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Why Do Men Cheat?

“Love is a game in which one always cheats.”

Honore de Balzac

Calm down. This post isn't about me. Or Husband.

This post is about men. And in particular, powerful, political men. Why do they cheat on their often very beautiful wives? And why do they do so in such conspicuous, offensive ways?

Unless you've been living under a big, fat rock (or tending to a tiny, chubby newborn) you've heard something about the sexual scandals surrounding Arnold Schwarzenegger, IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and Anthony Weiner. The details are distinct in each case - a household employee and a ten-year-old, an unsuspecting hotel maid, and wildly inappropriate Twit pics - but the overarching theme is the same here: Sexual Misbehavin'. What gives?

At lunch several weeks ago, Mom turned to Husband and said: What do you have to say for your sex?

It was a funny and jarring question because we were at the time talking about the Manhattan Kindergarten process. Husband was a bit taken aback I think and I don't remember him or any of us coming up with a robust theory on the recent rash of sexual stories and their protagonists, but here I am - weeks later - pondering an incarnation of Mom's question.

Why do men - and powerful men in particular - partake in infidelity or act out sexually?

I don't pretend to have an answer on this one. Do they mess around because, simply, they can? Does power, once accrued, go to one's head? Do these men really think that they can, and will, get away with their antics?

And why is it the men who are in the headlines? Are women in politics cheating just as much but being more careful?

In a recent article in the New York Times entitled "When It Comes to Scandal, Girls Won't Be Boys," author Sheryl Gay Stolberg posits that it is men who get caught up in these scandals because men and women have very different reasons for entering politics in the first place. Women, she argues, run for office to do something. Men, on the other hand, per Stolberg, run for office to "be somebody." She writes,

Research points to a substantial gender gap in the way women and men approach running for office. Women have different reasons for running, are more reluctant to do so and, because there are so few of them in politics, are acutely aware of the scrutiny they draw — all of which seems to lead to differences in the way they handle their jobs once elected.

Ultimately, is this really about gender, or power, or politics at all though? Or does this, in some undetermined way, boil down to biology?

This post contains more questions than answers. I'm aware of that. But they are interesting questions, no? And important too.


What do you make of all the recent political scandals? Why do men cheat? Why do powerful/political men cheat? Do you agree that men and women enter politics for different reasons? Pony up your theories, people!

Under Our Feet. Over Our Heads.

Holding Hands