Having an affair nothing new in human society. Ever since the institution of marriage was born, affairs on the side have continued as well. Conventionally men have been seen as the group with more access to opportunities and resources in carrying out an affair, probably as a consequence of their having more social and financial power in patriarchal societies. But about what infidelity trends in these times, are men still the more dishonest sex and if so why? Statistics on male infidelity can help to throw light on some of these troubling questions.
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One of the most important findings related to male infidelity suggests that men are more vulnerable to extra marital affairs than women. Recent studies reveal that 45-55% of married women and 50-60% of married men engage in extramarital sex at some time or another during their lives1 . The rise in percentage is quite high, almost double, considering that in the 1970s, 27.2 percent of the first-time married working men and 22.9 percent of the first-time married working women were having extramarital affair, according to a paper written by Roy C Fair of the Yale University in 1978 and published in the Cowles Foundation Paper which in turn based its analysis on two empirical studies conducted by reputed journals Psychology Today and Redbook. Men emerged as the sex with a greater tendency to cheat in both time scales.
The scene is similar in other continents like Europe too. A program on BBC Radio 4 titled More or Less featured an interview of Dr Catherine Mercer, a statistician who has contributed to a number of sexual health studies and has published extensively and presented nationally and internationally. In the program, she presented a few figures on infidelity from a survey carried out in 2000 in the UK. Of those surveyed it was found that in 2000 a total of 15 % of men in the UK had been unfaithful within the previous year and 9% of women had been unfaithful in the same period. This supports the belief that men are more likely to stray than women. However this does not automatically translate into a greater moral culpability among men as compared to women. Since men tend to be older than their female partners it is likely that a married man would have sex with a single, younger female meaning that he would be counted as unfaithful whereas she could not be.
The high percentage of male infidelity in recent times could be due to several causes; couples today may have higher level of expectations from the marital partner and when these are not met they are more likely to seek them outside marriage. Again the overall relaxation of moral standards in society has made infidelity, if not acceptable, at least less of a stigma.
Increasing economic empowerment of women may also have a role to play here even though the motivation may be different. While women may be engaging in an affair more often than before because of greater economic independence and consequently less of an obligation to live by other’s rules, the rise in male infidelity could be caused by greater loneliness as their wives seek greater fulfilment in professional and social contexts.
Men also turned out to be more prone to breaking marriages vows according to the results of the MSNBC.com/iVillage Lust, Love & Loyalty survey2. In the survey 28 percent of married men as opposed to 18 percent of married women, admitted to having a sexual liaison. However the survey throws light on many other interesting aspects of male infidelity. Among men the primary cause of infidelity turned out to be dissatisfaction with his sex life. According to the findings in the survey, a whopping 44 percent men were looking for more sex in an affair, 40 percent of the men were in search of novelty while a close 38 percent wanted more satisfying sex from a lover. The findings are echoed by Sandra Leiblum, director of the Center for Sexual and Relational Health at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, N.J. according to whom “Men are more likely to look for sexual novelty. They might be looking for a sexual outlet without the expectation of continuity”.
The survey also threw up some interesting numbers on the male attitude towards extra marital affairs. While 71 percent of people say it's never OK to be unfaithful, one in four men or roughly twenty-five percent think cheating is justified if a partner has no interest in sex; in fact one in twelve men even claimed to be glad that they cheated.
Also having kids rarely proved to be a deterrent to cheating since the survey found that 16 percent of men with children ages 2 to 5 years had an affair and an incredible 9 percent of men cheated while there was a baby under the age of 2 in the home.
Yet another significant result that emerged from the survey was that money did not guarantee marital fulfilment. Among men making more than $300,000 a year, 32 percent reported cheating on their primary partners, compared to 21 percent of men making less than $35,000 a year. Interestingly though wealth did not prove to be much of a factor in women's cheating.
The internet has added a new dimension to extramarital affairs in recent times. The anonymity and easy availability of online dating now results in many more spouses looking for love outside marriage. The plethora of general dating sites and even those dedicated to relationships on the side like Ashley Madison is proof enough that to online affairs are on the rise. The survey revealed that 15 percent of men had engaged in online sex or sexual Webcamming even though 66 percent of the total respondents consider it to be cheating.
Even though numbers lend an air of authenticity to social trends, there are few statistics relating to rates of infidelity that are completely reliable. For one it is not the kind of thing people usually tell the truth about. Moreover psychologists think men traditionally overstate their infidelities, while women typically understate, often conforming to traditional norms about how men and women are expected to behave. Thus instead of taking them at face value, statistics on male infidelity are best considered as indicating general trends of sexual relationships in contemporary society.
Atwood & Schwartz, ( 2002), Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy
NBCNews.com - Many cheat for a thrill, more stay true for love