It takes very little observation of our society and culture to see a disparity in the representation of male and female infidelity. Men, more frequently than not, are presented as the ones who score higher in libido and often act irrationally in a relationship.
We must raise the question, therefore, of whether this is accurately representing the widespread existence of female infidelity. Do men do all the cheating and women stay home, as we are largely led to believe? Or are women, in fact, just as sinful as their male counterparts and society fails to make it clear?
Ashley Madison, a Canadian dating service marketed to people who are married or in relationships, conducted a survey and found that women are not as wired to monogamy as it may seem. 64% of married women who took the survey admitted to becoming less attracted to their partners with only 36% disagreeing.
An anonymous Ashley Madison female member, aged 30, said: “Exploring relationships outside my marriage has given me a newfound excitement in my life. I didn’t realise how much I needed something like this, just for myself.”
Many women in long term relationships are considering having an affair or a break from their partner. Another anonymous female member, aged 40, was married for seven years but realised there was something not right about her relationship.
She and her partner both discussed using a dating app but agreed to never meet anyone. “Sometimes couples need a break from their everyday routines and each other and sometimes this makes the relationship better,” she said.
Although she is no longer with her husband she believes the affair was necessary: “We just weren’t right for each other anymore, the affair only made everything better. If it has to come to that, maybe it was just not right anymore.”
Ashley Madison describes this period in a relationship as a ‘seven-year-itch’. They suggest that within five years couples notice a decline in sexual frequency, in six years there is a noticed decline of sexual quality and, finally, in the seventh year it is common for couples to have their first affair.
This cycle can happen before the ‘seven-year itch’ with many claiming they lose interest in their partners after the ‘honeymoon period’ and have to try new things to keep the relationship going. Although 64% of women claim they are no longer attracted to their partner, 74% said they still love them.Dr Esther Perel, author of The State of Affairs and psychotherapist, told us: “If you want to understand what women want, don’t ask them about their relationships; ask them about their affairs.”
She suggests that through understanding what a woman is receiving in an affair, you can see what she desires and what she feels is missing in her relationship. She agrees that women tire of monogamy and that this can sometimes happen faster than it does with men.
Whilst societal norms have made us believe that men are more interested in sex than women and that they lose interest in sex quicker in a long-term relationship, the research from Ashely Madison suggests otherwise. 95% of women (who took the survey) admitted to having considered or attended a sex party and 44% pinned the reason for their affair as “wanting to have more interesting and frequent sex.”
Dr Perel explains being sexually satisfied in a relationship as “letting go, in order to be able to enjoy and experience pleasure.” For a woman, there are many things that may not let her ‘experience’ this pleasure in a long-term relationship; one being that she doesn’t feel as confident in herself and may need more reassurance from her partner.
“What turns a woman on is to be the turn-on. The unspoken truth about women’s sexuality is how narcissistic it is.” In short, the affair is usually more personal to the individual and less to do with the partner.
This, however, can result in a toxic cycle in which the partner feels that they are not getting what they want from a woman (who is sexually turned on) and will thus look for it elsewhere.
According to Dr Tammy Nelson, PhD and author of When You’re the One Who Cheats, men have been traditionally perceived as the ones capable of balancing both a wife and a lover. However, she suggests that woman are better at multitasking and thus, some would say, better at cheating.
“Sometimes couples need a break from their everyday routines.”
It could be argued that a relationship is over after an affair. Many people say they are unable to see their partners in the same way once the ‘damage is done’.
However, statistics show that an affair doesn’t change some relationships; 32% of respondents said that there was “no change” after the affair and 28% said they “wouldn’t care” if their partner was having an affair.
The overall motivations behind female adultery are just as numerous as men’s, with a lot of issues stemming from dissatisfaction and wanting to explore sexual fantasies.
Given the issues around the societal standards of femininity, which woman are largely attached to and have to uphold, it does not provide much room or sympathy for an unfaithful woman. Nor are there any models of female sexual independence that can be adopted without the derogative labels being attached.
We are able to see the degree to which female infidelity is kept ‘under wraps’ in society despite being just as problematic and maybe even more likely to occur than male counterparts.
Perhaps one-day such a contrast in opinion and presumptions over the issue of infidelity will level out and wives will be considered no less likely to seek love elsewhere than their husbands, or perhaps the notion of female infidelity is somehow incompatible with the image of femininity, an image so deeply engrained within in society and, arguably, everyone one of us.
We must, therefore, look at how we can adapt to these truths without condoning infidelity and at the same time refrain from shaming women for being just as unfaithful as men can be.
Only then the stigma around a woman’s sexuality and loyalty be lifted and relationships can move forward with a greater understanding of dissatisfaction, curiosity and boredom.
Featured image by Jeremy Bishop via Unsplash
Edited by: Mischa Manser, Shaan Sipahimalani, Franziska Eberlein, Hiba Hassan & Kesia Evans