This article was written for young athletic brothers, to digest in light of the heart-wrenching, tragic death of retired pro quarterback Steve McNair.
While the courts deal with the recent rash of “famous men” committing adultery, I will scientifically deal with the age-old question: Why do men cheat?
Infidelity is a fascinating subject because many of us have faced temptation in our struggle with monogamy. This notion of one exclusive mate is sanctified by religious dogma in Western culture, and matrimony transforms infidelity into adultery.
Although good figures on marital infidelity are hard to come by, when I was in college, most experts cited the work of Alfred Kinsey and his disciples, who estimated that adultery occurs in 50-80 percent of all marriages. Recent surveys worldwide place the number higher, but many experts in the field think Dr. Kinsey’s statistics are closer to the truth.
Research has also found that men are more likely to cheat than women. Why is this? Cheating is a dangerous liaison. Are men’s minds “hard-wired” to make more mistakes in judgment than women?
The answer might lie in the new field of cognitive illusions. Renowned cognitive scientist Massimo P. Palmarini’s experiments and research found that cognitive illusions lead to inevitable errors in thinking.
Whatever the percentages are, this largely private issue has become very public in recent years. Even the nation’s most celebrated founding father, Thomas Jefferson, was “caught with his pants down.” But in just the last two years, many admired men have shown they didn’t learn their history lessons. All of these men undoubtedly were aware of the dangers posed by trysts, yet they risked them. We condemn them for their lack of control, but we may also think: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Consider the fatal examples of recent retired pro quarterback Steve McNair and singer Sam Cooke in the 1960s.
The provocative question is why have males throughout history continuously gotten involved in this foolish, dangerous risk taking? Is cheating a genetic imperative of a cognitive illusion?
Many evolutionary psychologists and some cognitive scientists argue that the “proclivity to roam” is “hard-wired” in men. In other words, men are genetically programmed for promiscuity or as women say, “the dog in men.”
For women, on the other hand, the consequences of a sexual coupling could involve nine months of pregnancy and many years of child rearing. Because of that, they must be much more selective in their choice of a partner. Ideally, he should have both the financial and “genetic fitness” to ensure the healthy survival of their offspring.
And polygamy is ranked normal in some cultures.
Of course, none of this justifies cheating. Human animals are also cultural beings and the boundaries that places on human behavior defines the contours of civilization.
Acknowledging humanity as a biological or illusional phenomenon is not giving license to “immoral” behavior or denying our spiritual nature. On the contrary, it is utilizing our God-given ability to analyze reality with intelligence and maturity, not with the tool of “intense physical desire.”
Remember men, cheaters never win. As the song says, “They always get it in the end.”