Chalking up men's wandering eyes and roaming hands to their "biological needs" is about as antiquated as telling women to consider sex a "wifely duty."
And yet a new study examining why men cheat tries to make the case that it's harder for guys to keep it in their pants, not because they lack self-control, but because they "experience strong sexual impulses."
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin ran two tests on different groups of men and women. The first involved interviewing 148 women and 70 men about times when they felt attracted to people they were not supposed to pursue. They then answered questions that supposedly measured the strength of their sexual impulses, as well as their attempt to control said impulses.
The responses showed that men and women did not differ in the extent to which they exerted self-control, but that men reported experiencing relatively stronger sexual impulses and acting on them more often than women.
The second test involved 600 undergraduates who were presented with a series of photos of potential mates whom they had to rapidly reject or select. Each photo, though, was accompanied with a tag saying "good for you" or "bad for you." Men had a harder time rejecting photos of attractive women who were "bad" and saying yes to less attractive ones who were "good."
However, dudes managed just fine when they exerted a little self-control.
"Men have plenty of self-control — just as much as women," says Paul Eastwick, one of the study's co-authors. "However, if men fail to use self-control, their sexual impulses can be quite strong. This is often the situation when cheating occur."
Here's a good time to pause and ponder if some logical somersaults are being used to justify why men cheat. "So, men have self-control, they just don't always use it. Although… isn't not bothering to control your impulses just another form of not having self-control?" wonders Kelly Bourdet at Refinery29.
There also might be some structural issues with the study. With regards to the first experiment, "it's easy to be influenced by how you think you're supposed to act," writes Bourdet. Respondents were more likely to say what they thought the male- or female-appropriate response should be. Furthermore, depending on how long ago the sexual experiences in question were, it's possible the respondents were unable to recall their behavior with exact veracity.
With regard to the second experiment, the study was really only testing reactions to visual factors. "Men's attraction triggers are visual, while women's are emotional," Adam Lo Docle, a relationship expert, tells Cosmopolitan. "This experiment purely focuses on the visual element, so of course men would want to taste the forbidden fruit."
Indeed, it's hard not to find this study a tad dismissive of women's sexual desire. The idea that women's sexual impulses are just so much weaker than their male counterparts has increasingly gone out of fashion. Ask any woman who has seen Magic Mike.
Perhaps the best argument against this study's findings is that the most recent data shows women closing the gender gap on cheating. The Journal of Marital and Family Therapy found that 54 percent of women cheat, compared with 57 percent of men.
So much for the weaker sex's weaker sex drives.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How I lost all my money
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- Ismail Kadare's 6 favorite books
- Alien conspiracy theorists think the government is on the verge of spilling big secrets
- Why torture doesn't work: A definitive guide
- George W. Bush 'ran the country like a cable network,' and other political insights from Chris Rock
Subscribe to the Week