Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Does adultery have a double standard?

Is our culture surprisingly tolerant of women who cheat?

I asked that question after reading a male writer's essay that recently appeared on Jezebel. Short summary: There's a double standard when it comes to adultery, and we don't judge female cheaters as harshly as male cheaters.

An excerpt:

Just imagine, for instance, if Mark Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina, decided to write a tell-all book about leaving his wife in favor of his South American mistress, including his trips to Argentina to enjoy the cultural delights and the food of the faraway land.

That book might, in fact, sell -- but not for the same reasons that "Eat, Pray, Love" spent 57 weeks atop The New York Times bestseller list.

Mark Sanford as memoirist wouldn't be celebrated as the guy who has reached into our collective souls and spoken to our deepest desires as men. No, Sanford would still be in the headlines as yet another example of manhood gone desperately wrong.

Some aspects of the essay are flawed, mainly the fact that the writer repeatedly cites "Eat, Pray, Love" as an example of female infidelity. But as the commenters note, I believe the writer was divorced -- or at least separated -- when she embarked on her international journey.

The aforementioned essay raises some interesting questions. I think our culture is strangely accepting of the female quest for adventure, even when it hampers personal relationships.

Then again, I'd imagine you could find just as many essays saying we're too critical of women who divorce their husbands and leave their families.

The answer is that there is no answer. Sorry.