Media Watch: The Sharyl Attkisson approach
It really rubs me the wrong way when so-called “experts” make overly generalized arguments about very serious topics, especially when the only stats they have to “back up” what they’re asserting are either purely anecdotal or “based on what I know.” I know everyone is prone to generalizing from time to time, but when you’re a renowned “expert” in your field, and you write books based on your “expertise,” and/or your writings are published at news outlets online and in print, and/or you travel around the country and/or world giving speeches on the topic you know so much about, it’s very important that you are specific and cite actual statistics, rather than just pull out facts out of your you-know-what. Ideally, people who read/hear such generalizations would resesarch the information they’ve been given to see if it’s got any basis in reality, but all too often people don’t do that. They just accept what they hear as truth – and as a result, “conventional wisdom” on a given topic is born, and it often takes years, sometimes even decades, to undo the damage that comes from such misconceptions.
Such may be the case, I fear, with best-selling authors and sex experts like Ian Kerner, founder of – ahem – Good In Bed. Kerner’s works are featured on news sites like MSDNC’s Today site and in women’s publications like Cosmo. Fox News published a piece by Kerner a few days ago titled “Why Women Cheat“. Let’s play “spot the unsubstantiated assertions,” shall we?
It’s often said that men cheat for sex, while women cheat for love. [Source? - ST] In general, men can more easily compartmentalize between sex and emotion, while women typically need to experience an emotional connection to a person before feeling sexual desire. Without those pesky emotions to stand in the way, a guy is much more likely to get himself into trouble (especially if alcohol is involved and inhibitions are down). In fact, most of the men I’ve encountered who have cheated on their wives or girlfriends have no desire to leave their primary relationship. Many of them even characterize themselves as happily married with satisfying sex lives. [Really? -ST]
From their point of view, the cheating was purely opportunistic – wrong place, wrong time. This is not to say that men don’t cheat because they’re unhappy, bored or looking for an emotional connection that they no longer feel with their partner, but just as often the opposite is true: They were acting according to their little head, instead of thinking with their big one.
Um, I guarantee that in 100% (not ‘half’ as Kerner guesstimates above) of those cases that the men who cheated were thinking with their little, er, you know, instead of their big, er – you know. As far as making the alleged “distinction” between a man thinking with their anatomy before having sex with a woman who is not his significant other and a woman making an ”emotional connection” before proceeding to jump in the sack with a man who is not her s/o, it’s a distinction without relevance. Why? Because either way, the outcome is the same: Someone’s cheating on someone else, and in the process a lot of people get hurt once the secret gets out.
But Kerner makes this unsubstantiated distinction because he’s leading up to what he probably doesn’t realize is a whopper of epic proportions. Again, the generalizations & unsubstantiated claims will be bolded by moi:
Yet there’s actually a better chance that a couple will stay together and try to work things out when a man cheats than when a woman cheats. That’s partially because there’s still a double standard in our society – “boys will be boys,” as the adage goes – and much less of a culture of forgiveness around female infidelity. But it’s also because by the time a woman is at the point of physically cheating with another man, she has often emotionally vacated her primary relationship.
Sure, some women cheat for the sex, but most cheat for another chance at love, or to confirm to themselves that their primary relationship is really over. A woman who cheats is often a woman who doesn’t want to work it out. She’s already invested time trying to work it out, and she’s done. It’s too late.
Well, ok – so I pretty much bolded the whole thing … because virtually none of what he said above is accurate. And unlike Kerner, I have the facts to back me up.
Earlier this year, my local liberal newspaper, the Charlotte Observer, published happy go lucky story from Carolina Bride about the website AshleyMadison.com, a site designed specifically for married men and women who want to have affairs to be able to do so ‘in a discreet manner.’ The site’s motto? “Life is short. Have an affair.” The article talked about how there were over 500 newlywed women from Charlotte – a figure they said had ”doubled” from April 2009 to May 2010 – who were signed up at AshleyMadison.com. That was just Charlotte alone. Who knows how many newlywed women in other cities across America and in other countries are registered at that site? Unlike Kerner, I won’t generalize, but it’s pretty clear from that piece that a not so insignificant number of newly married women are not having affairs because they’ve “given up” on their marriage and are “looking for love elsewhere.” In fact, one woman (who went by the fake name “Valeria”) interviewed by the Carolina Bride for that article indicated that she WAS happy in her marriage, but that her husband’s “sex drive was low” while hers was “really high.”
AshleyMadison.com founder Noel Biderman (who claims to be in a monagamous relationship), says this about sex and marriage (as paraphrased by Carolina Bride):
[...] America’s view of marriage is too conservative: Sex, quite simply, needs to be removed as a central tenet of marriage. If all your needs are being met in every other way, he says, why dissolve your union simply because of one physical incompatibility?
Unfortunately, there’s more. The Sunday Times did a piece back in 2004 on the reasons behind female infidelity. Strangely enough, “lookin’ for love because it’s gone from my marriage” wasn’t a top reason cited by female cheaters:
This summer has seen a torrent of surveys and statistics claiming that the number of married women having affairs is increasing; one academic who conducted her own research claims that the figure is as high as 60 per cent.
Newsweek, the American current affairs magazine, devoted its cover to the phenomenon with the screamer: “The Secret Lives of Wives: Why They Stray”, together with its own statistics to suggest that philandering wives are a growing breed. A British survey of divorce lawyers has found that in 45 per cent of cases where infidelity is cited women are the guilty party — a figure which appears to explode the popular assumption that it is men, not women, who generally play away from home. There are various possible catalysts: the internet, women’s increased financial independence, more women in the workplace, unrealistic expectations of marriage. Friends Reunited has been credited as the culprit behind this year’s divorce figures (they are at a seven-year high, with 153,490 couples divorcing in 2003), though of course this is unprovable.
This is the trouble with adultery; unlike divorce, by nature it happens in secret and is therefore unauditable. We have to rely on anecdotal evidence and the odd survey. All of the women I spoke to for this article insisted, for obvious reasons, on anonymity.
One truth, though, does seem to be emerging from the mist of unofficial data. More women are owning up to extramarital sex than before because in certain circumstances (“I’m taken for granted”, “I work so hard I deserve it”, “My husband gives me no attention”) many don’t see it as shameful. Indeed, some see it as their entitlement. And, crucially, this means they don’t feel guilt.
Research conducted last year by Grant Thornton Forensic and Investigation Services, advisers on the financial aspects of divorce, is possibly the nearest we get to scientific data on wifely philandering. It surveyed 50 UK divorce lawyers and found that adultery among divorcing couples was almost evenly split between men and women. Toni Pincott, a matrimonial expert at Grant Thornton who is repeating the exercise this year, says the figures surprised everyone because the traditional perception is that adulterous wives are a rarity.
According to research by Relate, 32 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women admit to having an affair. The most commonly cited reason for both sexes was neglect and lack of attention. There are websites devoted to the frustrated betrothed; a classic example, marriedandflirting.net (motto: “married not dead”), features dozens of women declaring that they are “bored and wanting a bit of fun”.
But what is often absent from debates about women and adultery, debates punctuated with handwringing about “self affirmation”, “lack of attention”, “loneliness” and “boredom” is that sometimes they do it simply because they can. Women now have access to what was once an exclusively male domain — their own income, business travel, late nights at the office, social drinking, no-strings sex. And in a man’s world, many find themselves acting like men.
Julia Cole, a relationship counsellor for Relate and author of After the Affair: How to Build Trust and Love Again, says: “When I started as a counsellor it was more unusual for me to see a woman having an affair. Now it is getting towards 50-50. Affairs are love ‘lite’, someone you can put in a bubble. There’s no responsibility and it feels wonderful because you are not dealing with the real world.”
Sadly, it sounds like the man-hating feminitwits have succeeded in at least one area of male/female “equality”: cheating. As I wrote back in May:
I wish I could say I didn’t understand this, but I do. Before the sexual revolution, it was frowned upon for married men AND women to have affairs, although with men if it was discovered it was sort of swept under the rug, whereas if it were a woman it was a different story altogether. She might as well have worn a Scarlet A. It was an unacceptable double standard, as cheating husbands should have been viewed upon with as much disdain as cheating wives. Then came the “free love” movement, which essentially promoted the responsibility-free, “it’s somebody else’s fault” lifestyle, and also taught women at the time that true “equality” meant being able to sleep around with whoever and whenever – whether you were married or not – without the stigma attached to it. Why not?, they asked, considering men had “been getting away with it for years.” This was their way of trying to “level the playing field.” It’s an argument I’ve heard all too often in the recent past.
Thanks in no small part to this movement, our society has “evolved” downward into celebrating TV shows like Desperate Housewives and Sex and the City, in spite of the former show’s emphasis on infidelity as an acceptable instant gratification tool and the latter’s emphasis on sexual gratification with multiple partners often and penchant for instant moral judgments (scroll) that turn an unwanted “blob of cells” into a wanted “unborn baby” in a New York minute. We also see the pro-infidelity message alive and well in movies like “It’s Complicated” – now on DVD and Blu-Ray. So it’s no small wonder that more married women (or women in other committed relationships) today have gotten the impression that it’s “ok” to have an affair as long as you’re discreet about it. Our culture is filled with images of “sexually liberated” women, married or not, having fling after fling on TV, on the movie screen, in books, magazines, etc.
It’s all about insta-”happiness” regardless of the feelings of the spouse or other committed partner in the relationship. I often wonder if those like “Valeria” who advocate cheating have ever been on the flip side of that coin and have felt the utter emotional devastation that comes as a result of it?
As for Kerner’s assertion that there is still a “double standard” on female infidelity, with the woman supposedly being made to feel more shame than the man? Don’t know if he’s checked out the Hollyweird affairs file lately, but last I checked, Angelina Jolie (an admitted foe of fidelity) wasn’t being crucified for breaking up Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston’s marriage. On the other hand, Jesse James was treated like the devil himself for cheating on Sandra Bullock. There are many more examples where that comes from. Double standard? You betcha – but not the way Kerner makes it out to be. Double standards ARE unacceptable, no matter what gender the standard favors.
Before I conclude, I don’t want give anyone the impression that Kerner is an advocate of infidelity. I have no idea whether or not he does as I just heard of him after I read the piece posted at Fox. But clearly he is someone who is respected in the “sex/relationships” field. People in positions of influence like him have an obligation to do their best to get it right the first time, rather than pass off zero-to-half-truths off as “fact,” especially on the very serious subject of infidelity. The fact of the matter is, more often than not – as studies show – more and more women are not having affairs because they’ve tried and tried for years to make things work and as a result have ultimately “given up on their marriage.” They’re doing it for excitement, to “try something new” and/or to relieve stress, boredom, or don’t feel a ‘sexual connection’ with their boyfriend or husband.
What gave them the idea that cheating was acceptable? I don’t know for a fact (thank goodness I’m not an “expert”!) but my belief is that, as asserted earlier, these women are a product of a culture that disturbingly celebrates female cheating both on daytime and primetime TV, and at the box office. Yes, of course it’s great to be a “liberated” female, but with that liberation comes responsibility in all aspects of our lives – including in our relationships with the opposite sex. I can’t imagine in a gabillion years cheating on whoever my future spouse may be. It just doesn’t compute. Whether you are married or are in a committed relationship, the trust has to be there in order for the relationship to go forward, and when someone cheats, that trust is gone – and it is very hard to earn it back (assuming the cheater wants to earn it back). Sometimes, it can’t be earned back because the knowledge that it even happened is so devastating, and makes you question everything about yourself. I know when it has happened to me, I could not get out of my mind the belief that somehow I wasn’t “good enough” or “pretty enough” or “whatever enough” to keep him from straying. Ideally, people who are cheated on shouldn’t blame themselves, but it happens.
How many years have gone by where feminists have yelled and screamed about how men are supposedly nothing but down and dirty cheaters who aren’t worth the time of day, who only want women for one thing? Yet where are those same cries of outrage about the emerging number of women who cheat, who use men for “one thing”? The silence from them is not just deafening, but it’s also dangerous. Without healthy relationships, society doesn’t mature emotionally, spiritually, etc. It degrades. And degenerates.
Which is sort of what I see happening in society now.
What do you think?