Is Infidelity in Marriage a Perk of Fame and Fortune?
"I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way" (Jessica Rabbit)
"Attractive people always have affairs."...That is the answer I got when I asked a handsome, popular man why his social life consisted of hot-and-cold running girls. I assumed that he meant his genetic luck had hard-wired him for infidelity and promiscuity. In other words, it was not his fault.
At the time I didn't really buy into his thinking, which seemed like a convenient excuse for bad behavior. Now, years later, I am not so sure he wasn't on to something.
"It's good to be the king" (Mel Brooks, "History of the World, Part I")
It is not that I believe there is an actual infidelity gene, but I have noticed that throughout history cultures have tolerated promiscuity from powerful men. The only thing that has changed is the source of that power.
Centuries ago important families and royalty inherited it. They knew from birth that they could have anything and anybody they wanted. Monarchs routinely had a wife and as many mistresses as they could handle. Illegitimate children abounded. It was all part of the "Divine Right of Kings". Society dubbed them super human and, therefore, above human rules.
"Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same" (Oscar Wilde)
Not much has changed over the years. Anyone who followed the saga of Britain's Charles and Diana is well aware that the future king will still have his way. But it is not just blue bloods who have been given permission to exist in a morality-free zone.
Actors, politicians, sports figures, beautiful people, and the very wealthy are civilian royalty. As such they, too, inherit a sort of sexual get-out-of-jail free card along with their status. It seems that society is determined to reward this marital infidelity and turn a blind eye to questionable behavior.
"When I'm not near the girl I love, I love the girl I'm near" (E.Y. Harburg)
If there is anyone who still believes that the power-has-its-perks philosophy disappeared with moats, consider the following: Jack Kennedy had women brought up to the White House. When Donald Trump cheated on a series of women with newer, younger models, it didn't rate a yawn. Sports figures have historically enjoyed the charms of girls they meet on the road. Rock stars are legendary for their uninhibited romps with groupies. Whatever their celebrity status, some people still exist on a different plane from mere mortals, and we love them. It seems that cultural heroes don't even consider fidelity in marriage an option.
"Ladies Love Outlaws" (Waylon Jennings)
A lot of pop royalty is made up of alpha males. We are a culture which rewards alpha males. In the animal world these are the ones who get the most females. The same is true of humans.
Alpha men tend to be leaders who refuse to live by the rules and like to go after what they want. Whether a male becomes alpha by birth or breeding, modern society has a long tradition of applauding this kind of behavior in the boardroom, barroom, and bedroom. Really, is it that astonishing that young men who are groomed to be pack leaders are comfortable with infidelity in marriage?
"Boys will be boys, and so will a lot of middle-aged men" (Anonymous)
It is interesting to note that, despite historical tolerance for the boys-will-be-boys point of view, society often publicly condemns it. For instance, the press roasted Tiger Woods on a metaphorical spit when his infidelities were revealed. It makes sense that the people who elevated the young athlete to a demi-god would be disappointed; but Tiger was bred to become an icon - and all that entails. Basically he accepted the perks that go with his status, probably with the same sense of entitlement that some people greet a corner office.
There has been a lot of discussion about his "illness". He even checked into a clinic so he could be treated for his sexual addiction. I am not convinced that his advisors got that right. Tiger Woods' behavior was foolish, egotistical, and careless. Unfortunately, as a pop culture hero, it would have been remarkable if he hadn't eventually been discovered dallying with damsels.
"Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas" (Anonymous)
Obviously most people understand that there are consequences for their actions and this is probably what prevents a lot of infidelity. Family values, religion, and common sense do their part in offsetting some programming.
The question is, are these things enough to overcome a centuries-old, bred-in-the-bone tradition of sexual entitlement? I believe that at some level we still want incredibly entitled royals and if we don't have them, we make them.
I'm still not sure if power, privilege, and promiscuity are an inevitable trifecta, but it might make a difference if we stopped genuflecting when our cultural kings pass by