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I'm a Woman, AMA

Is Cheating Misogynistic?

An advice column, for men.

by Megan Nolan
13 March 2018, 7:30am

Photo via Flikr user Harsh Agrawal, CC 2.0)

We are in the midst of a cultural shift. Men are confused. "How are we supposed to know what’s OK if you don’t tell us?" they wail, tearing their shirts and bellowing at the moon. Here’s a solution: just ask! Send me your questions about romance, relationships and sex. I’m a woman, ask me anything.

What’s the problem?

A question sent to me on Curious Cat: Is cheating misogynistic?

What am I not getting?

The act of infidelity isn’t inherently misogynist. It can’t be, can it, given that women are just as capable of cheating as men. Monogamy is a human conundrum, not a gendered one. Women don’t find it easier to do than men. In fact, historically, given the enforced subsuming of a woman’s identity into her marriage (being made to quit work and dedicate herself to the household, not having an outside life), it’s not a stretch to say that women have been more hard-done-by, more brutally compromised by the confines of monogamy than men have.

On a more base level, women are just as likely to want to fuck someone other than their partner as men. Being horny isn’t a male affliction. We all share the burden of being disgusting thirsty perverts.

So, sleeping with someone else isn’t misogynist, but the surrounding context of why and how you cheat could indeed be informed by misogyny. What cheating does is wilfully ignore the personhood of the betrayed party, denying their right to make an informed choice about who they are with. A man cheating could be – though isn’t always – cheating because of a messed up gendered dynamic in his relationship. He could be abusing the imbalance of power and dependence which is present in many hetero relationships to manipulate his partner into accepting shoddy treatment. He could be spurred on to cheat because of a sense of entitlement that many men suffer from; they deserve to have everything they want, regardless of how it affects others.

I’ve been cheated on. I’ve also been a cheater – two times notably, notwithstanding some regrettable drunk teenage fumbling. In my case, funny enough, misogyny – internalised misogyny – informed my cheating the first time round. I was pretty young and still so fixated on being found attractive by men that once my partner and I were out of the honeymoon period and he was no longer making me feel particularly desired sexually, I panicked; when someone else came along who did make me feel irresistible and thrilling, it was very easy to submit to it.

In the second instance, I cheated largely to force my own hand to break up my relationship. Consciously, I hadn’t acknowledged to myself that I wanted to end what I now know was an abusive relationship. I was too invested, couldn’t imagine a way back out having spliced our lives together so completely. But as soon as I cheated I soon knew exactly why I had done it, and broke up with him.

I used to have a pretty bleak idea of myself and monogamy, given this history, and assumed I was bound to always cheat, but I think now that what makes the difference is trying to be aware of your feelings and where they are coming from. I was so divorced from them back then I had no idea that I even wanted to break up, until I knew it all at once in the aftermath of having cheated. What eventually made me secure in the knowledge that I can do monogamy if I want to is that I now try to live in such a way as denying these enormous feelings would be impossible. I try to check in with myself often and not to be upset if I have “negative” feelings in relation to my partner or to monogamy. Monogamy is difficult and knotty sometimes and it’s OK to not love it 100 percent of the time. Not expecting monogamous relationships to be these perfect idealised affairs which satisfy every one of your desires makes being in them much easier.

The other thing which changed my idea of monogamy and cheating was coming to see that monogamy is not the only available option. If, for whatever reason, I did decide I simply couldn’t be faithful to a partner and was not suited to monogamy, that would be fine. I would be non monogamous. Ok, I might not get to be with exactly who I wanted, given that non-monogamy is definitively not for everyone. But as I said to this guy last month about his kink, you don’t get to have every desire and inclination of yours met by everyone you find attractive.

People often cheat because they think on some level that they can and should have it all. They think if they manage to deceive their partners successfully enough, they will get to enjoy the benefits of both a committed monog relationship and the excitement of casual sex. But you can’t have it all – nobody can. A relationship based on deception just isn’t a successful relationship.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to spend your life voraciously pursuing multiple sexual partners, and god knows I spent long enough doing so. There is, however, something wrong with withholding information from someone which, if revealed, would change their decision to be with you. Just as you deserve to have your needs met, so does she. If you need to have multiple partners, go and do that. If she needs monogamy, let her have it, if not with you then with someone else. If she is not entirely sold on monogamy either and is up for negotiating a “mongamish” arrangement, all the better. We all deserve to have our needs met and we all have a responsibility to try and provide the same for our partners.

What do I really need to know?

Cheating isn’t necessarily misogynistic, although it can be informed by misogyny (but don’t do it anyway).

To ask Megan a question, head to her Curious Cat page.

Previously:

'Is It Prejudiced of Me to Not Want to Sleep with a Trans Person?'

@mmegannnolan