On Lying, Cheating, and Lack of Responsibility

19Apr10

Hello world.  So, it’s been awhile…a LOOOONG while, since I’ve posted.  The main reason for my hiatus is at once very cool and totally lame—I got a new job which has been keeping me insanely busy (cool because, well, I got a new job, and lame because, well, it’s just a job…follow?).  But, in keeping with the title of this post, new job or not, there is no excuse for having gone as long as I did without writing, so here I am standing (figuratively, of course) in front of you, taking responsibility.  I mean, come on, it’s not that hard to just sit down and write.

I now must address the thing that spurred me out of inaction, the thing that pissed me off enough to drive me back to my laptop and get my brain buzzing and my fingers whirring on the subject of human sexual behavior.

What is this all-powerful force?  Maxim.  I arrived at my gym and, having tired of reading women’s magazines telling me how to satisfy my man or lose those last 10 pounds (or are those the same thing?) and having realized that the “Naughty Fairytales” book I received for my birthday is not appropriate gym reading (last time I tried that I got all hot and bothered and nearly fell off the elliptical), I picked up a copy of Maxim, partly out of curiosity, and partly because I looked at the cover model and thought “she’s hot.”

It wasn’t until I reached the machine that I glanced down and saw the headline “How to Cheat and Get Away with It.”

“This has to be some kind of joke,” I thought.  But oh no, this is a very real article.  And the kicker?  WOMEN who cheat are the ones giving the pointers.  This raises so many issues for me that I have to outline them here to keep everything organized.

1) The dichotomy in how the media markets to women and how it markets to men

2) The fact that it is women giving this advice

3) Is monogamy a natural and healthy social construct for the human animal?

4) The issue of cheating itself (obviously)

So, let’s start with 1.  Women’s magazine covers are constantly spattered with headlines of “How to Keep your Man from Cheating,” “How to Tell if Your Man is Cheating,” “So You Caught Your Man Cheating—What To Do Now.”  And now here we have Maxim offering advice on “How to Cheat and Get Away with It” (an extra-juicy tidbit, the subtitle is “Have Your Cake and Eat It Too”).  Getting beyond my initial outrage (I tend to personally be very touchy when it comes to cheating), and beyond my desire to write it off as purely an issue of societal expectation and media hype, when you really think about it, the question of fidelity goes much deeper than that.  Looking at it from a Biological perspective, this dichotomy makes sense:  in very simplified terms, it is to a male’s advantage to mate with (and impregnate) as many females as possible, and it is to a female’s advantage to hang on to her mate so he will share the energy investment of raising young.  We see this Biological drama played out repeatedly in cultural avenues—in soap operas, in movies, on the covers of our magazines.  As a species, we seem to have yet to come up with a good answer to this dilemma.  Men (and women) will be driven to do whatever it takes to guarantee the best possible fitness of their young.  *As a side note, studies have shown that females of many species will cheat as well, preferring to have the most physically fit male sire their offspring, and then most reliable male raise them*

Despite this understanding, however, it still makes me feel manipulated to watch articles such as this pit men and women against each other.  It is part of the never-ending cycle of procreation and evolution, I suppose, but somehow it still just rubs me the wrong way.  We’ll get to exactly why later.

Of course, in a society based on monogamy, one cannot get caught cheating lest one risk destroying a relationship.  Hence advice from women (supposedly the sneakier of the two sexes) on how to cheat, which brings us to point 2.  Again, evolutionarily, it makes sense that women would, indeed, be stealthier in their cheating endeavors.  From this perspective, women have more to lose in getting caught—if a male gets caught cheating, he risks losing the chance to impregnate the individual, if a female gets caught, she risks losing the support necessary to raise the offspring that she may currently be carrying.  But on the sociological level, this question is much more interesting.  I felt very conflicted about the fact that the advice was coming from women.  On one hand, my reaction was one of feeling empowered and slightly vengeful “that’s right, women can cheat too…assholes.”  On the other, how empowering is it, really, to reveal information on how to successfully betray members of your sex?  While it may be initially satisfying to think that women still maintain some power in being the ones providing the information, it is in precisely in providing it that they give their power away.  “Here is how to go behind my back to get what you want instead of respecting me and considering my feelings…use it as you will.”  The really upsetting part?  Most of the advice would work.  I have a little advice for members of either sex –If you are feeling the urge to cheat, stop, take a deep breath, grow some balls, and talk to your partner about it.

OH NO, NOT (gasp) HONESTY?!

Ah, the issue of monogamy (point 3).  Do I “believe” in monogamy?  Honestly, I’m not sure.  To say that I “believe” in monogamy would be to say that I think it is the “correct” or “moral” choice, and I can’t say that I do.  I know that I personally want a monogamous relationship and would not function well in an open one, but this is not to say that I don’t get the urge to cheat or wonder sometimes if a single person and relationship can hold my attention for 10, 20, 40 years.  Swinging has become a popular option among couples of several generations, and even facebook provides the option of being in an “open” relationship.  To say that monogamy is the only incarnation of a healthy relationship would be narrow-minded and wrong.

But, I do feel comfortable saying that honesty and a sense of integrity are at the core of any successful partnership.  Which brings us to point 4 and to what I found so profoundly upsetting in this article.  It was not the first part of the title—How to Cheat—that incensed me so deeply, but the second part—and Get Away with It.  This article condones, nay, encourages lying to your partner.  It makes it seem like cheating is okay as long as you don’t get caught.  I would argue the opposite: that cheating is okay, as long as you DO get caught.  Let me clarify that statement, engaging sexually or emotionally with someone outside of your relationship is okay as long as it is permitted within the particular understandings built between you and your partner.  Oops, I guess that isn’t cheating, is it?  It’s really fairly simple, but requires a degree of courage: talk to your partner about your feelings and desires, come to some sort of explicit agreement that meets both of your needs whether it be for monogamy, an entirely open relationship, or anything in-between.  If this is too much of a challenge, you’re probably not mature enough to be in a relationship anyway.

The aspect of betrayal encouraged in this article truly upset and disgusted me—that somehow it is fine to break the trust of someone you supposedly love and to compromise your own integrity as long as no one finds out.  This is a sentiment with which I simply cannot get on board.  In my mind, there is nothing more important in an intimate relationship than the maintenance of trust and respect, and few things more important in an individual than a sense of integrity.   “How to Cheat and Get Away with It” throws both of these principles out of the window.  It implies “if you don’t get caught, you’re not responsible,” and that, Maxim, is where you are dead wrong.



4 Responses to “On Lying, Cheating, and Lack of Responsibility”

  1. 1 Mama G

    Hey! LOVE the blog – your voice and perspective are funny, smart, refreshing and engaging. Sorry it’s taken me so long to start reading. Keep it up, baby!

  2. 3 Sicariphus

    Good to see you’ve picked up your metaphorical pen again.

    This is one of those questions that can be cast as pitting the forces of evolution against morality. Yes, it’s advantageous in an evolutionary sense in some cases for people (male or female) to cheat. Many people refrain nonetheless. Is this because of social pressures? Fear of getting caught? How much of our tendency NOT to cheat can be attributed to morality?

    For those of us who don’t have faith in a higher power to guide our actions, these questions are more pressing. It can seem that in the absence of some absolute moral authority to overrule the base desires evolution has given us, we have no reason not to cheat when we think we can get away with it. And yet, morality persists in the absence of faith, for some. (Many? Most?)

    I am curious about how powerful you would say those various forces are in determining our behavior, particularly when they conflict, and why.

  3. very well written indeed.
    i have been having many a conversation about this lately.
    not in the least cause i am in a relationship and love the girl i am with very deeply.
    unfortunately , for now its a distant one. and though we try and fly to each other[ only 6000 kms apart: ;P]its a bit tough.
    coming back to the point.i truly feel that if u r or for that matter if the relationship is ‘open’ or non monogamous, speaking up openly and keeping things clean is the best way to go about it. or else what is it? a relationship? or politics?
    i have tried to find my own answers and find that i am by my nature capable of being in a relationship with only one person.[ in every sense of the word]
    this surprised me, cause i was wondering if this is somehow something i have learnt societally, though nearly everything else i have done is to break from the traditions of society. and so to so called follow ‘tradition’ surprised me. but i found that it is not tradition that i was following. it is just being who i am :)


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