Do Men Cheat More Than Women
If you’re a woman who’s ever wondered why your man seems so much less inclined to stray when it comes to his sexuality, the answer may lie in science.
A new study published in the Journal of Sex Research suggests that men are more prone to cheating on their wives than women are on theirs — at least when it comes to casual encounters. The researchers found that 1 percent of American women admitted having sex outside of their marriage, compared to 2 percent of American men. And these numbers differ greatly across age groups.
“While there is some evidence that older people are more sexually active than younger adults,” says lead author Dr. Joanne Greenstein via email, “our findings suggest that middle-aged adults have the highest rates.”
Greenstein notes that the difference between male and female infidelity isn’t due to biological differences between them; instead, she believes it has everything to do with social norms surrounding sexual fidelity. In short, men seem to be expected to stick around the home, take care of children and run the household, all of which entails being monogamous. On the other hand, women aren’t seen as responsible for these same things, making them more free to go out and engage in extramarital relationships without any sense of guilt or shame.
Another possible reason behind the disparity could be that men tend to have higher levels of testosterone, which may make them more susceptible to arousal during those spurts of time where they’re alone in a bar bathroom stall.
According to Greenstein, we live in an environment where temptation can come from many directions, whether it be through work, family life, friends or even the media itself. This means that men aren’t necessarily going out seeking opportunities for extra-marital hookups; rather, they’re just constantly exposed to situations that encourage them to stray. Women, however, are usually not presented with the same kind of temptations. As a result, they might feel more comfortable staying faithful because they don’t need to seek out those kinds of opportunities in order to feel aroused.
Regardless of reason, the authors said, the fact remains that the vast majority of cheaters were women. While 20 percent of men surveyed admitted to cheating on their spouses, only 13 percent of women did so.
So how does one stop themselves from straying? According to Greenstein, the best way to prevent infidelity is to develop healthy habits that promote fidelity, such as communication skills, good money management and strong marriages. She also recommends developing strategies to deal with stress and conflicts within a relationship.
As far as her own personal experiences, Greenstein admits that she herself was unfaithful to her husband at one point but that she eventually got past the experience and moved on. “Most importantly, I learned about my motivation for wanting to see others (i.e., loneliness), which gave me insight into what I needed to do to help myself,” she says.
The following questions and responses are based on an interview with Greenstein conducted July 19, 2012.
Q: Why do you think men are more likely than women to cheat on their spouses? A: It’s important to note that our research doesn’t show that men are biologically different from women. Rather, our results indicate that cultural expectations place greater burdens on men in terms of marital fidelity. For example, men are often expected to be providers, protectors and heads of households. These roles require commitment to a single partner. Conversely, women are rarely required to fulfill these same responsibilities, and thus they may feel little pressure to remain committed to a single person. Another factor that contributes to the gender gap is that women tend to be more successful in achieving career goals than men, which gives them more options.
Q: What factors contribute to this gender gap? Do you believe that certain personality traits play a role? A: Our research shows that women report more positive emotions and lower negative ones than men. We speculate that this pattern reflects a tendency toward emotional restraint among men. Because men are expected to be stoic, they may be reluctant to admit to feelings that would cause them to break marital commitments. Thus, although both men and women may experience conflict, women may be less willing to leave their partners when issues arise. Other research supports the idea that women are generally better communicators than men, and this skill allows them to get along better with their partners and avoid conflict.
Q: One of the interesting statistics in this study was that 4% of women over 40 admitted to cheating on their husbands, whereas only 1% of women under 30 did so. Is this true? Are young women today less tempted by the notion of cheating than previous generations? A: Yes, our finding that women aged 40 and up were more likely to be unfaithful than younger women is consistent with other research showing that people become increasingly open to extramarital affairs as they age. There are several theories that attempt to explain this trend. Older women are more independent, financially secure and educated, and these characteristics give them more freedom to pursue romantic and sexual adventures. Also, older couples typically have more resources available for infidelity, including financial assets and social networks. Although women may be more skilled at communication than men, this skill may backfire if used to express dissatisfaction with a long-term mate. Finally, older people are more likely to use contraception than younger adults, which reduces the risk of pregnancy complications and unintended pregnancies. All of these factors combine to increase the likelihood of extramarital behavior.
Q: How do you think society should handle the issue of cheating? Should people be held accountable for their actions? A: People should be encouraged to communicate openly with their partners about their needs and desires. If problems persist, couples should try to address them together. Infidelity must always be addressed directly and honestly. Society should recognize that infidelity occurs within loving relationships, and people shouldn’t be punished simply because of their status as a couple.
According to another study, women are more likely to cheat on a boyfriend than men are on a girlfriend.
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