Written by: Gene Cole, Opinions Editor
There’s a lot of reasons people cheat on their partners. It’s a horrible thing that should come with a lot of guilt, but each situation is different, and it’s often the sign of serious problems within either of the partners or in the relationship. This isn’t to say cheating’s ever OK — it never should be — but it can happen for a lot of different reasons, and it’s important to keep that in mind.
Despite how complicated it can be, I see a lot of people really like to oversimplify cheating when they see friends or celebrities do it. Especially in straight relationships, I frequently see people treat the women as a perpetrator, and the man as just a “dog” who’s doing what comes “naturally.” This habit of slutshaming women, while failing to hold men equally accountable, is an undoubtedly sexist default, and the number of people who seem to fall back on it is infuriating.
These are attitudes I’ve seen before in my social circles, but they can show up in their clearest forms over social media when infidelity comes up in celebrity news. Just the past week, I saw it best represented when World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) commentator Corey Graves was accused of having an affair with WWE performer Carmella. This allegation was made by Graves’s wife of 11 years, Amy Polinsky, in a now-deleted Instagram post, but was trending on Twitter for me throughout February 16 when she posted it.
What followed was a lot of harsh comments and characterization of Carmella. Some made jokes about how Graves’ wife was ready to pick a physical fight with Carmella. Others accused her of explicitly not caring about Graves’ marriage and children, treating her like some sort of homewrecker. A few even used it as an excuse to criticize her prior known sexual history, even though her previous partners are unrelated to this specific situation.
All of these posts have a shared theme of treating Carmella as the perpetrator, but none of the posters seemed to know anything about Carmella’s side of the story. Graves might have told Carmella his wife was OK with it, or she might not have known him too well when it happened. Even if she was fully aware and intentional, none of the people posting would have known that. Several posts like these were made entirely based on these stereotypes around cheating.
Graves, meanwhile, got an unsettling amount of support from multiple people saying Carmella was so attractive, that people shouldn’t blame Graves for cheating on his wife. Despite his serious infidelity, they treated him as if he was an innocent guy who just got lucky, and didn’t bother putting any of the guilt on him.
This isn’t to say people were exclusively supportive of him, but nonetheless there was a clear and unfair difference in how people reacted to Graves compared to Carmella. It’s proof of an unfair default we have when it comes to cheating in straight relationships, and one that people clearly need to work on.
If you hear about people cheating on a partner, I simply ask that you think a little more about the situation before making accusations or posting about it online. Cheating is still a horrible thing to do to a partner, regardless of the reasons, but these unfair stereotypes help nobody and shouldn’t be perpetuated further than they already are. Attitudes like this lead men to find it logical to cheat in the first place, and it benefits no one to keep those stereotypes around.