This is a really intriguing read, a good definitional literary and historical piece about the role and essence of the mistress by the author of The Mistress.
“Eroticism requires separateness. In other words, eroticism thrives in the space between the self and the other. In order to commune with the one we love, we must be able to tolerate this void and its pall of uncertainties.” (Introduction to Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel)
Ok, so another 8 reasons or tips or ways or whatever the noun qualified by the number is, Paul Hudson writes “8 Reasons Why a Real Man Would Never Cheat on Someone He Truly Loves” for the Elite Daily, dated August 13, 2014 (link above). Like so many of these formulaic numbered reasons, ways or steps articles, oversimplification and the hook are what matters most. Most readers truly engaging with this subject (though why would such people be reading a numbers list of reasons for such an unquantifiable question of fidelity, in the first place?) understand that defining “a real man” is just a hook, that “would never cheat,” though phrased in the conditional–would–indulges those with the need to live in the world of absolutes, black and white thinking, and “he truly loves” is a mere tantalizing morsel. Bottom line, this kind of article, while trying to hit some kernel of truth universal to all “men” is typical of let’s count the ways men are dogs article: blame the reader/cheater/man since the solution is so simple. Though the title appears to invite men to learn a thing or two, this article actually targets women who have been cheated on to feel better about themselves, justification that the man who cheated is the crap hound, not a real man (so what then, a woman, dog, subhuman species?).
No, Hudson separates the men from the boys. He starts off by complaining about all the cheaters who have ruined it for him, and, presumably, all “real men”, by causing mistrust in women. Cheaters, according to Hudson, have broken down women’s ability to trust men, and it is pandemic, presumably, resulting in the loss of a great catch for Hudson, among others. “When you break a woman’s trust, you will never get it back. I really mean never. Sadly, you’re also ruining it for the next guy.” Broken women who cannot forgive is the portrait here. Also, the very pragmatic Hudson is protective of his fellow men, not wanting them to ruin all the women out there. Just looking out for you, bro’s.
So grown up men, not boys, are emotionally stable, exercise sexual restraint, are honest and respectful, are secure (enough to be monogamous) and sensitive with personal integrity. Contrary to popular belief but also belaboring the obvious, Hudson, with faux incredulity, notes that yes, men are emotional. Women do not corner the market on emotionality. He further insinuates that men are promiscuous by nature, and so are strictly after those belt notches marking pieces of ass they have garnered, Gender stereotyping much? Real mean, proper men, don’t cheat, which he defines as follows: “To cheat is to act as if you’re better than she is…” And therein lies the problem. I’ll get to that in a minute.
While a certain amount of stereotyping is warranted (can’t be helped, can it?), yes, culture perpetuates stereotypes, certainly forms and predetermines behaviors and attitudes, vague generalities fail to account for the details just as pervasive as the larger trends of thought and action attributed to gender. So, yes, men will want or try to fuck as many women as please their eyes and thus break the monogamy bounds. This may be due to hormones and social conditioning (and a host of other factors that make men, men). But so much is glossed over. What undermines the whole premise that men are oversexualized fuckers with no integrity, for the most part, and as such, undermine their own efforts of getting women to fuck by such behavior because they ruin women’s trust to even meet them in the first place, is the underlying assumption that men can be something else: honest, respectful men with integrity if they so choose. You can’t have it both ways: building an argument on the innate conditions of men as cheater dogs, but calling upon them to be something other than they are. Because if it were that simple to flip that condition–cheater to real man–then women would too be able to change their condition of unforgiving prey with fragile trusting ability to more philosophical or forgiving women. Why not tell women to be smarter about the men they date, get better cheater detectors and real men sensors?
And now, really, cheating is a complicated issue that does not merely rest on the fact that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, or some such other reductive crap. Perhaps this article is really only addressed to young dating folks, but the title is sweeping and the advice general, so it must include older married men as well. What about all those who marry in their twenties and find that their partners have no desire for them in their forties or fifties? What does the wanting-sex partner do for the next twenty or thirty years? Should he divorce the mother of his children, his chosen life partner or just find a hobby to take his mind off sex?
The social costs of divorce, of sex itself, is far more complicated than calling in a proscribed behavior like a pill to cure cancer. Granted, integrity, honesty and respect go a long way in any circumstance. However, like most things in life, behavior ethics are situational as much as values and principles are absolute. Real men–real people–are honest, respectful and…forgiving. The libido is a fluid thing. Sex drive varies from person to person, age to age, and is not a static condition, though some men and some women continue to need and want daily sex well into their 70s and 80s.
People change, physically, emotionally, spiritually. A couple’s foundation when they marry often changes with time. As a divorce lawyer for 24 years in a no fault divorce state, I counseled thousands of people, many honest, respectful men and women, and listened to their reasons, their stories. Often divorces broke down into starter marriages with young kids, mid-life marriages in the sandwich generation (caring for kids and parents and overly stressed), trauma broken marriages and mid-life crisis marriages (someone driving off in a convertible with a younger stud/trophy). Yes, the usual categories–finances, kids, in-laws, religion–played large roles in disagreements. However, behind these ostensible reasons were the ones that often went unrevealed except in–to me–the most honest or reckless of clients: the men who admitted they were not appreciated in the way they understood how to be appreciated, sexually, so they found others who could and would. So let’s stereotype: men understand sex as expression of love, service, comfort, release and support. So do women–but differently sometimes, sometimes the same way. Depends on who and when.
Men don’t cheat because they place themselves above women, believe themselves better. Men cheat because men–and women–have always cheated throughout time for a variety of reasons, even men with integrity, honesty and respect for women. Serial cheaters, at one end of the spectrum, and one time cheaters at the other, cheat for good, bad or indifferent reasons, exculpable in society’s eyes or not. But cheating isn’t always a matter of character flaws. Concubines and mistresses attest to the ubiquitous, immemorial practical need for sex as adventure, need, fantasy, release in the deep pit of desire, death and imagination. Sex is an expression of the human, and all that encompasses, including conquest, ambition, love, jealousy, trust, and especially, forgiveness and understanding of the human condition. The impulse to reduce men’s sexual behaviors to 8 essential reasons or components is understandable–but impossible. So maybe I am merely concluding that it’s complicated. It is. But complicated doesn’t sell.
The links in the reference list may potentially be interesting.
The Huffington Post article about the four considerations a mistress should take into account is a pop shot overview of some relevant but obvious conclusions about the role.