Why is it that MEN always seem to be the ones who look at porn and cheat?

Why is it that MEN always seem to be the ones who look at porn and cheat? August 24, 2015

Man is flirting with another woman over mobile phone to go on daDear Shaunti,

Why is it always men who look at porn, hide things, and cheat?  I’m a single woman, and I can’t help but notice that in the news last week, the one thing Josh Duggar and most of the Ashley Madison cheaters have in common is that they are all men.   Supposedly, even the few women on the hacked Ashley Madison site were fake profiles, just to reel in all those men out there who want to cheat.  It is crazy.  It makes me think women are just inherently more trustworthy.  Part of me still wants to meet someone, but how can I ever trust any guy again?

-Single and Cynical
Dear Single,

First of all, it is not always men who look at porn, hide things and cheat.  Women do too.  We don’t have some inherent saintliness in us that makes us better people.

But the pattern you’re noticing about more-men-than-women is very real, and it exposes something really important to understand about the differences between us. It’s just that your bottom line conclusion is wrong: the differences aren’t about one gender being inherently less trustworthy, but about the very different challenges that come from living in today’s culture.  And it is so ironic that the main reason I see this so clearly is that I released a book about these challenges, Through A Man’s Eyes, just a few weeks ago.

This is obviously an oversimplification but here are three reasons why this pattern of porn use and cheating seems to happen far more with men than with women:

  • Due to how their brain wiring interprets attractive sights, men are constantly, all day long, being sexually stimulated.  I explain the brain wiring behind this in another column, but the bottom line is that the male brain is wired to be very sexually stimulated when a man sees a scantily-dressed, good-looking member of the opposite sex. By contrast, a woman can appreciate a good-looking man, but her brain is not sexually stimulated in the same way. For a guy, even if he doesn’t want that sort of stimulation, it just happens.  And then he has to choose what to do about it.  Thus, in this culture, hour after hour, when he sees the sexy television commercials, the cleavage on his office colleague, the cheerleader in the booty shorts at the mall, or the provocative sidebar on the internet news article, he has to constantly turn his mind away from thoughts of sex if he wants to honor his wife (or the other woman) in his thought life.
  • Some men give in to the porn temptation as a result – and it becomes a gateway drug.  As you can imagine, some men grow weary of the struggle to pull those sexual thoughts down, and they give in to the temptation to secretly look at the porn that is always just a click away and – to use a family-friendly euphemism – to “self-stimulate” at the same time.   Other men, of course, don’t see any need to turn away sexual thoughts of other women, and will even recruit their wives to watch porn with them: the if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-you-might-as-well-join-em philosophy.  But porn is a lot like a gateway drug. Just like with pot or cocaine, after a while a user needs more and more intense versions in order to get the same high.  And regardless, it can become truly addictive in itself.  Similarly, some porn users find that they want “more” of a stimulus to get the same pleasure and excitement – and that they are truly in the grip of addiction.  Some users will, sadly, go harder core with other types of porn – and with progressing to actual women instead of pictures of them.  And since men usually are ashamed of and hide the first step into temptation, the rest of the progression also stays hidden – and the men stay trapped.
  • This progression happens even though very few men started out wanting to hurt their wives.  Although this is cold comfort to a hurting wife, the hard truth is that porn is evilly brilliant at reeling in men who would have never set out to become addicted and devastate their wives and families.  In my research the vast majority of men – more than 99% — truly love their wives.  If I could have surveyed Josh Duggar or any of the other Ashley Madison users before they first looked at porn, I’ll bet they never would have guessed that that first click would lead them to where they are today.  It is a sobering wake up call for anyone – man or woman – to realize the dangers of that first step of wrongdoing, and where it can lead you.

Bottom line?  Yes, there were millions of men caught using the Ashley Madison site, and relatively few women.   But there were many millions of others who stayed true to their wives and children.  Even with all the temptations of this culture, there are millions of men – married and single — who work hard to take their thoughts captive, and try to avoid that fateful progression of porn use.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with men as a gender, except that they are living in a culture filled with very public sights that were only supposed to be seen in private.  And that they have for too long felt that they couldn’t talk to people (especially their wives) about the temptations that come with it.

As a society, we need to condemn poor choices, warn men off of even starting them, but we can’t condemn the men for being men.  I urge you to continue to look for those honorable single men who are out there, trying to make good choices – and be a part of a movement that vows to support these men and thank them for doing so.

Do you want Shaunti to share life-changing truths – including helping women understand men – at your event, church service or network? Inquire about Shaunti speaking, here.

Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage, and her newest book, Through A Man’s Eyes. A Harvard-trained social researcher and popular speaker, her findings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.

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  • Srmac73

    Shanti, I agree with what you have stated about men. I know only to well from experience the havoc porn can wreak in a man’s life, although thankfully I am not married so my addiction did not affect my wife or children. Having said that, one thing that comes to mind for Single and Cynical to think about is that it takes two to tango. Why are there so many women, single or married willing to have affairs with married men? If there are men cheating on there wives, there must women willing to have those affairs with married men. Obviously some men deceive women into thinking they are not married but certainly not all of them. There are plenty who know full well the man they are carrying on with is married with kids and they just don’t care. I guess what I am saying, is that when looking at this issue both sides need to be looked at equally.

  • Doug Johnson

    What a strange world we live in where we can have a vicarious life, devoid of the physical consequences. Or so we think. Adultery is really not about what we do with the organ between our legs but the one between our ears. We are told that we must turn our heads to the images and attire we witness incessantly and we do our best. Giving in has serious consequences but I also wonder what the consequences are when we spend so much of our time avoiding it. It is like the days when fighter aircraft had overwhelming technology in the cockpit, so much so that alarms were constantly going off and the pilots became blinded to the missiles coming their way. Men who try to avoid what is in front of them all the time are like these pilots. No wonder you can’t find a Godly man: They can’t see you.

  • m11_9

    If you want less porn influence, feed your man what he needs. No rationing your gifts to him. Men have a typically high desire, often a daily need. Feed it and be happy.

  • Rebecca Riley

    You know, people cheat for all sorts of reasons. I wonder, since you speak about porn and its influence on a marriage, do you also speak on the influence and problems with romance novels? With the problems caused by the football season, or work-life balance? No?

    Some people cheat for the thrill of the forbidden. Some people are naturally not monogamous, and should not marry someone monogamous. (They should marry another non-monogamist and work out the rules of their marriage between them.) But some people fall into cheating because they are desperately seeking emotional comfort and support, and they aren’t getting that at home.

    Love is something you build, and every marriage has to create its own rules.