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Hard dogs to keep on the porch

 “Votes for Women. Chastity for Men!”  This strange slogan was used by 19th century suffragettes who wanted to put an end to men’s tomcatting ways and keep them on a very tight leash.

In my recent article published in the The Weekend Australian this week I showed how the suffragettes’ crusade has succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. A century later many heterosexual married men are living lives of sexual deprivation, with sex doled out to them only very occasionally – “like meaty bites to a dog”, as one man explained.

Amazingly even then most believe they must remain faithful. The recent Sex in Australia survey revealed most (85 per cent) of men and women (83 per cent) feel an affair is always wrong – up from a 78 per cent a decade ago. Almost 96 per cent of men (and 98 per cent of women) believe their relationships will always be sexually exclusive.

Given men’s strong sexual drive, its remarkable how well many men succeed. Most married men remain faithful for most of their marriages. Yes, there are philanderers, men who just can’t keep their trousers zipped.  As Hilary Clinton quipped about her husband, “He’s a hard dog to keep on the porch.”

But they are rare. The Sex in Australia Survey found only five per cent of men (and 3 per cent of women) in a regular relationship had strayed in the previous year. Over a long relationship these tiny percentages add up and significant numbers have had some extramarital experience – a one-night stand perhaps, or an affair lasting a few weeks, months or even a year or more. But these are tiny lapses compared to the commitment most people show to fidelity.

Yet one tiny lapse can end a marriage. Twenty per cent of people surveyed in the Australian Divorce Transitions project cited an affair as the reason for the marriage breakdown.

This is madness, says American sex adviser Dan Savage, who’s running a one man campaign to rethink society’s views on monogamy. His new book, American Savage, published last year argues for “a little licence, a little latitude. An understanding that two people can’t be all things to each other sexually all of their adult lives.  An understanding that life is long and circumstances change and some things – love, devotion, loyalty – are more important than sex and that lifelong, perfectly executed sexual exclusivity is not the only measure of love, devotion and loyalty.”

Savage finds it astonishing that the feminist revolution, instead of extending to women “the same latitude and licence and pressure-release valve that men always enjoyed,” has chosen instead to impose on men “the confines women had always endured.”

Interesting point, eh? Here’s my article–High Fidelity – if you’d like to read more.