So why don’t we hear more about it? A few reasons. For one thing, the culture spends so much energy trying to discern the motivations behind male dissatisfaction that there’s hardly any room left to focus on women. (Sound familiar?) Secondly, cheating women don’t seem to get caught — at least famously and publicly — as much as men do. (Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is up for others to decide.) Perhaps most important, we just don’t talk about it enough. Even Jong’s latest book, “Sugar in My Bowl: Real Women Write About Real Sex,” released this week, skirts the issue. Of the book’s 29 essays and short stories about female sex, only one — Jennifer Weiner’s “Everything Must Go” — concerns a woman’s infidelity. Weiner’s protagonist, a married mother of two who learns she has an aggressive form breast cancer, ends up discreetly meeting up with a former boyfriend. In Weiner’s imagining, the woman’s tryst is as much about her being seen and appreciated emotionally as sexually.
“I think the fantasy for women isn’t about ‘the best sex I’ve ever had,’ it’s that this guy understood me better than anyone else,” says Weiner. As Nation columnist Katha Pollitt pointed out to me, part of this discrepancy is due to the fact that there’s an entire multibillion-dollar sex industry willing and eager to cater to male desire. Part of it is risk management: As the New York Times explained last week, women don’t get caught up in as many sex scandals as men, in part because high-profile females have a hard enough time being taken seriously as it is. Lastly, there are significant differences in when women and men decide to cheat. Experts say that female infidelity is considered more damaging to a relationship because, by the time women stray, for them, the marriage is effectively already over.