I just read Is anyone faithful anymore? Infidelity in the 21st century after a friend passed it along saying it had sparked much debate with his fiancée. And I can see why. In this article Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity: Sex, Lies and Domestic Bliss suggests that one day we might have a more tolerant view of infidelity and perhaps even see a little sideline hanky panky as productive and necessary in longterm relationships. Certainly food for thought for my friend preparing to walk down the isle and for newly-married me. I found this part of Esther’s interview about women and infidelity particularly interesting:
“Rates of female infidelity have grown enormously, in accordance with women’s economic independence. In Latin American countries it’s a social phenomenon. When I went to Argentina all they wanted to talk about was female infidelity. It’s [a marker of] acute social change. It’s not just a few women. It really toppled the traditional male privilege. What does it mean when this happens in a society where it was never accepted, where men were allowed to roam around but women never could? When women begin to do what was traditionally a privilege of men, what does it do? It does everything! It changes the dynamic of power!”
So infidelity might be considered an important indicator of social evolution?
“Definitely. You can always use infidelity to track social changes. And yes, female infidelity is a statement of female empowerment; but then again, infidelity is a statement of empowerment for anyone who practices it. It is a rebellion.”
Golly, she almost makes infidelity sound like something to be proud of. To me, it would also seem that the same tides of empowerment that increase female infidelity are also encouraging choosy, me-first women to marry later or not at all. The problem with that being, of course, that we gals have biological expiry dates. Perhaps Lori Gottlieb, author of Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, has it right with her ideas about wedding a stable partner who’ll change diapers and take out the trash. But maybe her advice should be amended to include Esther’s idea about marriage defined as “exclusive emotional commitment” with room for sexual dalliance. Perhaps, one day, we can expect a sequel entitled: Marry Him; Then Cheat on Him. For the moment, I’m not sure the world is emotionally evolved enough for that. As for me, I’m off to make popcorn and channel surf. Hopefully Titanic or The Notebook is on.