Gender Affects Perceptions Of Infidelity

Two studies about men’s and women’s reactions to infidelity suggest some truth to the adage that men are from Mars, women are from Venus.

One study, at Queen’s University Belfast and published in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, explored how men and women perceive online and offline sexual and emotional infidelity, and suggests that men were more upset by sexual infidelity and women were more upset by emotional infidelity.

Another study, by Dr. Gary Brase, associate professor of psychological sciences at Kansas State University, concluded that “”When you give them a forced choice between the two, men tend to be more upset by sexual infidelity situations than women, and women tend to be more upset by emotional situations.”

Monica T. Whitty and Laura-Lee Quigley of Queen’s University Belfast surveyed 112 undergraduate students and asked them questions about sexual and emotional infidelity both offline and on the internet. The results suggest that “when given the choice,” men felt sexual infidelity was more upsetting and women felt emotional infidelity was more upsetting. Moreover, “when given the choice,” men were more likely to believe that women have sex when in love and that women believe that men have sex even when they are not in love. It was not, however found that either men or women believe that having cybersex implied the other was also in love or that being in love online implied they were having cybersex.

“Given the newness of the Internet, the rules have still not been clearly defined as to what are acceptable online encounters,” the authors note. “Our results support a social-cognitive model as they demonstrate that social shifts have led men and women to think differently about sex and love.”

Dr. Brase is the lead author of “Explaining Sex Differences in Reactions to Relationship Infidelities; Comparisons of the Roles of Sex, Gender, Beliefs, Attachment, and Sociosexual Orientation” published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology.

“There certainly are some individual differences within men and women that need to be studied more, but on average, there is a fundamental difference between men and women and how they view these situations,” said Dr. Brase.

Previous research found the same results about 20 years ago, but researchers hypothesized that factors such as gender-role beliefs, interpersonal trust and attachment style might also play a role. All those factors were included in this survey and there was one overwhelming result. “Even though we included all these other potential explanations, sex was still the strongest explanation as to why we saw these different forms of jealousy,” said Lora Adair, a Kansas State University doctoral candidate in psychological studies who assisted with the research.

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