Individual and Societal Response to Sexual Betrayal: A View From Around the World

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Introduction (1)

A prevalent assumption among social scientists is that extramarital affairs are tolerated more for men than they are for women. This research asserts that men are the beneficiaries of a set of social practices that ensure and validate men's perception of women as their sexual property (Bourdieu 2001; Collins 1975; Freeman 1990; Harris 1993; MacKinnon 1988; Leacock 1993; Ressner 1986; Rosaldo and Lamphere 1974). To strengthen this perception, men have developed numerous institutions to control women's behavior (Goldberg 1976, Smuts 1992).

Concurring with the patriarchal explanation, Pierre Bourdieu (2001) argues that sexual jealousy and the corresponding "mate guarding" impulses are learned responses and, hence, differences in women's reactions to infidelity reflect differences in intensity to which a patriarchal ethos is internalized within a culture. From this perspective, it follows that men, especially in patriarchal societies, should be vigilant in mate guarding efforts; whereas women, due, in large part, to the internalization of the culturally sanctioned double standard ideal, would be relatively indifferent to a spouse's infidelity.


Anthropology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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