I don’t normally pay much attention to social science research on human behavior, but a recent survey on infidelity caught my eye.
Superdrug’s Online Doctor recently surveyed more than 2,000 Europeans and Americans to better understand perceptions and causes of cheating, and there were some rather interesting findings.
For starters, Europeans really do appear to be more sexually promiscuous than Americans—to the extent that many don’t even consider sex cheating. Just 85.6 percent of European women and 81.4 percent of European men said they believed vaginal intercourse was cheating, in contrast to 99 percent of American women and 97 percent of American men.
This of course shows that people define infidelity very differently, and the study breaks down what behaviors people see as “cheating.” (see below)
The most interesting piece of data, in my opinion, was the primary reason men reported for straying from their partner.
For women, the answer was unsurprising: they were being ignored by their partner. For men?
The top reason, for both European and American males, was that the other person was extremely physically attractive (“really hot”).
This is a discouraging statistic in some respects, at least for people who take marriage vows seriously. It suggests that, for men at least, the sanctity of the union does not depend on marital fulfillment or contentment.
On the contrary, men can be happy, the sex can be great, and he can have few doubts about his marriage–and many still will cheat if an attractive enough woman presents him the opportunity to engage in recreational passion.
After reading the results, a few things became clearer to me.
First, given these results, it’s less surprising that Hollywood has a monogamy problem. After all, there are probably more beautiful people in Hollywood than anywhere in the world. Marital fidelity will come with great difficulty in a land loaded with attractive people, but scarce in traditional morality, if men are easily overcome by something as basic as beauty.
Second. Content, happily married men seem quite capable of destroying their vows (and, quite likely, their happiness) simply because of the physical attributes of a third-party. This is problematic because there is always someone more beautiful, someone more physically attractive. It would seem, then, that the findings confirm something I’ve long suspected: marital success depends largely on keeping one’s self from temptation to begin with.
Third, other data (see below) appears to conflict with this survey. So, like so much social science published today, you might want to take these findings with a grain of salt.
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