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Why do men cheat on women? Show more Show less
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Heterosexual infidelity is increasingly common. Statistics vary, but most estimate that 20% of married men have secret extramarital sexual relationships at one point or another. Why? This illicit betrayal can ruin lives and tear families apart. So, what drives men to cheat on women?

Men are socialised to cheat Show more Show less

The masculine ideal makes male infidelity permissible. Some communities treat male infidelity as a norm, or even encourage it.
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Society conditions men to cheat

Strength. Virility. Bedpost notches. Men are socialised into aspirations of a "male ideal". This can lead to cheating, as a type of performative masculinity.
gender infidelity society


Modern societies are inherently patriarchal. That is, our norms have been constructed in a way that privileges men. This includes within relationships. The same values that maintain gender inequality also create damaging aspirations for men and women. These place a high value on the male being strong, powerful and sexually prolific. Men are therefore socialised into an understanding that womanising and sexual recklessness, where the female exists largely for his pleasure, are qualities they should cultivate.

The Argument

Men have been socialised to falsely view themselves as superior to women. Evidence increasingly suggests that this is the root cause of all infidelity. In 2010, a research team at the University of California published a paper investigating how patriarchal norms gender sexual relations. They concluded that “gender role conformity indirectly depresses sexual satisfaction for women but not men because traditional gender-based sexual roles dictate sexual passivity for women but sexual agency for men.”[1] Men are conditioned from birth to see sex with a woman as a right. Men therefore cheat because they subconsciously believe ti is acceptable. This is not the only evidence of its kind. In a 2010 study at the University of Connecticut, researchers discovered that men who were economically dependent on their female partner, were much more likely to cheat. Their conclusions pointed to the emasculating effects of this economic relationship, with men straying to "feel more masculine".

Counter arguments

Much evidence points to feelings of inferiority at the heart of infidelity. Low self esteem and belief in their own attractiveness or external appeal, results in people philandering in order to feel that they are not worthless. In these cases, a person cheats in order to validate themselves.



[P1] Male aspirations are formed by social norms [P2] Contemporary norms believe the ideal man is superior to women [P3] A believe in one's own superiority causes cheating

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P3] Cheating is often caused by a feeling of inferiority



This page was last edited on Thursday, 21 May 2020 at 22:34 UTC


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