Your cheating heart

A new book out, Lust in Translation by Pamela Druckerman, examines adultery around the world.  A review in Metapsychology Online Reviews points out some interesting facts revealed in the book.   One such fact is that Americans think of themselves as much more adulterous than they actually are.

Despite what we have all heard, married folks in America are actually wildly monogamous. In 2004, only 3.9 % of married men and 3.1% of married women engaged in extramarital sex in the past year (62). The figure that is often heard – that more than half of married men, and a quarter of married women will cheat on their spouses over their lifetime – turns out to be both highly problematic and overestimated.

Druckerman also suggests that part of our idea of ourselves as more adulterous than we actually are may have to do with the fact that an entire industry – the “marriage industrial complex” — has established itself in America to deal with the ‘exploding’ numbers of adulterers and their damaged marriages. This is, I believe, part of a larger trend: stated baldly, North America has become ‘addicted’ to therapy. In Canada, e.g., the number of licensed psychologists increased 52% from 1982 to 1997 (McLaren, 2000). Similarly, while there were only 3000 marriage and family therapists in the U.S. in 1970 (98), that number had risen to 50,000 by 2004 (100), a staggering 1600% increase!

The French, it turns out, are just as un-adulterous as Americans, only the French feel far less guilty about their adultery.  Throughout the Soviet era, the Russians were some of the most adulterous people in the world, which one Russian explained by saying, “Sex was the last thing they couldn’t take away from us, and that’s why we did it so much. Everyone had affairs with everyone.”  Old habits must die hard because, even today, they remain highly adulterous.  A tidbit about the Japanese would have been of interest to George Costanza: “Oddly, neither popular opinion nor the law in Japan considers sex with a prostitute to be an instance of adultery.”

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