There’s certainly been no shortage of news headlines proclaiming that we can now add former CIA director General David Petraeus to the list of powerful men who have been brought down by very well-publicized sex scandals. It’s particularly dismaying to see how many of these headlines are broadly asserting, as news outlet headlines often do in these situations, that there must be some sort of inextricable link between power, masculinity, and infidelity.
These claims imply (or sometimes even explicitly state) that there’s something inherent about masculinity that leads powerful men to behave unethically, whereas powerful women would never fall victim to such an effect. Fact is, that kind of generalization is simply not fair at all – nor is it even really accurate.
Based on the cultural lexicon, it certainly seems like men are the only ones messing up. However, blaming infidelity on Masculinity Gone Wild is incredibly short-sighted, for one glaring reason: Many of the societies in which these men are cheating also happen to be awful when it comes to gender equality, which makes it next to impossible to tease biological or evolutionary influences apart from cultural ones.
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