“What Makes Powerful Men Act Like Pigs,” declared the cover of the May 30 issue of Time magazine. “What’s the Matter With Men?” asked the conservative-leaning Independent Women’s Forum on May 19. “Why Men Cheat,” teased a story on the Huffington Post last week.
Those looking for explanations to these questions should stop reading now. I don’t have the answers, nor am I interested in doing the difficult, ultimately fruitless and arbitrary work of providing any. For one thing, I’m not sure it really matters. The reasons behind Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision to carry on a years-long affair with his housekeeper are specific and unknowable, probably even to him. (Reckless adulterers are not exactly renowned for their self-awareness.) Ditto for Rep. Anthony Weiner, whose social-media-enabled sexting scandal led to his resignation Thursday. The psychological motivations of men who fool around are varied. The only thing to be said is that a man who commits adultery or sends topless photos while engaged in a committed, monogamous relationship is pathetic and wrong and should grow up already.
Anna Holmes is a contributing columnist for the Style section. She is the founder of Jezebel.com.
Representative Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) announced his resignation from office at a chaotic press conference Thursday. Weiner addressed the media at a senior citizens' center in Brooklyn where he began his political career.
To run for political office you don’t just need support from your constituents, you need it from your partner as well. Many political spouses have been in the news lately, and not all necessarily want to be.
I feel somewhat differently with regard to women. At least, I used to.
About seven years ago, a friend I’ve known since college confessed that she’d been carrying on a torrid affair with a male colleague for years. She appeared simultaneously horrified by and delighted with her behavior. I was, too. While I tsk-tsk’d audibly and threw her a disapproving look, inside I cheered.
It wasn’t that my friend’s husband deserved to be cheated on, or even that, in the abstract, I approved of her assignations. It’s not that gender parity is achieved when women can do everything men can do, up to and including breaking marriage vows. But I felt a perverse sort of triumph in her betrayal, a celebration that this vibrant, brilliant, often careful young woman — who, like me, had been bruised and buffeted by the disposability and inconstancy of male affections for so many years — was boldly asserting control over her sexual and emotional desires. In that sense, her duplicity felt not only rebellious but subversive. She’d always been such a “good” girl. Writer Erica Jong, whose seminal 1973 novel “Fear of Flying” caused a firestorm with its frank depiction of an unhappily married woman indulging in casual sex with strangers, agrees with me on this point, saying that female infidelity feels “revolutionary,” adding that, “the context in which we find ourselves is that men still have the power, and so a woman who can say, ‘I take what I want,’ is a revelation.”
That power imbalance is reflected in and reinforced by the messages communicated to women — single and partnered — every day of our lives. Taking what we want, especially with regard to our erotic lives, is considered taboo, a reflection of a society that has long been distrustful of empowered female sexuality. Even supposedly enlightened women’s media outlets push the message that male satisfaction should be our primary objective. Just take a look at the latest issue of Cosmopolitan: The massively popular women’s magazine, which takes the phrase “Fun, Fearless, Female” as its rallying cry, devotes no fewer than three of its seven cover lines to the pursuit of male gratification. (“His 6 Secret Sex Spots,” blares one headline. “What Men Crave in July,” promises another.) The care and feeding of men, we are told, is paramount. (“How do you keep your man from cheating on you?” asked one CNN anchor on May 21. This month, a group of Malaysian women launched the Obedient Wife Club, which purports to teach women how to be more dutiful to their husbands and therefore prevent male adultery.) Women should feel lucky to get what they can, and while they can get it.