Guys Say They Could Forgive Unfaithful Wife -- If She Cheated with Another Woman

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday September 13, 2011

Wives who take a walk on the wild side may have a better chance of being forgiven by their husbands or boyfriends if the person they cheated with was also a woman, a new study says.

Yes, it's partly because seeing his woman entangled in an intimate embrace with another female is the dream of every heterosexual male. But the reason men like the idea of two women together is the suggestion that they, too, would be part of the action -- and that means a higher likelihood of fathering offspring.

Moreover, researchers say, hardwired human responses trigger more intense feelings of jealousy in men if a mate's sexual behavior creates the possibility that some other man will father her children. A lesbian fling doesn't carry that threat.

For women, the researchers said, it's different: Females get more jealous if they fear their male partner will leave them. But in another wrinkle, the study showed that women with cheating male partners were less forgiving of a gay fling than one with another woman.

The study was carried out by the university of Texas at Austin, reported on Sept. 12.

"Overall, men demonstrated a 50 percent likelihood of continuing to date a partner who has had a homosexual affair and a 22 percent likelihood of staying with a woman after a heterosexual affair," the article reported.

"Women demonstrated a 28 percent likelihood of continuing to date a boyfriend who has had a heterosexual affair and a 21 percent likelihood of staying with someone who had a homosexual affair," the article added.

The study involved 700 college students who responded to survey questions.

"A robust jealousy mechanism is activated in men and women by different types of cues -- those that threaten paternity in men and those that threaten abandonment in women," lead author Jaime C. Confer said.

"These findings are even more remarkable given that homosexuality attitude surveys show men have more negative attitudes toward homosexuality and to be less supportive of civil rights for same-sex couples than women," Confer added.

"However, this general trend of men showing lower tolerance for homosexuality than women is reversed in the one fitness-enhancing situation -- female homosexuality," episodes of which, in the male mind, might make room for a third party of the opposite gender.

The study was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

Many biologists accept it as axiomatic that men are driven to seek many sexual partners as a means of distributing their genetic material as widely as possible. The fact that a man is capable of siring far more offspring than women could carry during their childbearing years is part of this equation.

Because a human pregnancy lasts nine months, women are limited in their ability to reproduce. Whereas a woman is restricted to a maximum of about one child per year, a man might conceivable father hundreds of children.

Most men do not take things that far, but their urges for a variety of sexual partners can be explained by gender-based differences in reproductive capacity.

Because human infants remain dependent on their parents for years, mothers and children alike benefit greatly from the presence of a loyal male. Anything that threatens his continued presence -- and his contributions to the rearing of the young -- represents the possibility of diminished prospects for the mother and for her children as well.

TIME Magazine noted that the survey questions relied mostly on the respondents' imaginations. When they were asked about their actual experiences, however, "men showed less tolerance of cheating than women," the article said. "Authors found that men were significantly more likely than women to have ended their real relationships following a partner's affair.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.