The Reverse Double Standard

In the bad old days, straying males could tell themselves comforting stories that it was “just sex” and so “didn’t matter”, as long as they supported their families, or that a man needed it, or that a woman’s infidelity was more serious than a man’s, since she might put cuckoos in the nest. The young women (according to one survey, a large proportion of Generation Y) who considered that they had a right to “a bit on the side” but that their boyfriends didn’t, could hardly have been claiming that male infidelity was more blameworthy than female for the cuckoo reason; they may nevertheless have adopted the male outlook on the other grounds.

Regarding need, women can now openly admit, as they could not in earlier ages, that occasionally they just want anonymous sex – the “zipless fuck” as Erica Jong called it. And whatever a modern woman wants, she “needs”, and whatever she “needs”, it is patriarchal oppression to deny her.

Regarding immateriality, the idea that female passion is intrinsically more dignified and spiritual than male lust has yet to die out, and indeed is actively championed by women who oppose 19th-century thinking in all other respects. This allows unfaithful women to play it both ways: female infidelity is either as meaningless as the male kind, and so cannot be objected to, or else it is horns-and-trumpets Love, which cannot be denied.

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