Cheating: Who’s to Blame?

// 12 December 2007

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If you ever visit the Yahoo homepage to look at the news, you will be aware that it regularly has links to dating advice articles associated with These generally tend to buy into the most banal “Venus and Mars” rubbish (see here for rather tedious dating advice for the apparently more moderate traditionalist) or pitch better quality advice to either men or women that could have easily been applied to both (also see here).

Another Yahoo/Match article that falls into the latter category (i.e reinforces gender stereotypes through pitch and tone rather than content) is Jim Sulski’s How to Spot a Cheater. At first, this piece seems to be fairly gender neutral but it soon becomes clear that it is specifically directed at the heterosexual female reader, as the selection of stories are all about men cheating on women and the piece makes references to “your man.” While targeting one group and not another is obviously not a problem in principle, I’d still say that, in this case, the omission implies that men are considered the cheaters by “nature” and therefore a specific problem for women.

Annoyingly, I have discovered that I inadvertently added to this exact stereotype when I gave a quote for an article in the Scotsman last month.

When I gave the quote (by e-mail), I answered questions such as “When do we need to commit?”, “Who is to blame when a partner cheats?” and “Why is the “other woman” often blamed?”

My answer to the question about the “other woman” was:

Because we live in a sexist society that wrongly typecasts men as weak sex beasts who can’t help it and expects women to shoulder full moral responsibility because of the incorrect assumption that they aren’t actually that into sex (my emphasis).

However, this was tagged onto the end of my comments about the responsibility of the partner who has “cheated” as:

In these situations the “other woman” is often blamed because we live in a sexist society that wrongly typecasts men as weak sex beasts who can’t help it and expects women to shoulder full moral responsibility.

I reckon this makes it sound as if I thoughtlessly assume that only men cheat.

Having said that, I do appreciate that the writer of the piece (Alice Wylie) was on a tight deadline. I’d say this means the unfortunate effect of such splicing was probably unintentional. (I rushed off the quote in a fit of inspiration during my lunch hour at work so a swift cut would have been called for.) In fact, our ed was recently quoted in another of Wylie’s articles and it’s worth pointing out that she seems pretty sympathetic to feminist positions.

Still, I figured I should set the record straight anyway. There are quite enough assumptions about gender perpetuated by the press without me adding to them.

Photo by KoAn, shared under a Creative Commons Licence.

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