Mark Gritter (markgritter) wrote,
Mark Gritter
markgritter

Infidelity

I can't really recommend Philip Weiss's New Yorker article The Affairs of Men but I found the discussion on Slate's XX Factor blog somewhat more interesting (which is how I got linked to the article.) But unfortunately it's got off to the wrong direction. The bloggers respond to the question "why do married women have affairs?" with the rational answer "for the same reason men do".

But I haven't seen a good explanation for the statistic that roughly 25% of married men are unfaithful while about 15% of married women are. If there is no qualitative difference, why is there a quantitative one? Or is it just that power imbalance makes women less likely to carry through?

The Weiss article contains this snippet suggesting that perhaps European women are not so much tolerant of affairs as resigned to them, or conditioned to expect them:

“I’ve heard this mythology so many times, that Italian women, they’re more mature, more understanding of men’s needs, they expect infidelity. They don’t complain,” says [novelist Frederic] Tuten, who was married to an Italian woman. “I don’t know if it’s true. A lot of Italian women expect their husbands to turn into philanderers, and how do they live with it? Some live by suffering.”

but there are, I think, two ways of looking at this. (We are talking, of course, about a generalization, which is always suspect.) We might take the perspective that "Italian/European women" are being pressured by their society to accept behavior from their husbands that they would "ordinarily" find unacceptable--- which is what Tuten hints at. Or, we might take the opposing view that "Italian women" are entitled and empowered to arrive at their own definition of marriage and their own set of expectations. The former type of argument tends to self-satisfactorily assume the correctness of one's own perspective, while the latter can be used to excuse behavior that really is immoral and exploitive. Finding the right balance seems tricky.
Tags: article, marriage
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