The Philandering Perfectionist Papas of Park Slope: UPDATED

My latest Genderal Interest column is up: The Cheating Dads of Brooklyn. I look at the recent revelation that the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope, infamous for perfectionistic parenting practices, is also the home to the greatest number of users of the adultery service Ashley Madison of any community in New York City. Excerpt:

If the wealth of Park Slope’s residents enables cheating by reducing moral inhibitions, the notoriously perfectionistic parenting ethos of the community elevates child-rearing to the sine qua non of marriage. In her novel Prospect Park West, Amy Sohn describes the Slope as a place where “marriage is a vehicle for procreation” and little more. “It’s a very undersexed neighborhood,” she claimed in an interview. Ashley Madison begs to differ. Park Slope may not be home to much in the way of marital fucking, but it is the City’s most fertile habitat for philanderers.

Whether Ashley Madison’s statistics are scientifically sound or total bullshit, the evidence is that entitlement drives male infidelity. Madison CEO Biderman opines that men start cheating after they become fathers because “they spend so much time working for others, they now want something for themselves.” This is the classic middle-class male martyr complex, in which men imagine themselves as helpless, hapless servants to the demands of bosses, children, and spouses. Cheating becomes justified compensation for a lifetime of labor to make other people happy. In that sense, the more conspicuous the care that’s lavished on the children, the greater the opportunity to rationalize stepping out on the marriage. (This sets the the kids up for one hell of a guilt trip when they grow up and learn that daddy stepped out on mommy because all his noble focus on their needs deprived pops of a chance to get his much-needed man food. Congrats, pumpkin, it’s all your fault.)

The news here is not that people cheat. The news is that we can see more clearly than ever that male infidelity is correlated with the conjunction of affluence and hyper-competitive parenting. The blame here doesn’t lie with cosseted kids or man-food withholding wives. The blame lies with privileged men who confuse their own choices with the chains of obligation, and who use their own sense of self-sacrificing heroism to excuse the inexcusable.

UPDATE: A moderately critical response by KJ Dell’Antonia in the New York Times: Does Helicopter Parenting Drive Dads to Cheat?

4 thoughts on “The Philandering Perfectionist Papas of Park Slope: UPDATED

  1. Just think of these guys picking up a sexually transmitted disease and bringing it home to their wives, who would then remain untreated. 25% of middle and upper middle class men did this in the late 19th and early 20th century.
    So they essentially committed murder when their wives died of these diseases. What should be the penalty for infecting a wife with HIV unbeknownst to her. The death penalty maybe?

  2. @Ellen

    Of course he didn’t blame the mothers, HUGO never puts blame on women. He is a women’s studies ‘professor’ (though more accurately he isn’t a professor but a facilitator) and he would be out of a job pretty fast if he blamed women for anything.

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