Real reason so many women cheat
If you're a married guy, there's about a 15 per cent chance your wife is having sex with someone else, if not while you're reading this, then probably later tonight.
At least, that's according to the latest research, which relied on the honesty of the female participants it polled.
My hunch is, the real number's much higher than that. And I say that not just as a woman who's had extramarital sex, but as someone in the unique position of having women from around the world spill their sexual sins to me.
There are few things our culture feels more vindicated demonising than a woman who breaks the marital covenant. It's arguably easier to swallow just about any other relationship violation - drug addiction, violence, neglect, emotional abuse - than it is for us to accept a woman's infidelity.
When I last spoke publicly about my own indiscretion, I received so many death threats I was forced to temporarily bring my social media accounts to a grinding halt.
Unfortunately, it meant the conversation also got shut down. It was easier to extinguish my story with online vitriol than it was to address the fact I'm not alone and consider what that meant for the rest of us.
The number of women having affairs has shot up by 40 per cent in the past decade, putting us closer to being on par with men. But, like most of the issues I write about, because female sexual infidelity is an uncomfortable topic, the most common response is, "Well, not my wife. I'd know. Next subject, please."
In reality, men don't tend to be adept at picking up on the so-called "red flags" of cheating. A study published in the journal Royal Society Open Science found that, while women have little difficulty determining men's sexual faithfulness, men are poor estimators of female fidelity.
This may be due to our social conditioning to view men as biological pursuers of sex and women as inherent avoiders of it, preoccupied with monogamy. The subtext here is: "Women don't actively seek out sex when they already have a secured commitment."
Of course, this flies in the face of what most women know; that we enjoy and crave sex just as much as men do, if not more. In a study of more than 2000 coupled-up individuals, an overwhelming 59 per cent of women surveyed said they wanted more sex than they were getting in their relationship. Additionally, research suggests men consistently underestimate their female partner's libido.
Call this insurance from potential rejection or the result of wildly inadequate education around female sexuality, the fact is, there's a gaping disparity here.
What we don't want to recognise is the impact this disparity is having on all of us. Because as long as there's a void between our understanding of female sexuality and the reality of it, our relationships will suffer.
As someone who speaks to women regularly on this topic, perhaps the most common reason I hear for sexual indiscretion is: "My new lover makes me feel alive again."
It's a largely unacknowledged fact that women crave high amounts of sexual novelty. In fact, unfaithful wives often attest to desiring their partners but feeling trapped by the monotony of their relationships - an unspoken truth that's been the death knell to countless marriages.
Arguably an even greater unspoken truth is that by treating female infidelity like the ultimate betrayal, we undermine the very foundation of our relationships. While I'm not here to excuse or condone cheating (though I'll undoubtedly receive comments arguing I am), I don't agree for a second an indiscretion should spell the end of your marriage.
The idea that two people, both biologically programmed to desire sex with multiple partners, could make it through 20-plus years without a single hiccup is wildly idealistic, if not impossible.
In no other area of life do we demand this level of aggressive perfection. World-class athletes lose races, Michelin star chefs cook disappointing meals, and best-selling artists release songs that bomb. We don't dethrone them of the title they've worked a lifetime to earn simply because they had a bad day on the job.
And yet, we hold our spouses to a standard that has no room for error. We declare one night's poor decision-making cause for nullifying years of marital happiness.
In doing so, we force one another into the shadows of routine deceit and build our marriages on secrecy, resentment, and silent discontent.
Demonising women who cheat isn't helping us bridge that gap. It oversimplifies the issue by reducing us to categorisations like "good" and "bad", "moral and "evil" (or "sl*t" and "wh**e", as I learned when I spoke about my own infidelity). In reality, female sexuality is far more complex than that. It can't be tamed or moulded through an omnipresent fear of punishment or declaration of ownership.
In fact, perhaps the only way to maintain some level of certainty around a woman's sexual commitment to you is to find new ways to make her feel seen each day and remind her that she's still got it. Because if you don't, chances are someone else already is.
Nadia Bokody is a freelance writer and Instagram influencer. Continue the conversation on Instagram | @nadiabokody