Any man who has ever been on the receiving end of that question, whether
dodging crockery or wiping away his wife’s tears, knows that some women really
want an answer. Do men who cheat really outnumber their female counterparts? Is
infidelity in marriage more natural to men than women? And do some husbands
think that “monogamy” is a board game?
Infertility has traditionally been thought of as a woman's problem. But as
it turns out, we men don't get off that easily. About one out of every three
cases of infertility is due to the man alone, and we're somehow involved in
infertility about half the time.
A diagnosis of male infertility can be one of the hardest challenges a man
can face. For some, it can be devastating. After all, the necessity of
reproduction is one of the few things on which both Darwin and the Bible agree.
“There’s no question that men cheat more than women,” says Steven Nock, PhD,
a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia who has followed the
marriages of over 6,000 men since 1979. “In the bad old days when we had to
prove why we were getting divorced, that was the leading cause.” This was
mostly because the husbands were guiltier of infidelity in marriage than their
wives — but also because, says Nock, “society is more tolerant of men’s
Men who cheat, so the conventional wisdom went, were just being men, while a
faithless wife was a true pariah. You may remember from your American
literature class, it was Hester Prynne who wore the scarlet letter, not the man
who did her wrong.
“Men and women cheat in different ways,” says Mark Epstein, MD, a
psychiatrist in private practice in Manhattan and the author of Open to
Desire: Embracing a Lust for Life. “It’s more like an appetite thing for
men, more oral in a way; their partners are more disposable. And the
experiences are more disposable.”
Infidelity in men: Does the biological argument hold up?
Wives may consider their husbands disposable when they discover they’ve been
cheating, but they still wonder why. Could it be a biological imperative, as
some scientists have allowed? Cole Porter may have thought that birds who “do
it” and bees who “do it” were falling in love, but if love is what you’re
calling it, there is plenty of evidence that the animal kingdom pretty much
falls in love indiscriminately. And even we Homo sapiens have spent more
evolutionary time seeking multiple partners than we have in pursuit of romantic
matrimony and monogamy.