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The Sexual Double Standard: Why do Men and Women View Adultery Differently?

Updated on May 12, 2012
The Edge of Love Poster
The Edge of Love Poster
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The Last King of Scotland Poster
We Don't Live Here Anymore Poster
We Don't Live Here Anymore Poster
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Young Adult Poster
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Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice Poster
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The Duchess Poster
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The Golden Bowl Poster
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Le Divorce Poster

What is adultery? What is the best way to describe it without sounding like a cliche that's heard on pretty much every talk show known to man? In it's simplest terms, adultery is simply a shocking physical and emotional betrayal that can rock a relationship to its core. Marriages have ended in divorce for no less. Adultery is an act that sometimes warrants the craziest responses, because there is no clear playbook on how to behave if you find out your loved one has been cheating on you. Look at movies like Le Divorce or The Golden Bowl for different examples of love gone bad. Can an extra-curricular physical relationship be worse than an emotional affair of sorts? What act is more unforgivable? You be judge.

Do men and women have different standards on how to accept adultery? Women are expected to forgiving creatures who take their husbands back after they paint the town with various women who aren't them. The clearest of images is often watching a politician or celebrity opening up on television about their trangressions via a press conference. A fictional example is when Julianna Margulies' character on The Good Wife had to stand by her cheating husband after his fling with a high profile hooker was exposed. She appeared a mixture of steadfast support and a deer caught in the headlights. She tried to appear strong, but she was really hiding her desire to slap him silly. If the shoe was on the other foot, her husband would likely throw her out of the house. In more recent episodes, Margulies' character had an affair of her own, which her estranged husband responded by plotting to destroy her lover's career. It's such examples as that would make some wonder why women are forced to be more accepting of such a betrayal, while men aren't willing to bend in the same direction.

In order to end some of the relationship double standards and myths, let's examine some ways how both genders see adultery and what can be done to remedy the stereotypical behavior that follows such a major reveal. Read on to see three suggestions and scenarios of how to put such disconcerting double standards to rest once and for all. It won't be easy, but it should be worth a try to read on if your relationships hangs in the balance.

Desire- Let's face the fact that we all want what we can't have. For some, it's eating a large Pepperoni Pizza after six. For others, it's the urge to sleep with your best friend's wife. Rick Springfield did a song called "Jesse's Girl," which involved him wanting just that and being driven to distraction in the process. Another idea is the fantasy of going back into time and getting back with your high school sweetheart just like in Young Adult, even if he's happily married with a kid on the way. It's best to put those fantasies on the backburner, especially it'll never happen in this lifetime. Regular girls are married to Joe Blow, but they dream that Brad Pitt will sweep them off their feet. The likelihood of that happening is slim to none, but it's still nice to dream about the impossible. In the movie The Edge of Love, Vera (Keira Knightley) was always close with poet Dylan Thomas (Matthew Rhys), but he was married to an unstable woman named Caitlin (Sienna Miller) who was reckless in her decisions. Vera married another man (Cillian Murphy) to escape her connection to the Thomas, but not even that she could prevent her from getting pulled into their complicated marriage. She ended up being an honorary wife, until reality struck. The arrangement was always meant to be short-lived, but it was nice while it lasted. Okay, this might not be the best example of love, but everyone was happy even though it was a strange arrangement at best. In terms of love, it's best to keep your relationship as simple as possible. Drama should be left for just the stars of the show and not the guest stars.

Reality Versus Fantasy- Can a dream end up being a reality without it turning tragic? In the movie The Last King of Scotland, a young man (James McAvoy) is thrusted into a world of a powerful ruler (Forest Whitaker) and strikes a strong but illicit rapport with one of his wives (Kerry Washington). Unfortunately, their attraction turned deadly and left them both wounded in their own ways. Another example of fantasy versus truth is the movie The Duchess where the titled character (Keira Knightley) is forced to marry into a loveless marriage with a Duke (Ralph Fiennes) who had multiple affairs and wasn't allowed her own happiness. She indulged in one affair that ended in a pregnancy, but she was forced to give up the baby and the guy for appearance's sake. The ultimate way to clearly cut that questionable marital double standard in half is to make sure neither partner is getting their cake and eating it too. That way both are just as disgruntled as they should be once a relationship hits a certain milestone. It sounds depressing, but marriage hits its low periods sometimes and it's best to embrace the doldrums long enough to find a way to make things better.

The Four Dynamic- Despite the visual image that's often shown in porn films, group sex isn't what it's cracked up to be, especially if the subjects involved are close friends. The best word to describe the set-up would be awkward. In the movie Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, two married couples fight the desire to have a foursome in the midst of the swinging 60s. They struggled with the awkwardness of messing with the dynamics of their two complicated marriages. In the end, they tried to go for it, but the aftermath was more than vague. In the movie We Don't Live Here Anymore, the two couple swapped partners, but the ending was more explosive with much more consequences involved. Ultimately, the best line of defense would be to focus on your marriage/relationship and avoid the risk of a group dynamic to make things worse.

In conclusion, sex is a weapon that make or break a relationship. Choose who you inflict it on wisely. Once you choose a partner, stick with them and fight for them. Learn to forgive, but never forget betrayal. It's simply not possible to forget that type of thing ever. The only thing you can do is adjust or break up for good. Be careful which option you choose, because either is long lasting.

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    • Anjili profile image

      Anjili 5 years ago from planet earth, a humanoid

      That was a wonderful review and conclusion you made for hub. Very well researched in response to my question. I hope many will choose to live right with their partners after reading this. I found it interesting too and voted up. Good share