Try Googling some statistics about what percentage of partners in monogamous relationships cheat. Studies obviously bring back mixed results because, well, people lie. Even in self-disclosure studies (versus studies where one partner may report that they have never cheated, but their partner did), rates of infidelity are as high as 40%. According to Wikipedia’s summary of studies, around 30-40% of unmarried relationships and 18-20% of married relationships see at least one instance of sexual infidelity. Again, let’s remember that this very likely is not capturing all instances, and let’s also remember that this is only covering sexual infidelity and not emotional affairs. The numbers aren’t that shocking once you remember that well over 50% of marriages end in divorce, but still. If you told any married person that, statistically, there was a 40% chance they were being cheated on, they’d say oh no, not me. But yes, dearest, you. And then there are the percentages of people who say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught, and those percentages are supposedly somewhere in the high 70s.
The percentage of people who would cheat if they knew they’d never get caught are so high because (and obviously I’m generalizing here) what keeps people from cheating is not true love – it’s the fear of getting caught. Maybe that’s slightly unfair, because the things some people might be most scared of when getting caught is causing irreparable hurt and emotional damage to the one they love, so in some sense it is true love that keeps them from cheating. My point, however, is that it’s not just true love in and of itself that keeps people from wanting to connect with others – it’s just the fear of losing their marriage or hurting their partner. If they knew that wasn’t going to happen (enter nonmonogamy), most people would cheat in a heartbeat.
While the percentages of infidelity have almost certainly gone up in the past decade with the development of Tinder, Ashley Madison, and the internet generally increasing accessibility, rates of infidelity have never been negligible. So why are we starting to talk about this more and more? Women.
I think this is for two reasons. First, women were previously much less likely to cheat, because they were financially dependent on their spouses. To put it bluntly, if they got caught and the marriage fell apart, they’d be fucked…on so many levels. Second, because women cheated less, cheating was less talked about, because as a gender women are more inclined to talk about things, particularly feelings. So, women became financially independent, started cheating more, and started talking about it, and here we are.
In some ways, I see women as the pioneers of nonmonogamy. Maybe they didn’t invent it, and maybe it wasn’t even their idea. Who knows. But in the sense that women are largely responsible for the development of gender equality in all its forms, they were and are pioneers in destroying the power imbalance in traditional monogamous relationships, particularly marriage. By destroying that power imbalance, they brought to light a very real issue that had been shrouded in darkness for years: that men cheated, that it was generally accepted and ignored, and that they had to put up with it to stay in a stable marriage. Now, maybe the “hey we can cheat too” response from women wasn’t the greatest, but to the extent we are now as a society realizing that monogamy doesn’t work and hasn’t worked for a long time for most people, maybe it’s a good thing.
I want to apologize for the sexism rant I’m about to go on, but it’s more of a #sorrynotsorry sort of situation. The bitter truth is that, although women have pioneered this movement – this movement of shedding light on what was happening, of saying that we deserve honesty, of saying that we will not trade sex for money, either as prostitutes or as wives – we still get the short end of the stick, even in 2018. Women who sleep around when they’re single are still seen as whores, sluts, loose, and dirty. Women in open relationships are seen as piranhas, promiscuous, standard-less, waiting to pounce on every man who walks by. Even further than that, the men who are in open relationships with these women are seen as whipped for “letting” their woman sleep around. Yet, men have been engaging in this behavior for centuries with little to no consequences and even praise from their peers.
I live for the day that we will see true equality in this area, and it doesn’t even have that much to do with nonmonogamy. I live for the day when traditional monogamous relationships will contain the same kind of honesty and standards of equality for sexuality (and for all things) that I seek in my nonmonogamous relationships, and I live for the day when the world’s view of women will no longer negatively affect women or the men who love them.