OFF THE GRID

Do Women Hate Men Who Cheat?

Oct 5, 09 | 9:34 AM   byMichael Wolff
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Part of the post-mortem on the Letterman-sex-and-shakedown story is about the damage he might have done to his female audience. Women may stop watching him with the same consistency or attention because he wasn't monogamous. The implication is that the women of America have an instinctive sympathy for the person he was supposed to be having sex with (his girlfriend of long-standing, Regina Lasko, the mother of his child, who he finally married this year) and that they feel and share her pain at the betrayal, even though, in this case, we don’t know what she feels.

In addition, the women of America may also sympathize with the other women he had sex with because, as their boss and as a celebrity, he had an unfair seduction advantage. It seems he was never going to marry and, hence, be monogamous with any of them either. At the same time, while sympathizing with these other women, the women of America are basically predisposed against them for causing Dave to not be monogamous with the woman he’s supposed to have been monogamous with (who, in her turn, may have caused him to not be monogamous with someone else, but that is too far back and there is a statute of limitations).

Anyway, I think that is the situation as the media seems to see it. So is it true? Do women, more or less collectively, empathize with a man’s primary relationship?

Do they blindly focus their resentments and disappointments and fears of betrayal and other romantic complications on any man who suddenly seems to publicly fit the bill (Dave, John Edwards, John Ensign, Mark Sanford, Eliot Spitzer, et al—of lesser note, I, too, have done my time on Page Six)?

Do all women identify with the idea of the long-suffering primary relationship? Indeed, has the idea of the long-suffering-ness on the part of the primary female companion become as fixed in collective modern women’s consciousness as the idea of uncontrollable and irresponsible priapicness on the part of the less-than-monogamous man?

Possibly, this is just another media construct. It could just be a particularly fervent, polemically minded group of women who have gotten out front on this issue (an irresistible combination of right-wing values types and left-wing feminists) and given the media a scare. But it’s a big scare—operatic and with teeth bared. The New York Times, always sensitive to whomever seems to be setting the agenda, has certainly seemed particularly censorious toward Dave and has taken satisfied note of the problems he might have with the women’s vote. This view of long-suffering-ness and hopeless priapicness is also certainly supported by the tabloid and Internet gossip press (which is, curiously, almost entirely run by men who are terrible cheaters and hopeless reprobates).

Is this gender face-off between men who cheat and the women who, on behalf of all other women and their collective fate, scorn them, and the media which follows suit, becoming a basic and more or less permanent divide in American life? It seems so.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NewserColumns.

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