When Ashley Madison, OkCupid of adultery, released stats suggesting that family friendly-seeming Park Slope might have more cheating spouses — especially dads — than elsewhere in New York, people reacted the way people tend to react to this kind of news.
Of course, some (wrongly) blamed wives for paying more attention to their kids than their husbands. Others tried to tap into deeper cultural currents to explain this phenom.
The Times‘ Motherload blog then asked today: “Does Helicopter Parenting Drive Dads to Cheat?”
The link-baity tone of the headline, luckily, is not present in the post. Rather, KJ Dell’Antonia deserves kudos for calling bullshit where calling bullshit is due — namely, that the alleged correlation between extra-marital affairs, “affluence and hyper-competitive parenting” is really just “backhanded attack on ‘over-involved’ mothers.”
Still, a few things need to be emphasized.
Park Slope’s philandering fathers can be blamed on Park Slope’s philandering fathers.
Likewise, Park Slope’s cheating wives can be blamed on Park Slope’s cheating wives.
Surely, this point has been made before, but people don’t seem to get it even though it’s not quantumfuckingmechanics.
We have control over very little in our lives.
However in consensual settings — such as extra-marital affairs — we do have control over what we do with our genitals and with whom we do it.
Even if you’re married to the wartiest, cheapest, creepiest, lyingest (it’s a word now, RUN WITH IT) bastard or bitch in all the land, and you are flipping out because you have a bunch of kids you don’t love who only know how to scream and scratch and bite, that still does not make you cheat.
Now, this not a criticism of cheating per se — there are times when cheating is probably OK and there are times when it’s not OK at all.
And shit, even though I probably wouldn’t cheat on a spouse — and I definitely would not let someone cheat on his or her spouse with me — I’m not going to judge people’s sexual proclivities. It’s not my business.
Rather, this is a criticism of the mental gymnastics surrounding cheating.
Factors like domestic stresses might prompt your eye to wander. Fine. But that doesn’t cause you to cheat, as so much of the verbiage suggests. Correlation is not causation.
At the end of the day, people cheat because they want to cheat. End of fucking story.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 4, 2012