspect you're in the minority then. That's fine. Like I said, there are some people who would gladly become prostitutes given the other choices available to them. Obviously, or we wouldn't have any. But there's a reason holding someone in slavery, a particularly vile and loathsome crime, is not punished as stiffly as rape or murder. Because our society in general values life and integrity of one's sexual choice (though historically this has not always been why rape is considered a very severe crime) in the highest regard. Coal mining is a very dangerous job, in terms of both the risk of long term effects, and sudden catastrophic injury. But if someone kidnaps you and forces you to mine coal, just about anyone would agree that that's in a whole different ballpark than kidnapping you and forcing you into prostitution or combat. To quote/paraphrase a movie I can't recall "they're not even the same sport". There are a lot of very loathsome, nasty, hard, degrading jobs out there. But you won't find many miners out there who will admit they'd rather be prostitutes.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 9:44 AM on May 20, 2008


"A need is a need."

But what if that need involves sex with children? Would the author draw that line? Probably, since it doesn't seem to be one of his needs. But that might be the only reason. Junk Psychology 101.
posted by tommasz at 9:45 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maias, I'm not the one who "has the causality backwards". My point is that there is no special drive inherent in powerful men that makes them more likely to stray. Its the same thing that makes other guys cheat, they just have better opportunities, as Jody says, because they have attained power and prominence. That's my point.
posted by Mister_A at 9:46 AM on May 20, 2008


ahem. Admit was not the right word. Sure, there are some who wouldn't admit it. But not many would actually rather be prostitutes.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 9:47 AM on May 20, 2008


"Next time I'll keep my mouse off the post button."

If only our leaders could do the same, we'd have a lot less scandal going around.
posted by Eideteker at 9:49 AM on May 20, 2008


gauchodaspampas, how many coal miners do you personally know? How many prostitutes?

I don't see why we make distinctions, whether I'm in the minority or not. Surely we should be working to get all people out of all slave-like jobs.
posted by grumblebee at 9:50 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Seriously, though. I have one girlfriend already. I love her, don't get me wrong; but I'd sooner stick my head down the bore of a cannon loaded with broken glass, rusty nails, and diseased needles before getting another.

One is enough.
posted by Eideteker at 9:53 AM on May 20, 2008


Surely we should be working to get all people out of all slave-like jobs.

Agreed.

I make the distinction because it's there and very real in our society. Not everyone agrees on anything. But a damn solid majority of people think that coercing someone to have sex is quite a bit different than coercing someone to mine coal, or do something similarly dangerous and taxing. Whether that coercion is by means of violence or threat of violence, or by exploitation of economic need, does not make a difference. We're talking about degrees here, obviously. And people being coerced by economic need to engage in very dangerous or degrading, non-sexual or violence related jobs is wrong by many degrees less than prostitution, just as prostitution is wrong by many degrees less than rape.

And yes, there are exceptions. Some people are not coerced into prostitution, and some are not coerced into hard, dangerous, tiring labor. But the fact that the majority probably would much rather do something else is not quite equal between the two cases.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 9:58 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Marriage is best understood as freedom from sex, ie. from the need to invest effort in the pursuit of sexual pleasure, effort that can be redirected toward other pursuits.

This is why it is such a big and wonderful world out there. I would never in a million years have considered marriage as an escape from sex. My experience of marriage has been the opposite -- all the sex I can handle with a beautiful and wonderful person. Yes, freedom from the pursuit of sex, I guess, although it's not like at the end of the day I drag her by the hair back to my cave -- even (perhaps especially) when married, there is a constant need for seduction and the creation of intimacy. It's not a case where you got it done once so no need to think about it for the next twenty years -- you restart every morning, in some ways.

Marriage is great, but it isn't always easy, and it involves constant compromises that I didn't have to make when I was single. There are a lot of pay-offs, though (and lots of good sex should be one of them). There are a lot easier ways to not have sex, if that is your goal.
posted by Forktine at 10:03 AM on May 20, 2008


Marriage is best understood as freedom from sex, ie. from the need to invest effort in the pursuit of sexual pleasure, effort that can be redirected toward other pursuits.

This strikes me as a young-person's view of marriage. For me, marriage is about partnership, intimacy and companionship.

If I suddenly found myself not married, I'd be searching for those things more than for sex.

I love sex, but saying "marriage is best understood as freedom from sex" is way oversimplifying.
posted by grumblebee at 10:08 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Huh. I've been married 12 years. Never once had the urge to have an affair. Certainly had the opportunity. Which is always a big ego stroke. But in the long run pointless. What I have now is great. No way I'd fuck it up.

People have all the wrong ideas about marriage. They over romanticize it. They tend not to be realistic about it. Most often they have no real deep friendship with the people they decide to marry. hey don't SEE the people they marry. They see a construct or an idea.

It's not going to be puppies and flowers all the time. If you want that then you will flit from person to person. And that's fine. But your not going to experience the real benefit and deeper bond of a truly great relationship. Which is the result of hard work. Part of it is having good models to work from. My parents have been married happily for fifty six years. My wifes parents were married for forty before her father died. And our parents relationship survived real tests. War. The death of children. Crushing poverty. They discovered it's these things that marriage is FOR.

Anyway. I feel very sorry for this guy in this article. And for some of the people in this thread. Nothing good comes easy.

PS. I think a big part of getting over "urges" was sewing my wild oats in those care free by-gone days of the sexual revolution before AIDS and HIV. Days that we of course utterly ruined for all you younger people. Sorry about that.
posted by tkchrist at 10:09 AM on May 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Forktine: Yeah, that's what I meant. In marriage, you can devote yourself to other pursuits than merely seeking sex. And these other pursuits should definitely include developing true companionship. And of course I don't mean no sex: I mean just that it is part of a normal functioning, rather than as some perpetual treadmill. I also think that really good sex is best as a shared experience with one person over a whole lifetime.
posted by No Robots at 10:10 AM on May 20, 2008


For me, marriage is about partnership, intimacy and companionship.

Yup.
posted by tkchrist at 10:10 AM on May 20, 2008


It just seems like this guy wants to shift the social expectations in the US so he can cheat on his wife.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 10:13 AM on May 20, 2008


It appears that this guy has a rotten, unsatisfying marriage and has had to write an enormous article in New York Magazine to work out his insecurities by suggesting that anyone who doesn't admit to having a similarly rotten, unsatisfying marriage is either lying or a eunuch or both. When professionals point out that he's an idiot, he feels guilty, says he disagrees, and claims that "science" (which is to say, pop evolutionary psych and bar stories from unnamed friends) supports his "side".

Thin gruel, even by New York Magazine standards which, lets face it, is saying something.
posted by The Bellman at 10:15 AM on May 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


You have the causality backwards, Mister A-- men seek power, at least in part, *to get women.*

Maias,
I'm generally a huge fan of your comments - but are you sure this is right?
As Mister_A added, it honestly seems back to front?

Access to women, lots of them, because of opportunities galore -is a perk of power - certainly it's a manifestation of your status, proof of your importance - but I can't see that getting women is the driving force...?

(Treading carefully here - maybe I'm totally wrong!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:16 AM on May 20, 2008


My deal with my wife was that I would not have sex with other people while we were married. Universal morality or societal pressure aside, it seems pretty low to go back on that sort of deal with someone I love.

On preview, what Forktine said. Sod the joy of the chase - I always hated it.
posted by athenian at 10:17 AM on May 20, 2008


Marriage is best understood as freedom from sex, ie. from the need to invest effort in the pursuit of sexual pleasure, effort that can be redirected toward other pursuits.

Wow, I couldn't disagree more. (But then again, I divorced because love and passion was gone and not repairable, so no surprise.)

I think marriage (or LTR) is best understood as a bargain where you are willing to work extra hard to keep passion alive, in return for companionship, trust, depth of communication, economies of scale, and the ability to provide a steady family for children. Passionlessness is always a failure, a surrender, a small acceptance of death.
posted by msalt at 10:17 AM on May 20, 2008


Huh. I've been married 12 years. Never once had the urge to have an affair. Certainly had the opportunity. Which is always a big ego stroke. But in the long run pointless. What I have now is great. No way I'd fuck it up.

I'm a big fan of having relationships where that wouldn't fuck it up, myself.

Defining your life by what someone else "allows" you to do is a road to long, slow suffering.
posted by rokusan at 10:18 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Forktine: Yeah, that's what I meant. In marriage, you can devote yourself to other pursuits than merely seeking sex. And these other pursuits should definitely include developing true companionship. And of course I don't mean no sex: I mean just that it is part of a normal functioning, rather than as some perpetual treadmill. I also think that really good sex is best as a shared experience with one person over a whole lifetime.

I haven't found this to be true. I know tons of married people who are on the treadmill (hence affairs, dissatisfaction, etc.)

I know plenty of single people who have much more going on in their lives than constantly seeking sex. Especially the older ones.

I think this all depends on the individual person and, in the case of the marriages, the dynamics between the two people. A marriage is (a) a social/legal contract and (b) what you make of it.
posted by grumblebee at 10:20 AM on May 20, 2008


The last girlfriend I had told me that she had already surrendered internally to the fact that she would eventually cheat in a marriage. She wouldn't want to but eventually the guy would piss her off or disappoint her and so she'd go fuck someone else out of spite. This deep self-knowledge turned me on while the bare facts repulsed me. Later that night she told me she was in love with me and we should be together forever. That's like the fifth experience I've had like that.

/likes 'em crazy
posted by autodidact at 10:22 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh, and I'm not suffering from binary thinking. I have found my happy grey area.

All I need to know about love and women, I learned from Sam Malone.
posted by autodidact at 10:23 AM on May 20, 2008


I'm not sure "Why do people want to cheat?" is the most interesting question to ask, really. It's incredibly unlikely that knowing the answer would change anything. As long as the desire's there, explaining it won't keep us from having to deal with it. And barring some pretty intense genetic engineering, psychological reprogramming or whatever — some real bad-sci-fi nonsense — the desire's still going to be there. Frankly, I don't think anyone would like it if it went away. People who stop feeling desires get very unhappy very quickly.

The interesting question, for my money, is "Hey, given this desire, what do I want to do with it?"

Because, I mean, there we actually do get to choose, and there are multiple valid choices, and our choices do have some effect on the world. Why sit around worrying about the cause when we've got lives to live and free will to exercise?

(I think the artist formerly known as Hermitosis is getting at that question with his comment about polyamory. One answer is, "you rearrange the rules so the things you want to do aren't cheating anymore." There are obviously other possible answers.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:27 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


grumblebee: A marriage is (a) a social/legal contract

Well, there's yer problem right there.
posted by No Robots at 10:28 AM on May 20, 2008


"I haven’t ever seen anyone who doesn’t deliver on every single demand their sexuality makes on them."

Goodness. I imagine his high school was spectacularly malaodorous.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:31 AM on May 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Crapmatic says "It seems pretty obvious that a genetic predisposition for promiscuity is a trait that strongly increases the numbers of offspring... there's no rocket science here. And traits are inheritable."

Well, it might increase the total number of initially viable offspring a male produces, but if the male does not stick around to help the offspring survive (r-strategy vs. k-strategy for adaptive reproductive behaviors) , then any beneficial evolutionary impact of this trait would be negated since most offspring would not live.

This guy is a tool.

I think the most interesting (and that is not saying much at all) part of this piece is that when his wife makes even a slight joke implying that she, too, might enjoy the benefits of open marriage, he shuts her (and any ensuing discussion or thought in his own piece) down right away. Dishes it right out, but can't take it.
posted by jfwlucy at 10:32 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


My suspicion is that people claiming to look for the "cause" of cheating are really looking for something else, though: an easy way to stop cheating, or stop other people from cheating, an excuse to cheat, an excuse to be unhappy with monogamy, someone or something to blame, a get-out-of-lust-free card, a way to cope with the fact that they got cheated on.

Interestingly, all these goals are also implicit answers to the question, "What do I want to do with my desire?" "I want to keep it under control." "I want to feel less ashamed of it." "I want to understand why it makes me sad." "I want to indulge in it." "I want to use it as a weapon." Whatever. But here too, I think people would be happier if they asked "What do I want to do with my desire?" openly, and thought about their options, rather than sticking with one unconsidered answer and thrashing around when it makes them uncomfortable.

posted by nebulawindphone at 10:38 AM on May 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


grumblebee: A marriage is (a) a social/legal contract

Well, there's yer problem right there.

Elaborate, please?

I didn't say it was a social/legal contract to be monogamous. I'm married, but I'm not legally bound to only sleep with my wife. I can have sex with as many people as I want without breaking the law.

My social contract -- by which I meant the one between me and my wife (everyone else be damned) -- is not about fidelity. We are faithful to each other, but that's not the main way I view our bond. My contract is to be there for my wife when she needs me. It's to try to work past problems. It's to care for her, be honest with her, help her grown in ways she wants to grow.

Other people may have different contracts with their spouses. That's up to them. And that's why my (b) was "what you make of it."
posted by grumblebee at 10:38 AM on May 20, 2008


I think people would be happier if they asked "What do I want to do with my desire?" openly, and thought about their options, rather than sticking with one unconsidered answer and thrashing around when it makes them uncomfortable.

nebulawindphone, I loved your post (and don't see why you needed the small type), and I agree that honestly confronting such issues is much better than bottling them up.

But I have to admit, I don't see an easy solution. If I could work magic, I'd snap my fingers and create a world in which everyone lives in happy open marriages. But I think that's a fantasy world. I don't think it can be realized.

There are absolutely some people who make it work. But of all the people I've known who've tried it, I'd say the majority fail. It's hard enough to make things work between two people. When you start inviting more into the bedroom, it gets even harder. As I see it, the basic problem is that monogamous people feel the tug of freedom. Poly people feel the tug of monogamy and jealousy. Again, not all of them. Some open and closed marriages flourish without friction or desire. I think those marriages are rare.

And I think you left out a major secret agenda: to simplify the world. I think many people recognize the conflicting desires: nesting vs. roaming. They're troubled by the conflict, and they want a wand to wave to make it go away. But there is no wand.

You can blame society. You can blame genes. Either way, you've got an uphill battle.
posted by grumblebee at 10:46 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


But I have to admit, I don't see an easy solution. If I could work magic, I'd snap my fingers and create a world in which everyone lives in happy open marriages. But I think that's a fantasy world. I don't think it can be realized.

I think it's a fantasy world too. It's not polyamory I'm shilling for here — I'm not arguing against it either — it's knowing yourself and making conscious choices.

There are absolutely some people who make it work. But of all the people I've known who've tried it, I'd say the majority fail.

Yeah. I'm a member of that majority, and my wife and I are vehemently monogamous. Then again, I've known and loved people who are genuinely happy in open relationships of all kinds, so I can accept that that stuff works for some people.

Anecdotally, too, all the polyamorists I've known, even the happy ones, have felt at one point the desire to break the rules they'd negotiated in their own relationships. Most of the poly breakups I've seen have been caused by that sort of rule-breaking. So I don't think polyamory makes the cheating problem go away — it just reshapes the problem, and some people find the reshaped version more manageable. More power to them.

And I think you left out a major secret agenda: to simplify the world. I think many people recognize the conflicting desires: nesting vs. roaming. They're troubled by the conflict, and they want a wand to wave to make it go away. But there is no wand.

YES.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:55 AM on May 20, 2008


I wonder if there are any studies that have attempted to determine whether levels of infidelity have changed in societies where internet porn is easily accessible in private homes?

I'd do the search myself, but I'm at work and there are certain things I'm not going to plug into Google...
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 10:55 AM on May 20, 2008


Flimsy article. I have never gotten the cost/benefit ratio for conducting an affair to pencil out. Way too much hassle on too many fronts, including knowing you are an asshole.

I am reconciled to being an asshole, but not that kind of asshole.
posted by everichon at 10:57 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


The problem is quite simple, no matter how you look at it. If marriage is a commitment not to cheat, it is also impliedly a commitment to "provide access to sex" (for lack of a better term) on a fairly regular basis. It is ridiculous to think of the arrangement as "you can only get sex from me" and "I don't have to provide it". In other words, a spouse has every right to refuse sexs with their partner. However, if they refuse sex consistently over a prolonged persiod of time, they do not have the right to be surprise to learn their partner has cheated. The article describes a number of middle aged men (i.e. a lot older than most of the men in this thread, probably) complaining that their wives aren't interested in sex. To learn that their wives "aren't interested" implies their overtures have been rebuffed. That means that the implied bargain has already been broken. The question really becomes, why does a spouse who is no longer interested in sex care if their partner has meaningless sex with someone else?

Secondly, a lot of people seem to misunderstand why some men cheat even if they are having regular sex with their wives. In most cases, they are not looking for another relationship, they are looking for hotter, i.e. more erotic, sex. To quote the article quoting Bataille, "There is nothing erotic that is not transgressive." In many marriages, esp. after children enter the picture, there is a tremendous reluctance to be transgressive, i.e. push the boundaries, even when there willingness to engage in more ordinary or familiar sex.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:58 AM on May 20, 2008


The problem is quite simple, no matter how you look at it. If marriage is a commitment not to cheat, it is also impliedly a commitment to "provide access to sex" (for lack of a better term) on a fairly regular basis.

I think it's way more complicated than that. Do you really think if all guys had regular sex with their wives -- and if their wives were okay with "transgressive" sex -- there would be no more cheating?

I don't believe that for a second.

Some men cheat because they just crave variety. Some men cheat because they don't feel like they have enough intimacy in their marriage (even if they have plenty of hot sex with their wives). Some get off on danger. There are many reasons.
posted by grumblebee at 11:02 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


grumblebee:Elaborate, please?

The degradation of thought about marriage to the level of a contract is in my view one of the worst manifestations of rampant materialism. It would be far better to see it as nothing more than sheer animal instinct. I would argue though that, at its best, marriage, by minimising the effort of obtaining sex, frees the individual from serving as a mere instrument of the species, and allows him to freely develop himself spiritually/intellectually. If you are interested in more along these lines, I suggest taking a look at Constantin Brunner's work, Liebe, Ehe, Mann und Weib (Love, Marriage, Man and Wife). This book unites philosophy and praxis to provide an absolutely matchless examination of the whole phenomenon of sexual relationships. The first part has been translated into French as L'Amour, and extracts are available in English in the compilation Science, Spirit, Superstition.
posted by No Robots at 11:06 AM on May 20, 2008


“Why do people want to cheat?” seems a fair question and the author inserting himself into the mix seemed appropriate. What is a man supposed to do if his wife doesn’t want to have sex? Should he do without, cheat discreetly, get permission to cheat or leave? Those seem the only options. But what about the guy with a willing wife who just wants a little variety? It seems the options are the same. These options apply to women too. I think the author’s response to his wife’s remark about an open marriage is telling. It’s why most people don’t cheat. For most people, it can be incredibly painful to know that your loved one is getting naked with someone else. You can suffer in silence like the Italian wives and put up with it for the sake of the family but it doesn’t make it less painful. And most men don’t want their wife to bang their brother, best friend or boss. I’m not sure the open marriage thing works long term. It wouldn’t for me. You don’t get to be sick of fucking me and think I’m going to do your laundry or make you soup when you’ve got a cold, or any other wifey/couples caring for each other shit. You need to stay with that ho you balled last night.
posted by shoesietart at 11:11 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


No Robots, my mistake for using the word "contract." It has strong connotations to you (which I didn't intend) and probably to some other people, too.

I didn't mean "contract" in the legal sense. I did say social/legal, so that explains even more why you interpreted me the way you did. I should have separated the two spheres. Yes, marriage is a legal contract. Truth is, I couldn't care less about that. I only care about it in the social sense. And in that sense, it has nothing to do with materialism.

It's not that kind of contract. I don't own my wife; she doesn't own me. We're not in a business partnership. Rather, I made a promise to her. And it's a promise that's deeply important and meaningful to me. The promise was to be there for her in times of need. To be on her team. That does as much for me as it does for her. It gives me a sense of belonging that I bask in.
posted by grumblebee at 11:16 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey, grumbleebee: nice :)
posted by No Robots at 11:21 AM on May 20, 2008


I'm just surprised it took him until page two to mention Evolutionary Psychology (sic).
posted by OmieWise at 11:22 AM on May 20, 2008


The thing that particularly bothers me about this is that he's clearly one of those people who can't fathom that other people really, truly feel differently than he does. He's one of those people who has an issue so, to make himself feel better, he projects it onto everyone else so it's suddenly out of his hands.

If people want to have open relationships, great. It's annoying as shit when some of them try to say that's what everyone really wants, though. It's something some people want, and it's something some people won't admit to wanting, but it is not what everyone wants.

If sex is extremely important to someone, great. It's annoying as shit when some of them try to claim it's extremely important to everyone else, though. It's something that's extremely important to some people, moderately important to others, but it's not at all important to some people.

It's just irritating to me that one can make an effort to be accommodating and accepting of other people's sexuality, just to have some of those same people start saying, "Wait, everyone else is wrong and what works for me should be what everyone does! GEEEENEEEETIIIIIIIIIIICS!"

No. Sit down.

Some people. Empirically, there's obviously a lot of room for variation (environmental OR genetic) even within things it could be argued we're evolutionarily conditioned for.

Well, it's obvious if you take other people's opinions on face, anyway, instead of dismissing them because they don't feel the same way you do. When he talks about how all guys are like that, it shows how he ignores any evidence contrary to his personal thesis. (You can even see this in how he dismisses anyone who disagrees with him in the article.) I have one male friend who's asexual. He doesn't want to stick his penis in anything, much less many things. I have a couple male friends who see sex as a means of expressing love and find it unexciting for any other purpose. I know several males that value monogamy higher than anything else. One of my uncles has been with his wife since they were twelve years old and has never been with anyone else, and they're still ridiculously happy after nearly 60 years. (The author would probably say, oh, he's lying.)

And then sure, I have several male friends who are really into sex for any purpose. I have a feeling if I stuck the author in a room with all of them, he would ignore the asexual guy and the monogamous types, possibly dismiss them as fooling themselves or lying. They might make him feel guilty, after all... which he should, since he entered into an arrangement with his wife that he obviously isn't comfortable with. And he should feel guilty because, rather than dealing with that issue, he decided it's this ever-present problem for every male in existence; the only solution is a rehauling of society, which effectively removes the problem from his hands. I feel terrible for his wife because his inability to accept that it's his issue has made him mislead her, and he apparently stays with her because she does everything for him.

Ugh. I can't believe they even printed this. As someone who is personally monogamous, I've heard plenty of good arguments that society shouldn't look down on open relationships, and I agree; I don't think people who want to have sex with a lot of people should have to feel bad about it (as long as they don't mislead anyone). This piece, however, was just drivel.
posted by Nattie at 11:23 AM on May 20, 2008 [18 favorites]


I recall, at those early stages of pubescent development, that none of the guys wanted to get married ever, and a portion of the girls did and wanted to have fancy weddings and all that. As the guys found girlfriends after a competitive struggle for some sexin', some changed their tune and believed suddenly in love and all that and they were the mature ones while those of us who didn't understand that you needed to find the one true person were either immature, losers, or downright misogynistic. Of the adults at that time, the men openly despised marriage in the same way modern sitcoms represent it but felt it was what you were supposed to do and it was the right thing to do, even while the subtle implied threats of no sex if you don't do what I say from their wives suggested some other reasons may be present. And frankly they weren't exactly Don Juans nor was their an available pool of people to choose from should they have decided to go swingin'.

A good portion of men, in that semi-rural american context, were left with the choice of cave into marriage/fidelity or be without sex and possibly affection. As such, well before even knowing the word evolutionary psychology, it seemed obvious to me that most men wanted to cheat because they were coerced into monogamy they never really wanted in the first place. It was largely the unavailability of options to cheat that prevented them from doing so.
posted by kigpig at 11:56 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


I recall, at those early stages of pubescent development, that none of the guys wanted to get married ever, and a portion of the girls did and wanted to have fancy weddings and all that.

Hmm. Guy here. I remember knowing at age twelve that I wanted to get married someday — not any time soon, and I was pretty unclear on what would be involved, but I wanted it just as badly as any of your female classmates wanted their big fancy wedding.

Point is, this stuff varies. Just because you feel one way, or your friends will only admit in public to feeling one way, doesn't mean everyone always feels that way.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:03 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


That was an awful lot of words to say, "Married men have affairs because they want to have sex with women other than their wives, but don't want to go through the headaches of getting a divorce."
posted by moonbiter at 12:05 PM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Thanks moonbiter, you ruined it for me.
posted by Mister_A at 12:06 PM on May 20, 2008


Hmm. Guy here. I remember knowing at age twelve that I wanted to get married someday

Same here.
posted by grumblebee at 12:12 PM on May 20, 2008


Yup.
posted by stenseng at 12:20 PM on May 20, 2008


I agree with Nattie. My 2nd husband, I think, married me due to wanting to conform to his parents' wishes and societal beliefs, while being dishonest to himself and to me. It would have hurt if he'd been honest, but it would have been a clean break, rather than a messy one with me finding out he'd been stepping out on me. We'd made an agreement, we were friends as well as lovers, and to find out your best friend has been lying to you hurts.

I can talk all day long with my current husband about sex, desire, and related things. We are friends who live together and have sex and agree to only have sex with each other. Like Nattie's example, he doesn't want to have sex with other women, he is not lying about it, he admires other women's forms, as I admire other men's forms, but we don't feel deprived about not hopping in the sack with those people. Maybe it's because we both have been in theater and danced, we can look at bodies with some distance, or maybe it's our French backgrounds, both 3rd generation Americans with French backgrounds.

The old saw is you get married and then sex goes down hill. Ball and chain, nag, cold woman who gets older and unattractive and the poor guy wants to get laid. My 55-year-old man doesn't rest on his laurels, he tells me something he finds great about me every day. Maybe the author should take an example from my husband and say stuff like "You're so beautiful, your face reminds me of a Botticelli painting," or "you have the most beautiful feet I've ever seen," or "your body is so perfectly proportioned," or "you have no idea how attracted I am to you, do you?" Or "I saw these flowers and I thought of you so I had to buy them." Or, when I was in the Post Office, and he was waiting for me in the car, upon my return: "I was just sitting here thinking about how much we have in common." Now that is sexy. A lot sexier than bitching to your wife about how some social or scientific study told you that you had to have an open marriage.

Frankly, the author doesn't know what he's missing by looking over the fence at that green grass. He could be having his toes sucked right about now if he'd just get over himself.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 12:23 PM on May 20, 2008 [8 favorites]


Frankly, the author doesn't know what he's missing by looking over the fence at that green grass. He could be having his toes sucked right about now if he'd just get over himself.

What I loved about Nattie's post was her deep understanding that each couple -- each person -- is different. There are no rules that apply to ALL people, including yours Marie Mon Dieu.
posted by grumblebee at 12:28 PM on May 20, 2008


I'm curious then, from where, as in culturally what time/type of place, you guys are from. Because it's not as if I wasn't exposed to many people, having been shipped between a number of schools and en voyage for music. Moreover I still haven't met any male teens in the countdown generation that want it. I can imagine that in public conversation some men may have felt it uncool to admit to, but even in private conversation (and I'm not the enforcer type here who people bend their opinions around) this wasn't a most type of case but literally 0 young men I met wanted marriage.
posted by kigpig at 12:29 PM on May 20, 2008


I think people would be happier if they asked "What do I want to do with my desire?" openly, and thought about their options, rather than sticking with one unconsidered answer and thrashing around when it makes them uncomfortable.

Sure, but examining that desire more closely may be useful too. The very word "cheating" implies that breaking the rules is what's exciting, not having sex with other people. If "strange" becomes "normal", it may become as boring as marriage for some people.

So much of non-monogamy is dishonest, and I can't see where dishonesty is ever good in a relationship. Not just lying, but avoiding the truth. If the wife is uninterested in sex, has the couple talked about it directly? Can he face that fact that he is not turning her on, instead of just blaming her? Are they headed for divorce, but too chickenshit to face it, so one or both cheats until they're caught and "have no choice"? I don't think sex is the fundamental problem in these marriages.
posted by msalt at 12:29 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


That was an awful lot of words to say, "Married men have affairs because they want to have sex with women other than their wives, but don't want to go through the headaches of getting a divorce."

Agreed. It's just a biological imperative, after all. Kind of like the desire to have kids, or beating the living hell out of someone who threatens you in some way. Males have a powerful urge to "spread the seeds of life." These days most of it ends up on the ceiling above the computer screen.
posted by illiad at 12:32 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


This polyamory of which you speak, it sounds like swinging, but more complicated. I'm surprised no-one suggested that people with unfulfilled sexual desires could consider taking their partner with them.

More generally, for any given sexual preference whatsoever (leaving aside the criminal or utterly obscure paraphilias), or combination thereof, there will be someone who'll share it with you, I reckon. I think it's one of the corollaries of Rule 34.

Hope y'all find what you're looking for. And if you can't find it in your normal social life, try the internet.
posted by imperium at 12:34 PM on May 20, 2008


“Why do people want to cheat?” seems a fair question and the author inserting himself into the mix seemed appropriate. What is a man supposed to do if his wife doesn’t want to have sex? Should he do without, cheat discreetly, get permission to cheat or leave? Those seem the only options.

Maybe he could, like, figure out why his wife is so angry with him that she can't stand the thought of letting him fuck her. It's not that women lose interest in sex; women might lose interest in having sex with somebody they're unhappy with. The argument confuses sympton with the cause.
posted by jokeefe at 12:40 PM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


And yes, there are exceptions. Some people are not coerced into prostitution, and some are not coerced into hard, dangerous, tiring labor. But the fact that the majority probably would much rather do something else is not quite equal between the two cases.

You have no idea if this is true or not and are basing it purely on your own prejudices. It may be true; it may not be true. You don't know.

It seems to me that society as a whole will have taken one giant step forward when and if being a sex worker is seen as just another job that most people wouldn't want to do, kind of like being a dock worker or miner or whatever. The moral puritanism that sees it as somehow beyond the pale is part of what's wrong with society, not a problem with sex work itself.
posted by Justinian at 12:43 PM on May 20, 2008


Maybe he could, like, figure out why his wife is so angry with him that she can't stand the thought of letting him fuck her.

That's a good approach, but there do exist in some small numbers those wives that would just rather forego sex, and now that she's married to a good provider, she can. Sometimes it has nothing to do with the husband pissing her off.

I would guess some men are like that too, but I'd wager they're a rare beast.
posted by illiad at 12:44 PM on May 20, 2008


I'm curious then, from where, as in culturally what time/type of place, you guys are from.

I was born in 1965. My mom is from New York; my dad is from London. I grew up in Bloomington, IN. My friends were mostly university brats.

I guess there are three main factors with me: (1) My parents stayed together; (2) I never got into traditional male bonding, so I didn't hang with a bunch of guys who were trying to be macho; (3) to be honest, I'm needy. I've always liked the reassurance of having someone close to me, someone to depend on.
posted by grumblebee at 12:47 PM on May 20, 2008


Kigpig: Not a guy, but if it's helpful I grew up in Houston, TX. When I think about the guys I was friends with, the monogamous types were effusively monogamous. In other words, it wasn't a thing where they just pretended to want a married, monogamous relationship because they felt social pressure. On their own, they would bring it up and either gush about their current monogamous relationships, or be devastated when they didn't work out. One of my dear friends had his girlfriend cheat on him, and he actually cried about it in front of me and some of the other guys. The things he said at that time were telling: he felt depressed and disillusioned because he felt like he was the only person in the world that actually valued monogamy, and he feared that he would never find a girl who really felt that way. He didn't understand the appeal of flings whatsoever, and found them to be a turn-off. He really, really wanted to get married one day.

He was about 17 when that particular incident happened. In our group of friends, there were two other guys who felt similarly. To the best of my knowledge, that hasn't changed. The majority of the group didn't feel that way, either, so it wasn't a result of some sort of pressure.

I routinely encounter both types of guys. If anything, I would say the pressure is the opposite; sometimes a guy's friends can make him feel emasculated for wanting a monogamous relationship, so they come to me with this stuff instead (and they often talk to other friends that are women as well). In my personal experience, that sort of guy is the minority among younger guys (in their 20s), but it's not a terribly small minority. That's anecdotal of course, and I probably tend to attract friends who are like that.

Still, though, I'm surprised you never ran into one. Is it possible they didn't want to admit it, especially if the rest of the people you knew seemed to dislike monogamy? The explanation you gave for cheating seemed that it would certainly apply to some people's circumstances, but plenty of men do want monogamous relationships and always have. Anyway, chalk it up to chance, I guess.
posted by Nattie at 12:47 PM on May 20, 2008


When I think about the guys I was friends with, the monogamous types were effusively monogamous. In other words, it wasn't a thing where they just pretended to want a married, monogamous relationship because they felt social pressure. On their own, they would bring it up and either gush about their current monogamous relationships, or be devastated when they didn't work out.

This describes me pretty well.

That said, I have a roving brain and can certainly get attracted to other people. But I value my relationship more than anything else on Earth. It never feels like a trap. It feels like something I'm extremely lucky to have. Like the greatest gift in the world.
posted by grumblebee at 12:51 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Like I said, there are some people who would gladly become prostitutes given the other choices available to them. Obviously, or we wouldn't have any."

Circular logic—that we have prostitutes does not follow from the argument that some people gladly become prostitutes given other choices.

Regarding the article, I'd echo tkchrist in saying that I have no desire to cheat, though I do admit to frequently enjoying the opportunity or offer to cheat. But while I may enjoy the sex with another person, I doubt that I'd enjoy it enough to break up with my girlfriend, and that's an agreement we made early on. I entered into this knowing full-well what that entailed, as I imagine the author did. Why agree to something that he didn't want?

Relationships are contracts, they are negotiations and compromises, just as many other aspects of our lives are. I'd love to smoke pot all day and play Katamari, but that leaves me unable to do other things that I'd also like to be able to (like have sex with my girlfriend). I have conflicting desires within myself, and my desires frequently conflict with those around me (I would like the neighbors to keep their howling children in some sort of sound-proof bins in the mornings, as they wake me up consistently 15 minutes before I need to wake up). I would like the bus to come when I'm ready and drop me off at work before letting anyone else off. But I negotiate my selfishness because I realize that my desires often require the complicity of others, and that their selfish interests require action on my part.

This isn't an especially insightful view—I think it's one that everyone begins to grasp about age seven. But the aphorism that encapsulates it, well known to all, seems to have eluded the author: you cannot have your cake and eat it.
posted by klangklangston at 12:51 PM on May 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


What I loved about Nattie's post was her deep understanding that each couple -- each person -- is different. There are no rules that apply to ALL people, including yours Marie Mon Dieu.

This is what bothers me about the "sexual evolution" arguments, grumblebee. They distill us into non-thinking animals, they throw away our forebrains, telling us that we just don't have the power to think about consequences or emotions. It's all in the genes, they tell us. If it were all in the genes, the American Puritanical philosophy argument would have no hold upon anyone, would it? We'd all be rutting like monkeys or cats with no regard to social morés and no one would care.

I don't think anyone has really gotten a handle on the human species' sexuality, with nods to Desmond Morris, et al. It's very complex, and humans are so very adaptable. We don't go into heat, men can't be boxed into the "it's all about spreading the seed" category: they have feelings too. I believe it's how we are raised. We are raised so long, for so many years, and we take in so much subtle information from our families and outside influences, that it's not "one size fits all." And we can change our minds based on outside information any time we choose.

My point was: the author expresses a desire to have a young mistress and claims that most men want this (my experience is some men think about it but do not want nor act upon it). He researches it and tells his wife. She says okay and she will be out on Wednesdays and he doesn't like that; so he needs to either explore rejuvenating his relationship with her or be honest and let her do the same as he wants. This goes back to the Victorian attitude of men owning women due to economical status (so they have to put up with infidelity) and that just doesn't fly today, as she pointed out in her reply. I don't care what other people do as long as it's with consenting adults, but many people do care what their partner does because it represents abandonment, fear of losing your established household, change, loss of intimacy and reduced social status. If my husband suddenly decided that one of his ballet students was the bee knees, I'd tell him to get lost, because I know I can live alone or find another man who will appreciate me, does that make sense?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 12:52 PM on May 20, 2008


It's not that women lose interest in sex; women might lose interest in having sex with somebody they're unhappy with.

In the interests of fairness, jokeefe, sometimes there is a woeful imbalance of desire.
However I don't want to be fair in this case - I think you're bang on!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:53 PM on May 20, 2008


Can he face that fact that he is not turning her on, instead of just blaming her? Are they headed for divorce, but too chickenshit to face it, so one or both cheats until they're caught and "have no choice"? I don't think sex is the fundamental problem in these marriages.
posted by msalt at 3:29 PM on May 20


Too chickenshit to face divorce? You do realize that for many of the men like the author of the article, divorce means losing half of their current property and possibly half of their future income. They may not want to divorce. Believe it or not, many men would prefer to cheat and not get divorced, simply because of the financial penalty they'd suffer.

So think about it. Marriage isn't a contract, but a divorce retroactively constructs one for the marriage in order to derive property division and alimony. So you can't fault people who, knowing that the outcome of a failed marriage is a contract they didn't negotiate, prefer to refine the terms of their marriage on an ongoing basis.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:55 PM on May 20, 2008


These days most of it ends up on the ceiling above the computer screen.

Above the computer screen? Either your doing it with the computer monitor on the floor or you need your blood pressure checked. Or. Sir. You have well above average equipment. Well above. I salute you. Use it only for good.
posted by tkchrist at 1:00 PM on May 20, 2008


I think you're bang on!

Ooooooooh!
posted by tkchrist at 1:02 PM on May 20, 2008


It's all in the genes, they tell us.

That viewpoint is false, and it drives me crazy.

it's how we are raised. We are raised so long, for so many years, and we take in so much subtle information from our families and outside influences, that it's not "one size fits all."

That viewpoint is equally false.

When I hear either of these views, I suspect the person espousing them is playing politics, engaging in wish fulfillment (trying to create an infantile, simplified picture of the world) or is just plain ignorant.

I've never heard of any behavioral scientist who would agree with either of the above statements.

It's very complex

That's where we agree. It's complex because not only are genetic and cultural influences complicated on their own, but also because they also combine to create something monstrously complex and generally unpredictable.

So this is wrong...

we can change our minds based on outside information any time we choose.

Sometimes we can change our minds; sometimes we can't. The guy who says minds are rigid is wrong. The guy who says they're infinitely plastic is just as wrong. And since minds vary from person to person, you may be able to change your mind in ways that I can't.

I'm also not sure why a mind gripped by cultural forces would be easier to change than one gripped by genes. Both genes and culture are destiny to some extent (and to some extent they're not).

To take an extreme example, do you think a gay person can choose not to be gay?

Perhaps you're talking about behavior, not internal feelings. People can't stop being attracted, but they can choose how they act upon those attractions. That's a comfortable myth we like to live by. The equally comfortable myth is that people are helpless. You're espousing the first myth; the author is espousing the second. Granted, if you believe one of these myths, it makes it easier to make certain decisions -- it definitely makes it easy to craft social policy. You can't moralize without holding one of these beliefs.

But that doesn't make them true. Can people control their actions? Some people can control some actions. That's the messy truth.
posted by grumblebee at 1:08 PM on May 20, 2008 [7 favorites]


You do realize that for many of the men like the author of the article, divorce means losing half of their current property and possibly half of their future income.

I am VERY well aware of this. Happened to me 4 years ago. (Property, not alimony, which is very rare these days.) Plus I still have to spend a lot on lawyers to keep my days with my kids (roughly 3/week). All of it is worth every penny.

you can't fault people who, knowing that the outcome of a failed marriage is a contract they didn't negotiate...

You lost me right there. What guy doesn't know about property division at divorce?
posted by msalt at 1:35 PM on May 20, 2008


I'm curious then, from where, as in culturally what time/type of place, you guys are from. Because it's not as if I wasn't exposed to many people, having been shipped between a number of schools and en voyage for music. Moreover I still haven't met any male teens in the countdown generation that want it. I can imagine that in public conversation some men may have felt it uncool to admit to, but even in private conversation (and I'm not the enforcer type here who people bend their opinions around) this wasn't a most type of case but literally 0 young men I met wanted marriage.

I can't remember having a single conversation with other guys about marriage until perhaps a few times in college. It simply never came up, so I have no idea what kinds of ideas my young friends had about marriage, weddings, etc. We talked about girls, sure, and relationships, and things like that. But marriage was sort of out there, on the horizon somewhere, not something that had much relevance to the burning questions of "do you think she likes me?" that consumed us.

To the extent that I was at all thinking about marriage as a young teen, it was sort of folded into a general sense of thinking it would be kind of mind blowing to someday live in an apartment or house with a girl -- these were such abstract thoughts, so far from my daily life, that I just didn't have a serious frame of reference for it that included everything from meeting a girl to marrying. And the girls I can remember talking about weddings were really talking about weddings, not marriages. The day after the wedding was sort of an undefined "ride off into the sunset" thing -- it was a fantasy of being loved and being special and so on, with nothing to do with the practicalities of marriage.
posted by Forktine at 1:42 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


God damn it, when is society finally going to become sufficiently enlightened to insure that I stop running out of all this cake I keep eating?
posted by nanojath at 1:57 PM on May 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


One of my dear friends had his girlfriend cheat on him, and he actually cried about it in front of me and some of the other guys. The things he said at that time were telling: he felt depressed and disillusioned because he felt like he was the only person in the world that actually valued monogamy, and he feared that he would never find a girl who really felt that way.

Ah, so the guys who want marriage are the emo kids. Makes sense I guess. (but then again, at the core of being emo is being insincere in every emotional expression, so I may be back at square one).

to be honest, I'm needy. I've always liked the reassurance of having someone close to me, someone to depend on.

Now I'm very much the same way, but this is one of my main aversions to marriage (well under that of it being a contract with the church and state) in that friends could move anywhere, meet new groups and if they were good friends you could always still rely on them if needed, and the same in return. Once a mate came along it was a toss up whether they'd still even be friends let alone share that same camaraderie once had. And if he/she didn't like you, oh how they'd work to turn your friend against you. I relate to people over their values, their interests, their ideas none of which has anything to do with whether or not I want any sexual relations with them (though of course, if I value them and they want it I would be obliged anyway).

Anyway, thanks for the responses.
posted by kigpig at 2:23 PM on May 20, 2008


It's because we've lost touch with our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Extramarital affairs never happened before Richard Dawkins wrote that blasphemous book.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:54 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


For me, marriage is about partnership, intimacy and companionship.

If I suddenly found myself not married, I'd be searching for those things more than for sex.


If I suddenly found myself not married I think I'd be hitting everything I had a chance to. Cooter, I'm talking to you...

They distill us into non-thinking animals

Guilty! Thinking is overrated and has done nuttin' but get us into trouble. Besides, I don't agree with the other supposition there.

Marriage isn't a contract, but a divorce retroactively constructs one

Fair enough, but folks go into a marriage with some pretty solid preconceived notions.

I actually read all the way through the article and I think it is worth your while if you've been married for more than 5 yearsand/or are over 35. Commentors who are not married really can't know what happens and their opinions are worthless. Folks who ain't read the whole article are in a similar boat.

Bottom line is that he had his urges, he embraced them and he discussed them with his mate. *That's* what you do in a mature relationship. There's a level of maturity required to understand that that you are missing if you want to debate him. It's not a debate, it's his experience and how he feels. If you can't deal with that, then there's plenty of other crap to read online.
posted by valentinepig at 3:11 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


it's how we are raised. We are raised so long, for so many years, and we take in so much subtle information from our families and outside influences, that it's not "one size fits all."

That viewpoint is equally false.

When I hear either of these views, I suspect the person espousing them is playing politics, engaging in wish fulfillment (trying to create an infantile, simplified picture of the world) or is just plain ignorant.


What do you base the "falseness" upon? It is Nature vs. Nurture, the age-old argument, right?

You can suspect that I am "playing politics" or "engaging in wish fulfillment" all you want, but I am talking about choice vs. animalistic sexual urges. Most mammals have a heat cycle and you have seen this on TV, I'm sure. Humans do not. I have been researching this a lot lately, grumblebee, and I am telling you that I have no political interest in sex whatsover, nor do I engage in wish fulfillment in regards to sex. I am not making any false statements. I have taken Psych 101, thank you. So you can suspect all you want, but I am very well-versed in this subject lately, and as a grandmother, I hope I am not "infantile."

Feel free to MeMail me further, but I fail to see where I am "false."

Pastabagel: I agree with you totally regarding a man (or a woman) not wanting to upset their marriage cart. It's too bad people do the big wedding party and then live with someone and it all goes to pot.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:28 PM on May 20, 2008


if you've been married for more than 5 yearsand/or are over 35.

I'm 46, was married for 10 years and in counseling for 8 of those. I still think the writer is full of crap, for reasons already given (projecting, drawing wide conclusions, lack of self-honesty, chickening out when his wife actually agreed to an open marriage.)

If I suddenly found myself not married I think I'd be hitting everything I had a chance to.

All the divorced people I know, male and female, go through that stage. And NOT getting too emotionally involved right away is part of it. Natural reaction. But it's a stage.
posted by msalt at 3:29 PM on May 20, 2008


I have no political interest in sex whatsover

Maybe you don't Marie, but I do. I vote that I get to do the nasty with six 20-something Latina Porn Star Jedis. It should be an Act of Parliament.

(Oh, and, good post. I dig your argument.)
posted by illiad at 3:37 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ya - I don't think she actually agreed, but clearly for him the trip of fantasy was what it was all about. And, yeah, you're right, he's clearly chicken, cuz, let me tell you, hypothetically, if it was me in those boots, it'd be on like freakin' Donkey Kong.
posted by valentinepig at 4:37 PM on May 20, 2008


I have a couple male friends who see sex as a means of expressing love and find it unexciting for any other purpose.

Hey, I resemble that remark!

Hell, I'm currently single & I won't even do one night stands or flings because there's no emotional content. I'd honestly rather go for a surf or a bike ride or see a movie or eat a nice meal or almost anything else, and it's not for lack of libido or opportunity.

Just a data point for Nattie's excellent comment against over-generalising or projecting one's own feelings onto the wider world too much.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:58 PM on May 20, 2008


"recent analyses of genetic databases reveal that fully 10 percent of people have different biological fathers from the men they name as their fathers..." - how can this possibly be? Well, I know how this "could possibly be", but I have a very hard time believing it.
posted by sjjh at 5:05 PM on May 20, 2008


and it's not for lack of libido

To be fair it certainly MIGHT be that. Or. Rather that other men have much higher libido than you and thier arousal level doesn't require emotional love.

I am, like most men, fully prepared on occasion to have completely non emotional sex. A "fuck" as it were. And luckily my wife feels the same way. The great thing is you can do that with people you love.

I really don't feel the need to spread my seed like this guy in the article does. I guess I got over that before I was married and this guy didn't.
posted by tkchrist at 5:31 PM on May 20, 2008


To be fair it certainly MIGHT be that. Or. Rather that other men have much higher libido than you and thier arousal level doesn't require emotional love.

oh, i never said that arousal requires emotional love. more that history teaches me that i find meaningless hookups to be kinda depressing & soul-destroying, so i prefer to go without, especially when you throw in the risks of stds, or emotional entanglements from either party, or screwy psychoness, or just having to deal with simple logistical issues like not having clean clothes or a toothbrush on you for the next morning, or even worse: feeling obliged to eat breakfast in last night's clothes at some shitty cafe that does an infinitely inferior omelette & smoothie to that which you could quite happily cook for yourself back home...that sort of thing. put bluntly, on balance it's just not worth it overall when it's perfectly feasible to just have a wank & get on with my own business without having to negotiate all the physical & emotional logistics of temporarily inserting myself (so to speak) & then extricating myself from a stranger's life.

posted by UbuRoivas at 5:54 PM on May 20, 2008


Not to oversimplify or deny that people are responsible for their actions, but I've always seen the media as playing such a big role in this. Marriage tends to be way over-idealized such that part of the struggle within the marriage is overcoming the expectations placed on it from the outset, while nearly every advertising image is practically a pelvic thrust in your direction. So it's entirely possible to characterize your marriage as a failure, by comparison, and at the same time to be constantly reminded that 'you deserve a fuck today.'
posted by troybob at 6:03 PM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


What do you base the "falseness" upon? It is Nature vs. Nurture, the age-old argument, right?

This debate is over. Read any recent biology book. There's no Nature vs. Nurture. There's just Nature AND Nurture. Sure, non-scientists continue the debate. But they're wrong, of course.

There will presumably always be debates over individual behaviors and how much they're informed by Nature vs. Nurture. Most of the time, the answer will be "a little of both."

I'm not sure what behavior you're talking about. Cheating? You're saying you've studied the subject and have found proof that ALL people can choose whether or not to cheat? What's the proof?
posted by grumblebee at 6:29 PM on May 20, 2008


I've been married for 15 years, and have so far remained faithful to my wife. However, I have seen this happen many times within the marriages of my friends.

Here's how it usually works out. And when I say usually, I mean 100% of the time from the experiences of my friends...

1 - man and woman have lots of great sex.
2- man and woman get married.
3- for some reason, the woman decides that lots of hot sex is just too difficult.
4 - man begins to get frustrated.
5- woman gets frustrated that the man is frustrated.
6 - woman gains a lot of weight. stops wearing makeup. begins wearing old clothes with lots of holes in them.
7- man sees woman that wears makeup, wears nice clothes, and is not overweight like his wife.
9 - man has lots of great sex with new woman.

Now, I'm not trying to be an asshole here - this is just what has happened in every single instance with about 10 of my male friends.
posted by bradth27 at 7:21 PM on May 20, 2008


I don't know about Spitzer, but Clinton was always a man-whore. He's been charged with sexual harassment and rape several times going back to his college days. Most backed down under intimidation from the Clinton political machine. The man was a sleaze-ball before he ever became famous.
posted by snookums at 8:12 PM on May 20, 2008


Next up at NYMag: What makes water wet? Hard-hitting investigative journalism at its best.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:48 PM on May 20, 2008


Ah, so the guys who want marriage are the emo kids. Makes sense I guess. (but then again, at the core of being emo is being insincere in every emotional expression, so I may be back at square one).

I can't tell if you're joking or not. I wouldn't call these guys "emo" at all; it's the only time I ever even saw this guy cry. They weren't overtly macho guys, granted... although I think it's a leap that you might assume even that, since even some overtly macho guys cry under some conditions. They were academically-inclined types, but (as much as it pains me to have to speak in stereotypes) they played sports and followed sports and talked about sports and sex and all those other "guy" things. It's not like they met up every day after school and wrote bad poetry or anything. They behaved like fairly average guys, in other words.

If you're not tongue-in-cheek about it, that response does lead me to believe that among the guys you knew, it was considered a derogatory thing to express emotions indicative of strong attachment to other people. Not judging you for it or anything, since that's not uncommon and you were young. But that would be your answer. If your crowd would consider such things "emo" then of course none of the guys would have said anything to that effect.
posted by Nattie at 8:50 PM on May 20, 2008


1 - man and woman have lots of great sex.
2- man and woman get married.
3- for some reason, the woman decides that lots of hot sex is just too difficult.


That "for some reason" is where the whole thing derails. If your friends had some idea why their sex lives had broken down-- and I'm guessing, 9 times out of 10, it has to do with the exhaustion of dealing with young children-- maybe they wouldn't end up destroying their relationship and using the wife's body as the battleground.

I can hardly think of a greater libido killer than the sure knowledge that your partner is bored or resentful (and, worse, maybe trying to elicit guilt from his wife about his "needs", like she doesn't have any of her own). I also can't help but think that the author of this article, having complained in print about how those 20-something tattooed waitresses think that being some 52 year old married guy's mistress is uncool (I wonder why? Could it be because being a "mistress" is traditionally a really shitty deal for women?) and also having nattered on about his own yearning to bonk one might as well have taken his married sex life out behind the barn and shot it in the head. He'll have a bit of ground to make up, I would think.
posted by jokeefe at 9:45 PM on May 20, 2008 [9 favorites]


Ah, so the guys who want marriage are the emo kids. Makes sense I guess. (but then again, at the core of being emo is being insincere in every emotional expression, so I may be back at square one).

Oh for fuck's sake.

Men have feelings. Men can express their feelings sincerely. This has nothing to do with whatever bullshit fashion trend you're trying to tie it to. It has to do with the fact that we're human.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:01 PM on May 20, 2008


As for your earlier question: 1981, Ann Arbor, MI. East coast Boomer parents, artsy-geeky childhood, hung out with the queer theater kids in high school, and if you tell me I no longer count because I'm "emo" or some such nonsense I'll rip your fucking testicles off, capisce?
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:13 PM on May 20, 2008


That "for some reason" is where the whole thing derails. If your friends had some idea why their sex lives had broken down-- and I'm guessing, 9 times out of 10, it has to do with the exhaustion of dealing with young children-- maybe they wouldn't end up destroying their relationship and using the wife's body as the battleground.

They didn't destroy their relationships. In every case except for one, they are still married, and usually happy about it. The one thing the wife wasn't giving them, they get somewhere else, and everyone's happy. In the one exception, he left his wife because he figured out he was gay. Unrelated to the affair, perhaps, I don't know.
posted by bradth27 at 10:46 PM on May 20, 2008


That "for some reason" is where the whole thing derails. If your friends had some idea why their sex lives had broken down-- and I'm guessing, 9 times out of 10, it has to do with the exhaustion of dealing with young children-- maybe they wouldn't end up destroying their relationship and using the wife's body as the battleground.

Yep, it's all to do with the exhaustion of raising kids, and the usual transference of the wife's affection & primary bonding from the husband to the offspring.

Here's a tip to address this problem: before marriage, have some of your sperm frozen, then go get yourself a vasectomy. That way you & the wife can plug away at it endlessly, with no kids to interrupt your fun.

Keep doing this until her inability to become pregnant seriously threatens to undermine the marriage, then 'remember' that you had some sperm put on ice back in college days - to guard against accidents, naturally. This sperm will be super-wriggly & viable compared with the blanks you're shooting now, so use it to bring about the much-desired pregnancy. By this stage, you should have had a pretty good run, and if you managed to marry somebody significantly enough younger than you, you should be pretty much over sex by that age, anyway.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:15 PM on May 20, 2008


As a relatively young married person (6 years, age 27), I find this discussion quite interesting.

I find especially interesting the progression noted by bradth27.

Part of it is, of course, the problem of self-advertising. Myself, I never have bothered with makeup or fashionable clothes. Many young women do, and cease to do so once they get into their 30s or 40s, regardless of relationship happenings. Many women gain weight with pregnancy or age, and I'm told that that can be hard to shift.

Many guys gain weight in their 30s or so, and many gentlemen of my acquaintance also continue to wear the same shirts they wore when they were in their 20s. They also adopt less interesting hairstyles, if they bother to do anything at all.

I have seen people of both genders let themselves go, so to speak, once they get into their 30s, especially in the cases of marriage and children. Of course, there are exceptions.

However. I find it fascinating that at this point in the discussion, I have yet to see a single comment about age-related spread in the male case, whereas female attractiveness (and the reasons for change with age) has at least been touched on as a possible reason for lack of sex in a marriage.
posted by ysabet at 12:55 AM on May 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


There are four powerful urges at play here, and I suspect they're all innate:

1) The urge towards monogamy.
2) The urge towards polyandry.
3) The urge towards binary thinking.


I think this is a great observation (though I only counted three urges, grumblebee. Was there another here I missed?)
posted by uxo at 1:24 AM on May 21, 2008


When you drop a male rat into a cage with a receptive female rat, you see an initial frenzy of copulation. Then, progressively, the male tires of that particular female. Even without an apparent change in her receptivity he reaches a point where he has little libido-and simply ignores her. However, if you replace the original female with a fresh one, the male immediately revives and begins copulating again. You can repeat this process with fresh females until the rat nearly dies of exhaustion.

- from an article on The Coolidge Effect

I'm quoting the above because the one thing I didn't get from NY Magazine article was the sense that monogamy, intrinsically, might be a healthy practice for many, many men, regardless of any effect on wives or families or sense of morals. Heathy for the sake of a man's own own equilibrium.

The idea might seem like a shock to many of us, raised in a culture where sexual promiscuity is often encouraged and lauded, at least in the media. But there are a myriad of philosophies and religions that believe sexual energy in both men and women can (and should) be used for a higher purpose. For their own self interest and self development, if you will.

These religions and philosophies attest that sexual energy is often squandered when it could be used for reaching one's potential as a human being. Monogamy is seen as a way of moderating and mastering that energy.

Anyways, the website above has numerous interesting articles about sex and relationships that might be worth a look, from both a scientific and philosophical perspective. What I got from the NY Mag article, in contrast, was the very narrow sense of a man lost in a hi-tech electronics store, lamenting over the fact he can't afford every single TV, feeling somewhat sorry for himself. He does not realize:

1) the electronics store is saturated with advertising and pretty gadgets, all raising his desire to a feverish pitch
2) when he does end up buying another TV, he will become even LESS even-keeled, and LESS able to control future impulses

In short, nothing wrong with buying a TV for anyone--except perhaps the man addicted to expensive electronics. I felt like this was the state of the guy writing the NY Mag article.
posted by uxo at 2:08 AM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


1 - man and woman have lots of great sex.
2- man and woman get married.
3- for some reason, the woman decides that lots of hot sex is just too difficult.


See this study:
Researchers from Germany found that four years into a relationship, less than half of 30-year-old women wanted regular sex.

...They found 60% of 30-year-old women wanted sex "often" at the beginning of a relationship, but within four years of the relationship this figure fell to under 50%, and after 20 years it dropped to about 20%.

In contrast, they found the proportion of men wanting regular sex remained at between 60-80%, regardless of how long they had been in a relationship.
I'm guessing, 9 times out of 10, it has to do with the exhaustion of dealing with young children

No, the effect is simply desire for sex. Studies show it is the same for childless couples, couples where the male does equal housework, etc.

It is unwise to pathologize female preferences by attributing any differences from men as the result of unfairness or victimization. The subtext is that average male preferences are "normal", and anything that deviates from that average is abnormal.

As I've said before, the difference in sex drive between men and women isn't anybody's fault, it is just a tragedy of nature. Neither men and women are "right" or "wrong" in their preferences, they just aren't entirely compatible.
posted by dgaicun at 3:09 AM on May 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


I agree with ysabet. Why are changes in the man never accounted for as an aspect of the loss of female desire? I don't see a whole lot of sexy in most 50-year-old men. Half of them don't even trim their ear hair, for god's sake-- and yet these are the same men like the author of this article who want sexy young women to come be their mistresses and complain that their wives either don't want sex or aren't sexy any longer.

I've seen that study, dgalcun. It makes me wonder if women are the ones programmed for variety. If all of those relationships broke up every single one of the women who no longer desired regular sex would be hot for the next guy they became interested in. You see how that 'evolutionary psychology' can be whatever you want it to be? None of those scientists advanced the theory that women get bore with sex with the same partner, because it doesn't fit their preconceived notions of female desire.
posted by miss tea at 3:46 AM on May 21, 2008 [5 favorites]


its fun to stick ur peepee in things
posted by Eideteker at 4:28 AM on May 21, 2008


It makes me wonder if women are the ones programmed for variety. If all of those relationships broke up every single one of the women who no longer desired regular sex would be hot for the next guy they became interested in.

First of all, "programmed for variety" suggests a drive towards a behavior, but what you described is a capacity to enjoy variety, not a greater preference for it. Second, "are the ones" indicates something, at least, comparatively greater (if not different entirely), but men also have a greater capacity to enjoy sexual variety in addition to their greater preference for it.

Serial monogamy increases happiness for men and decreases happiness for women. Women who experience the breakdown of even one long-term sexual relationship are less happy than women who never even entered a relationship at all. And it gets even worse with the dissolution of each additional relationship. Male happiness, on the other hand, tends to increase with each additional long-term sexual relationship that replaces another.
posted by dgaicun at 5:16 AM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Another reason for lack of female desire for sex in long-term relationships is the tendency of men to not want to bother with foreplay at all. I mean, seriously, I'm not the only one who has encountered the attitude of "I want sex right now. Roll over and spread your legs". It may not be particularly thrilling to take the time to warm up one's partner, but really, are you giving sex with your woman a fair chance if you don't bother to trigger her libido in the way which is most effective?
posted by marble at 5:39 AM on May 21, 2008


None of those scientists advanced the theory that women get bore with sex with the same partner, because it doesn't fit their preconceived notions of female desire.

Paradigmatic science works by collecting data or making novel hypotheses to support or advance theories based on a previous body of theory and research. Those "preconceived notions", in this case, are a previous body of theory and decades of research that have generated support for that theory.

Further, what you describe here seemingly isn't even an alternative theory, it's a restatement of the result. Women do "get bored" with sex if that means gradually prefer less with the long-term partner. Although it is not 'boredom' by more typical definitions that indicate anxiety from understimulation, because women report getting just as much sex as they want.

Another reason for lack of female desire for sex in long-term relationships is the tendency of men to not want to bother with foreplay at all.

I wouldn't make much of this since the same arc of desire is found in lesbian relationships.

But what you say makes sense: the partner with more sexual desire, regardless of gender, will be the one who has to make the more generous effort to get the other one on board.

But contrary to what is sometimes suggested, women don't "need more" foreplay than men when the desire levels of both partners are the same; which is typically true in the beginning of sexual relationships.
posted by dgaicun at 6:13 AM on May 21, 2008


"I want sex right now. Roll over and spread your legs".

There's another way to do things? Really? Is there a manual I should have read?

Joking aside, there's a lot of variation of what works for different people; a lot of mutual desire, as dgaicun says, can compensate quite easily for imperfect technique.

I'd also expand the idea of "foreplay" way out beyond the bedroom, and suggest that it really runs all day. It's sort of the reverse of the "letting yourself go" thing -- you take a few minutes to look good for your partner, you do some nice things for them, you tell them how amazing and wonderful they are, and by the time you get to bed in the evening the pump is well-primed, so to speak.

And in these discussions the "letting yourself go" seems to always focus on the women, but I spent yesterday people watching downtown, and the men were much more assertively letting themselves go than were the women. (Though in fairness, I have no idea who is more shabby at home.) Even younger couples, the woman would often have taken the effort to put on some sort of outfit for going out, while the guy was wearing clothes that didn't fit and that wouldn't have looked good even if they had. I guess they are doing it because they can, without suffering any real consequences, and it is working because looking bad appears to not be a barrier to keeping a relationship.
posted by Forktine at 6:41 AM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


The best response to Mr. Weiss is by one of the Jezebel commenters:
"You think the biggest problem here is that you haven't sufficiently convinced your waitress that fucking a married 52 year old is cool? Excuse me while I drown in my fucking incredulity here."
posted by octobersurprise at 7:49 AM on May 21, 2008


It is true that many women do experience a decline in sexual interest as they age, whereas the sexual appetite of men generally grows as they age. It is best therefore for a man to marry late, around the age of 40, and marry a younger woman, about 10 years younger. This is probably the best bet for sexual harmony. The man will have a sexually willing partner while in his prime, but he will also have the maturity to weather the changes in his partner.
posted by No Robots at 8:01 AM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


It is true that many women do experience a decline in sexual interest as they age, whereas the sexual appetite of men generally grows as they age.

Isn't it the reverse? It's not like Viagra is being marketed exclusively to 18-year olds, who when they hit 60 can finally relax and stop worrying about erectile dysfunction.
posted by Forktine at 8:31 AM on May 21, 2008


Isn't the popularity of Viagra an indication of the continued sexual interest of older men? I mean, if they weren't interested, they wouldn't use it. Impotence is a physical disability that does not determine psychological interest. Viagra allows men to overcome the physical limitations imposed on their sexual appetites.
posted by No Robots at 8:44 AM on May 21, 2008


Yeah, I don't really see how Viagra works except as evidence against Forktine's assertion.
posted by Justinian at 9:10 AM on May 21, 2008


Yeah, I don't really see how Viagra works except as evidence against Forktine's assertion.

Easy to test this.

Take a normal hot young waitress.

Take a normal 52-year-old married male looking for nookie on the side.

The normal 52-year-old wiggles a Viagra pill at the waitress - to show he's ready and able.

Wait...
:)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:18 AM on May 21, 2008


It is best therefore for a man to marry late, around the age of 40, and marry a younger woman, about 10 years younger.

Best MAYBE in that limited sense. On the other hand, I'm much more into being in a relationship with someone my age -- shared cultural references and all that.
posted by grumblebee at 9:23 AM on May 21, 2008


As I've said before, the difference in sex drive between men and women isn't anybody's fault, it is just a tragedy of nature. Neither men and women are "right" or "wrong" in their preferences, they just aren't entirely compatible.

dgaicun, you talk here as if "sex drive" were some essential, measurable quality, when in fact it is something that is shared by both men and women (and it varies by individual, too), but is expressed and realized socially. For millennia, it's worth pointing out, the consequences of sex have been different for men and women. The possibility of being killed by your male relatives or merely socially ostracized can be a bit of an inhibitor, you know? Given the context in which desire is acted out, it's hazardous to make statements about the "difference in sex drive between men and women" as if this is something truly unchangeable and evident like most people having two legs and two arms. It isn't: it's something fluctuating that is made evident through social action, which is stronger or weaker depending on the individual, and which is extremely complex. You could say that it's a primal drive, like hunger, and that's true, but it's far more complicated: you won't die from lack of sex. It's more than a simple physical need which needs to be satiated. To say that "men are like THIS, and women are like THIS" is intellectually lazy, really: because depending on the historical framework and the society, you could plug in all sorts of answers into that binary. Back in 17th century England, women were assumed to be uncontrollably randy and incapable of fidelity, for example.
posted by jokeefe at 9:56 AM on May 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


I completely agree with you, jokeefe. Given what we seen in the animal kingdom, it's possible (even likely) that there are profound differences between male and female sexuality. But it's foolish to say what they are, because we view everything through an extremely dirty cultural test tube.

In American culture, most women are raised to suppress their sex drive.
posted by grumblebee at 10:01 AM on May 21, 2008


Yeah, I don't really see how Viagra works except as evidence against Forktine's assertion.

You are right, viagra was totally the wrong way to express what I meant. My basic point was that many men experience a decline in sex drive over time (as well as a decline in sexual ability, hence the need for drugs like viagra); the stereotype has always been that men peak at 18 and women much later.

How true that really is, I'm not sure, but I'm pretty sure that it is difficult for a man to ever be more interested in sex than he is while in the throes of adolescence. I'm only in my thirties, and already my sexuality is just one (albeit very important) aspect of who I am; at 16 it was pretty much all I could think about, all the time. Right now, sex three times in a day is a real banner day; when I was 18 and starting to have sex, friction burns were the only real limit on how many times I was willing to jump back in the saddle.

So I really disagree that for men, sexual desire just continually ramps up over time. Both desire and ability change over time, and not in a simple linear upwards direction.
posted by Forktine at 10:19 AM on May 21, 2008


The Reverse Cowgirl publishes "Letters From Johns" - emails from guys who have used prostitutes. Based on the responses she's received, she had this to say in response to the NY Mag article:

In Letters from Johns, men cheat because they're lonely, because they're bored, because they're afraid of dying, because they're afraid of living, because they don't know how to say what they want to say, because of the blow jobs, because of the naked women, because of the thrill of it, because life is hard, because fucking isn't, because of all the things that you and I can't see because we're not there in the room with them.

Men cheat because they can.

posted by spicynuts at 11:01 AM on May 21, 2008


many men experience a decline in sex drive over time (as well as a decline in sexual ability, hence the need for drugs like viagra); the stereotype has always been that men peak at 18 and women much later.

As near as I can tell, women gain interest in sex at least through the mid-40s, in large part because they are more confident and comfortable in their skin. The child-rearing urge also seems to factor in around 35-40. Obviously menopause may change all that.

I've always figured that May-December romances work exactly for that reason; the older guy wants the prestige and availability of a hot young mate but doesn't actually act on it very often, compared to say a 22 year old. And for some young girls, not yet fully comfortable with sex, that's OK. Until 10-15 years later....
posted by msalt at 11:21 AM on May 21, 2008


Forktine: It's like beer. When you're young you think about it all the time, and indulge frenetically. In your prime, it becomes more meaningful spiritually/intellectually/psychologically.
posted by No Robots at 12:21 PM on May 21, 2008


It is true that many women do experience a decline in sexual interest as they age, whereas the sexual appetite of men generally grows as they age.

I thought I had heard that it was the otherway -- that young men (like 18-20) have a higher sex drive than young women, whereas things even out as they get older. Certainly in my relationship, my (female) interest has grown with age (between age 20 and 30), while his (male) has dampened a little.
posted by jb at 12:24 PM on May 21, 2008


young men (like 18-20) have a higher sex drive than young women, whereas things even out as they get older.

I think we're saying the same thing -- though look out for us late blooming guys who have some catching up to do.

Certainly in my relationship, my (female) interest has grown with age (between age 20 and 30), while his (male) has dampened a little.

That ought to get you some MeMail...
posted by msalt at 2:08 PM on May 21, 2008


Back in 17th century England, women were assumed to be uncontrollably randy and incapable of fidelity, for example.

For millennia, it's worth pointing out, the consequences of sex have been different for men and women. The possibility of being killed by your male relatives or merely socially ostracized can be a bit of an inhibitor, you know?

History is important, but you are misusing it here. Women are not socialized to have equal sexual desire for their straight or lesbian lovers at the beginning of a relationship, but then to lose desire at a faster clip than men over time. If anything the pressure would be to sustainably meet the desires of the husband.

The problem with your nods to random history here, is it is not a hypothesis. You aren't trying to work within a framework of paradigmatic science. Meanwhile all the scientists who do study this topic (and there are many publishing in the many sexuality journals as we speak), are studying it within the bio-psychological paradigm I am discussing. To the extent there is merit in your viewpoint, it isn't being supported because no curious scientists have chosen that paradigm to work with or make a comprehensive argument in.

Your implied hypothesis is that the average female sex drive is abnormal because it is not identical to the "normal" sex drive of men, and is due to unfair socialization and patriarchal social conditions. There is no data published to support this hypothesis, and the evidence that does exist contradicts the predictions it would make.

I suggest the three definitive papers on this topic by psychologist Roy F. Baumeister:

1) Is There a Gender Difference in Strength of Sex Drive? Theoretical Views, Conceptual Distinctions, and a Review of Relevant Evidence

2) Cultural suppression of female sexuality

3) Gender differences in erotic plasticity: the female sex drive as socially flexible and responsive

These papers will clear up most confusions about the claims of the paradigm (e.g. women all have the same sex drive, men all have the same sex drive, sex drive is not socially influenced), and even discuss the historical examples you use, and what they mean.
posted by dgaicun at 3:38 PM on May 21, 2008


Meh, facts. You can prove anything with facts.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:05 PM on May 21, 2008


There is no data published to support this hypothesis, and the evidence that does exist contradicts the predictions it would make.

Meh, facts. You can prove anything with facts.

I'm with Ubu-meh-facts-Roivas here!

I'm pretty sure that first comment, posted by dgaicun, breaks tons of Metafilter guidelines:)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 5:08 AM on May 22, 2008


Especially the Primary Implicit Guideline: "Do not post a comment unless you don't know what you're talking about. Even reading the linked articles will disqualify you from offering your opinion"
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:23 AM on May 22, 2008


Your implied hypothesis is that the average female sex drive is abnormal because it is not identical to the "normal" sex drive of men, and is due to unfair socialization and patriarchal social conditions.

As I read jokeefe's comment, this is not at all the "implied hypothesis," which seems more clearly and simply that there is no such thing as a "normal" sex drive extracted from the society (history) in which it is expressed: The possibility of being killed by your male relatives or merely socially ostracized can be a bit of an inhibitor, you know? Given the context in which desire is acted out, it's hazardous to make statements about the "difference in sex drive between men and women" as if this is something truly unchangeable and evident like most people having two legs and two arms. It isn't: it's something fluctuating that is made evident through social action, which is stronger or weaker depending on the individual, and which is extremely complex.

The comment states that female (and male) sex drives are complexly expressed as a function of both biology and society, but not that there is any particular point at which one could say "this is normal." It takes a decision that the only possible objection, even if wrong, to your theory, must posit some sex drives as abnormal to read it in the way you do.
posted by OmieWise at 5:45 AM on May 22, 2008


female (and male) sex drives are complexly expressed as a function of both biology and society

Is there any room in these theories for sex drive to be a function of one's relationship with the person they are having sex with?
posted by msalt at 10:21 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sure.
posted by OmieWise at 10:49 AM on May 22, 2008


Slate has a sort-of-defense of the article this post is about by Emily Balezon, and a somewhat lame followup answering the question, "what makes married women want to cheat?"
posted by msalt at 9:57 AM on May 23, 2008


You know, Ancient Greece found an perfectly reasonable social solution.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:17 AM on June 10, 2008


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