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Feminism and Monogamy

(12 Posts)
FrauMoose Wed 08-May-13 09:33:10

I'd been browsing on other threads and there seemed to be something very near a consensus on the following points

1) If you are a woman in a relationship with a man and that relationship encounters difficulties, and he forms a new relationship the man is automatically (insert abusive term of choice.)

2) The other woman is also a (insert abusive term of choice)

3) However the man in question is wholly discredited by his immoral behaviour and no good will come of it.

4) The original woman has the right to be very very angry and very upset for a very long time.

From my own perspective as someone who grew up with feminist ideas in the late 70s and 80s I find it all a bit weird. I see the importance of trust in relationships - probably more now than I did when I was younger! - and the importance of trying to create an environment where children feel secure and cared for.

But my emotion on reading a lot of the posts elsewhere is that doesn't just this all give men too much power? This is also an era where marital breakdown and remarriage is very common indeed. Yet many people on this board seem to believe in a way that I would associate with earlier eras - or perhaps traditional Roman Catholicism- that the promises people make when getting married are absolutely sacred and that if you break them you are utterly beyond the pale.

chocoluvva Wed 08-May-13 13:19:58


If the woman has given up work to look after the children then she's likely to be in a difficult financial situation.

Or if the woman has worked really hard, putting the needs of her family before herself and has become less physically attractive and the man starts a relationship with a younger woman - very hard to have any sympathy for the man or the younger woman.

I think some women don't leave their unhappy marriage because they feel it would be too upsetting for the children.

But, what do I know? If it was easier for women to have well-paid jobs and a family and they weren't still expected (in an unspoken way) to do more than their fair share of looking after the family and home, maybe they wouldn't stay in long, but difficult relationships as much as they do now.

scaevola Wed 08-May-13 13:31:49

Yes, but the scenarios also work if you swop the sexes.

It doesn't matter if the betraying spouse is male or female, nor if their co-conspirator is an OM or OW.

It I the flawed cheat who is to blame, for turning to a third party. And yes, during the affair the cheat has 'power' and has used it to live out selfish fantasies.

When the betrayed spouse discovers the affair, then the 'power' can shift dramatically. That is why most MN advice to the betrayed is often to separate from their abuser (for prolonged deceit is a form of abuse) and take whatever time is necessary to process information about the repeated breaches of trust, rediscover themselves, think about what they want in their future and only then decide if their betrayer has a role in that future.

Those tempted to have an affair themselves are usually counselled to end one relationship before embarking on a new one, and to only form a new one with someone single. This isn't rooted in any religious tradition. It's a simple view that a secret betrayal of a voluntary undertaking i monogamy is wrong. Leaving decently - OK. Lying and cheating - not OK (and can prolong a bad primary relationship, and will certainly be messier and much more painful all round).

TeiTetua Wed 08-May-13 16:15:37

People can run their marriages however they like, but the standard expectations are that you'll share your money, your home, your physical body, your children--you'll be intimate in several different ways, "one flesh" as the Bible eloquently puts it. If you find as time goes on that you can't continue with the relationship, then perhaps it needs to end. It's probably a kinder process if neither party wants to continue it, but if one thinks everything is fine (or at least, bearable) and the other is sneaking off with someone else, then that's a betrayal. And I would say it's a reasonable assumption that the greater the degree of intimacy, the greater the feeling of violation when the trust is broken.

I don't see this as particularly a feminist issue, but you could talk about how a woman might be more vulnerable, more emotionally involved in a relationship or less able to cope if it ends. However, that would involve generalizing, when the situation would probably be very individual. Maybe so, maybe not.

FrauMoose Wed 08-May-13 16:59:55

That's all quite eloquent and sensible.

Maybe an 'older' feminism - from the 1970s - was more libertarian and more experimental about relationships, so that for some women who grew up in this era, attitudes to marriage (if you marry at all) are slightly different. As if one might make that contract for various practical/legal reasons, but there is greater acknowledgement that one's real emotions and desires are very wide-ranging, so monogamous bliss is not easy.

One thing that has also struck me since hanging around on Mumsnet is that the attitude of many women to a married man who's slept with someone other than his wife is very like the attitude men used to have (and some men still do have) to a woman who is no longer a virgin i.e. that person is now to be seen forever as 'damaged goods.'

WilsonFrickett Wed 08-May-13 17:08:45

Yes, I would see someone who cheated as 'damaged goods' in a way - not because they weren't virgins though, but because they had proven themselves to be untrustworthy people. But I would apply this equally to men and women. Fidelity is a quality I prize. If someone wishes to end their relationship (for whatever reason) that is usually a sad and difficult thing to do. But there's no need to cheat.

I was born in 1971 btw. I don't think I've a Doris Day approach to marriage or partnerships, but I do think no-one makes you stay together - so why cheat and deceive?

NiceTabard Wed 08-May-13 21:41:38

I guess you need to take into account the demographic of MN - a lot of the women on here are pregnant / mothers with young/ish children and that is a particularly vulnerable time emotionally and financially etc. (Although there is a mix on MN there are a lot of people on here in that situation).

Also agree that the scenario described and the reactions are the same if the sexes are reversed.

Must say I am surprised to hear that men were happy with being in marriages with the women having sex with others in the 70s - I thought that (like the 60s) was a bit of a myth with only a very small minority living that lifestyle. Same as now with open relationships - it happens but it's not that common.

NiceTabard Wed 08-May-13 21:44:33

People are also settling down later now than they did in the 70s, so maybe there is an idea they will have got things "out of their system" before they settle down.

Joiningthegang Wed 08-May-13 23:41:34

I think marriage is complex - before I always thought if h e cheated it would be the end

He ha an affair for 8 months - after gut wrenching hideousness we moved on. Our relationship grew stronger and I don't see him as damaged goods.

The balance of power was pretty equal but the difficult bit of getting over it was worth it.

SolidGoldBrass Thu 09-May-13 01:36:07

Thing is, monogamy is a social construct designed to control women. It's all about men's entitlement to own women - mainly to own them as breeding stock. Women are told that they are the naturally monogamous sex, and that it's their job and duty and deepest fulfilment to 'keep' Their Man by pleasing him so much that he doesn't have sex with other women - but this scenario benefits men much more than women. There are reasonably convincing scientific arguments to the effect that what would be the most effective and happy way to do things would be for women to have sex with lots of different men when they are fertile, so that the best sperm wins - and to live in groups with other women, rather than being the domestic, sexual and emotional service appliance of an individual man.

OK, so a lot of that is theorizing but have a think about how a woman who rejects monogamy entirely is portrayed and percieved. Think about the slutshaming of women who have children by different men and how it's not applied to men who have children by a variety of women even though the woman with several 'babyfathers' is generally doing all the work of raising the children and the man with various 'babymothers' is often fucking right off to the next one, neither changing nappies nor paying maintenance. I do think that a complete rejection of monogamy and a refusal to enter into monogamous relationships can be a feminist act.

Darkesteyes Thu 09-May-13 01:42:34

I dont believe in monogamy any more. After being in a sexless marriage for many years and yet society still expects me to stay completely faithful because "women dont really like sex anyway" I now see it for the ownership it really is.
Why the fuck didnt i see it when i was younger. Why did it take until my thirties for me to see it?

Dervel Thu 09-May-13 06:03:05

It's not the desire to have multiple partners that is an evil, it's the lying about it that is. I am also 100% in support of anyone on here who has suffered this level of deception. Especially to the people who are left literally holding the baby. You are left feeling that your cheating ex has robbed you of your past, your present and your future.

However the lying of course comes from a fundamentally cowardly place of either:

A - You have no intention of ending your primary relationship, but you want to screw around.

B - You meet someone you think might potentially be better for you, but you don't want to end your current relationship.

A can of course progress into B, but even if not what they both have in common is a total lack of respect for your current partner. Either keeping them around as an emotional safety net (cowardly), or putting them at risk of STDs (disgusting). Even if you claim you love them the simple truth is you are prioritising yourself 100% over your partner. That is not an act love.

What confuses me is why communication and honesty haven't caused a couple to seek to work past what may have started out as a resolvable issue, but sits there and stews until it breaks the whole.

If I were to hazard a guess, nobody likes to see themselves as the villain (unless they are a sociopath and simply do not care), and start telling themselves little fibs and twisting things at first in a subtle way to justify selfish acts.

As far as feminism is concerned women are at a considerable disadvantage here, as there is a vulnerability whilst pregnant, they are usually the ones left with care of children after splits, as people have mentioned there is a prejudice against women who have had children that simply doesn't exist for us men, women in the main earn less. The tragedy here is this all doesn't have to be the case. We need feminism until these imbalances are fixed.

I'd also like to challenge the view that the status quo benefits men. In reality it doesn't. As a man I don't want a long term partner who is with me merely because society traps her there. That is not love. I also don't want a woman in my life I have to build a life for, I want someone to build a life with. I don't think that is unrealistic, and although I'm not on board with every feminist principle (perhaps down to my own lack of comprehension of it, I've come to it relatively recently). I believe 100% it moves society in the right direction, and should my ideal partnership elude me in my lifetime, perhaps if society moves to a better place it will not for my son when he comes of age.

Don't misunderstand me either I don't place women on a pedestal, I've been lied to in past relationships, but this doesn't make all women liars, just as it doesn't make all men liars when I read about the atrocious ways some women have been treated on here.

Wether people believe in monogamy it becomes less significant, once people start being honest with first themselves, and then once they find the strength the people they love.

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