This Genderal Interest column would have run last Friday, but was rightly postponed due to the Connecticut tragedy. Just Because You’re Hot Doesn’t Mean He Won’t Cheat looks at popular assumptions about looks and infidelity, and features a short interview with Autumn Whitefield-Madrano, whose writing on beauty is endlessly fascinating.
Betsy’s “calculus” had two flaws. First, it assumed that male infidelity is largely a function of opportunity. She assumed that a good-looking mate would be more likely to stray merely because he could, and that a less-desirable dude wouldn’t because he couldn’t. Second, she didn’t consider the particular way in which less attractive men may crave a sexual affirmation that they very rarely get. A man who knows he’s hot may be a narcissist, but the hotter he is the more likely he gets validated for it. The good-looking guy knows that fidelity is a choice; he’s presumably aware of his options. When faced with temptation, he can tell himself “I know I could if I wanted to, so why bother proving it, risking this great thing I have?”
On the other hand, the man who doesn’t see himself as good-looking is supposed to judge himself astoundingly fortunate to have ended up with a beautiful woman. That can lead – as Betsy assumed it would — to gratitude, but it can also lead to a destructive, ego-driven curiosity. Is this woman who has fallen for me an anomaly, or am I really more attractive than I imagined? Can lightning strike twice? Who else can I pull?
The end result is that “less attractive” men may have additional incentive (but of course, not justification) to cheat. It may be a pathetic excuse for dishonesty, but the unlovely dude’s particular set of potential insecurities do deserve to be factored in to the algorithm of infidelitousness. And whatever constellation of factors you use to pick a partner, leave out the false presumption that a homely guy will never stray.