So unattractive women cheat more? Really?
Misogyny cloaked in the language of science
It’s just been Valentine’s Day – one of the most divisive days of the calendar year – and I am up in arms (rather than enfolded in them, which would be preferable). My animosity has been aroused by an article I read in The Telegraph which purports that, according to the findings of some US researchers, “unattractive women” are more likely to cheat on their partners.
Researchers from Florida State University monitored the marital lives of 200 couples for over three years. Their research yielded such (obviously empirical) gems as “less attractive women (are) more likely to engage in infidelity”. Their groundbreaking analysis was published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.Maybe I’m reacting with excessive wrath because, as an emotionally volatile, irrational, and inherently needy woman, I’m naturally worried about my prospects today. But I’m going to give myself the benefit of the doubt and posit that I find it difficult to understand why this is a worthy object of scientific (or journalistic) interest in 2018. Is fidelity – and the old ideal of universal monogamy – really something that we still need to monitor or subliminally enforce in this manner? And – forgive me if I’m overlooking something here – but isn’t rating a woman’s “attractiveness” inherently misogynistic, irrespective of the method or the motives in question?Western science – and Western anthropology in particular – has an unfortunate history of being used to reinforce prevalent stereotypes. The Victorian notion of female “hysteria”, for example, prevails today in the guise of commonsense knowledge about womankind’s relentless emoting. So the language of science – the language in which scientific findings are rendered – is a matter of tremendous import from an ethical perspective.
And I, for one, don’t want to have to read about a male-led research team’s valuations of feminine beauty. I don’t want to read about “female promiscuity”, and the conditions that abet or deter it. I think it’s insidious to cloak these findings in the language of scientific objectivity: It belies the fact that a study of the relationship between female beauty and fidelity is unequivocally rooted in archaic, patriarchal notions of gendered behaviour – and it looks unsettlingly to me like a thinly-veiled variation on the Madonna/whore complex of yore.