If you’re like me, you wonder how it could be, as many studies have shown, that 103% of men cheat on their spouses or lovers while less than 0% of women do the same.
It doesn’t add up, of course—partly because I exaggerate, but also because I believe the polls behind these reports are flawed. Some must use the Jimmy Carter definition of “cheat,” which is to say, looking at someone with “lust in your heart.” Since simply looking at women is guaranteed to engender spicy cravings in the mind of the average male, the average male cheats at least 30 times. In the first hour after he wakes up each day.
Plus, no man wants to look like a pussy. Guys who think their penises will fall off if they spend even one second inside a woman other than the one they’ve got at home will therefore tell a pollster—especially if the pollster is another guy—“Hell, yeah. I’ll screw anything that breathes. And besides, women beg me for it. I don’t want to disappoint them.”
Still, it doesn’t seem right that the Internet is home to an infinite number of lists about why men cheat. I had to ask, are there lists of why they don’t?
Lucky for a guy who prefers his research to be hasty and incomplete, my lone Google search rounded up all of two—2!—
related hits. And only one of them was a list. A list compiled for laughs by author Joe Queenan
. Writing for AARP, for chrissakes.
“Everyone knows why men cheat,” Queenan writes. “Men are pigs.”
But he goes on to say that “statistical evidence suggests that cheating is nowhere near as rampant among ordinary men as it would appear to be among pols and jocks and thespians and high-octane suits and other libidinous creatures.” Finally, a reason to celebrate being ordinary.
According to a recent University of Chicago survey, Queenan says, no more than 22% of men have ever engaged in marital infidelity, and only one man in 20 is unfaithful to his wife on an annual basis. Furthermore, the study indicated that the gap between men and women is only 5%.
Queenan veers from the study to enumerate why 78% of dudes keep their pants on when temptation knocks at the barn door. None of his reasons include “being blissfully happy in their relationships” or “having personal moral codes.” No, Queenan argues that men are too lazy, too cheap and too fearful of getting caught to get over the hump, noting that “romance is labor-intensive”—and that there are too many ways to fuck up a cover-up.
Psychology Today magazine takes a more serious approach in a blog post by University of Pennsylvania researcher Scott Barry Kaufman
about new brain studies that suggest men—and women—who don’t stray have better cognitive
control over impulses than people who do. In other words, the men who don’t cheat are the ones who think with the brain between their ears.
And it’s not because it’s just too much effort to get off their asses and play the field. It’s because they did well in that game where they show you the word “red” in blue letters and demand that you say the word and not the color. Really. The study, Kaufman says, had 22 heterosexual men play the game, then messed with their minds by having a hot female enter the room for no apparent reason other than to flirt with them. No men found this odd, because every man takes it for granted that all hot women want to flirt with them.
That and, apparently, their brains started shutting down. Still, the frontal cortices of the men with strong control over their impulses—as evidenced by how well they did in the game—functioned adequately enough to make them flirt less than the horndogs who said “blue” when they should have said “red.”
Kaufman concludes that cognitive control inhibits acting on impulses that everyone feels. “For many partners,” he says, “having the impulse is OK, but acting on it is not.” So, Jimmy Carter, you can relax. Kaufman says the “moral” of the story is that while all men will—in their fantasies, at least—screw anything that breathes, most men have enough brain power to resist doing it in real life.
He had one more interesting conclusion: The more time they had to think about it, the more likely men were to resist. So now I’m wondering what would happen if a 19-year-old cutie wearing a sports bra and skin-tight leggings came up to me in the Marquette University gym and said, “You’re the sweaty, slightly overweight middle-aged guy I’ve always wanted to have sex with, but it’ll have to be quick, because I have an econ quiz in 15 minutes.”
I have a pretty good idea. I’m not great at math, but I do know how to count my blessings.