The Problem with the Word Homewrecker

December 19, 2011  |  

Homewrecker is a word that’s going to be thrown around more and more as the Kobe-Vanessa saga unravels itself and rumors of who Kobe was sleeping with continue to surface. But it’s a word I’ve had a problem with long before the baller’s extramarital affairs became a hot topic because it’s rooted in myths about men and women’s sexually and most times allows the person who’s really at fault to get off the hook.

Have you ever noticed that a man who sleeps with a married woman is never called a homewrecker? It’s a term reserved specifically for either crazy stalker women or women who sleep with married men, or some combination of the two. For men, this is a convenient excuse that falls in line with the already-tainted assumption that men can’t control their sexual urges and have to do what’s “natural.” Therefore if some “homewrecker” comes along with a tempting figure and a down-for-anything mentally, it’s almost as if he had no control over the situation and was completely hopeless against the temptress’s feminine wiles.

Interestingly, when a woman cheats on her husband, she is still the one who has to bear all of the responsibility for risking her marriage and her family for some on the side. Where’s her homewrecker lifeline?

When it comes to a cheating husband, often more anger and frustration is directed at the “homewrecker” than the person who violated the commitment which is cool for the guy but is misguided anger that women need to redirect. It’s easy to blame a short-skirt-wearing, cleavage-showing temptress for the reason your relationship/marriage is falling apart rather than accept that your partner willingly cheated. But you’re in denial if you do. Tempting a man is not the same as forcing him to have sex, he chose to do so, and he had the option to say no if he wanted to, no matter how good the forbidden fruit looked to him. What this woman allowed to happen, or even possibly set in motion, is absolutely wrong, but not more wrong than the man who made a commitment to be a faithful partner. If you’re looking for the homewrecker, he’s it.

What’s evident in the use of the homewrecker term is the double standard placed on women’s sexuality. Women who are mistresses and women who cheat on their partners are both held to a higher standard than men who commit the same acts. Neither is right, but as women we can stop letting misplaced disappointment keep us in the same negative relationships with men and hinder us from building positive relationships with women, in fear that they might tempt our partner and he may stray.  No one can wreck your home unless you allow them to, and the person who leaves that window of opportunity open is the one who needs to accept blame when it all falls down.

Do you think the term homewrecker is accurate when applied to mistresses? Do you think men are ever considered homewreckers?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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