So it’s been said for a hot minute now that women cheat as much as men, and now there’s a statistic to back it up. The Wall Street Journal peaked into this issue of infidelity over the weekend and, based on a 2011 study from Indiana University, the Kinsey Institute and the University of Guelph, found the statistical word on cheating is that 23% of men are doing it and 19% of women. So yeah, not much difference.
What is different is the numbers that were reported just one year prior, albeit from a different source. In 2010, the General Social Survey, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, found 19% of men had been unfaithful at some point during their marriage which was actually a decrease from 21% in 1991. Women on the other hand were increasing their sexcapades, with a reported 14% having had an affair, up from 11% in 1991.
Whether that figure really did jump 5% in one year is hard to say because at the end of the day these surveys are basically asking people to confess to going back on their marriage vows and most people can’t handle that type of honesty, whether their identity is anonymous or not. That’s why researchers believe the real figures regarding the number of men and women who are cheating are likely higher than these annual surveys and studies indicate. But to look at things positively, at least in terms of what’s being reported, more people are seemingly faithful than unfaithful.
Even though TLC was up on the whole “Creep” thing way back in ’94, there may be a reason women are starting to follow that line of thinking in droves in recent years. As the WSJ writer notes:
In my own work as a psychologist and in my social circle, I see more women not only having affairs but actively seeking them out. Their reasons are familiar: validation of their attractiveness, emotional connection, appreciation, ego—not to mention the thrill of a shiny new relationship, unburdened by the long slog through the realities of coupledom.
Researchers also point to other factors that might be leading women to stray more. One is what might be called “infidelity overload.” Scan the plots on any given week in television, and there seems to be more extramarital sex than marital sex. (Few spouses stay put in “Mad Men.”) With women portrayed as eager participants and aggressive instigators, there may be a feeling that infidelity has become more acceptable.
And then there is the opportunity factor—more travel, more late nights on the job and more interaction with men mean that the chances and temptations to stray have multiplied for the new generation of working women.
There’s also another theory out there that women just feel differently about relationships these days — or are more comfortable finally expressing thoughts they’ve had all along.
According to a Match.com study conducted earlier this year by the biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, women are becoming less traditional about relationships. Men, interestingly, may be going the other direction. In the survey, 77% of women in a committed relationship said they needed personal space, as opposed to 58% of men. While 35% of women wanted regular nights out with friends, only 23% of men said the same.
Social networks are another factor, if only by expanding the pool of possible partners. Emotional friendships that turn physical are the traditional point of entry for female affairs. It is now easy for those friendships to take root online. Some argue that social networks are merely an expediter and that cheaters will always find a way.
I’m with the last point. In my female bias, I’ve always argued (to my male friends) that women are more reactionary cheaters and only creep when they’ve been cheated on or are looking for something they’re missing at home but I only theoretical proof of that. Let these statistics tell it, girls just wanna have fun — with someone other than their husband.
What do you think?
*Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.