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Dear John – John DeVore, That Is!

Hi, John DeVore. How are you? I hope you’re well. As you know, you and I have exchanged approximately 3 to 5 e-mails with each other, which makes us officially the Best Friends in the History of Forever. I even wrote about it! And told everybody how nice you were! And how I regretted assuming that you were a jerk!

Which is why it pains me to write this to you today. Because I was on the Tumblr this morning (Livejournal: For Sexy People!) and saw a bunch of folks discussing this “Why Men Cheat” article they’d found on the CNN. I, naturally, clicked over to it, so that I might consider it in full.

The version I clicked onto included the byline! So, I have a question.

My question is: um, WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS, JOHN DEVORE?!?!

Here’s another reason men run around behind the backs of their doting, self-sacrificing, noble girlfriends and wives — you don’t adore us enough.

When Spartan warriors returned home from victorious campaigns, do you think their women greeted them with eye-rolls and shrugs? They were venerated supremely, celebrated for days upon days! Love was made to them, olives were pitted and fed to them, their wives could not get enough of their dangerous tales of adventure and carnage! Tales told over and over and over again.

And, at the end of each of these nights, as the mighty victors, now satiated and spent, drifted off to sleep, their ladyfolk would purr into their ears, “OMG, you are totally awesome.”

Ummmmm….

All right. Here’s the deal. I wrote a post not long ago about how dudes can be very nice people, and have the best intentions, and still do sexist stuff, because it is MORE NORMAL to do sexist stuff than not, in Our Society Today, and how I can (and do!) call the gentlemen of my acquaintance out on the sexism, without disliking them at all. This is what I’m going to do, right now. Because I have proof that you’re a really nice – and funny! – dude. But this is just ridonkulous.

Now: the purpose of your article is to provide a hyperbolic rationalization for men cheating on ladies, based on the fact that you apparently believe dudes to be stereotyped as The More Cheaterly Gender, before coming to your conclusion that women and men both cheat and it’s because monogamy is hard for lots of folks. So far, so good! The issue here, I think, is the tactics. Because I think you are using the wrong tactics!

I think you are using the tactics that, in fact, confirm stereotypes of men as The More Cheaterly Gender, and rationalizations that pretty much rest on the idea that women are crap! Like, um, the one above – where you cite the argument that men cheat on ladies because ladies JUST DON’T PUT THE DUDES FIRST.

Now: I think that all of this is pretty clearly a joke, in your article. I got sold on the “joke” bit when you mentioned that “actual relationship experts on television confirm that some, if not most, men are hooked on sleeping with as many women as they can.” It was the “on television” thing that clued me in. Also, when you mentioned that “it’s not [dudes'] fault we drool for hours over porn while you sleep. It’s a diagnosable affliction.” Yeah, I am of the opinion that jokes about PORNOGRAPHY ADDICTION are always funny. I think it has been sensationalized and overblown to the extent that whenever I hear the phrase I can only think of all of the books out there that use people’s stories to demonstrate THE TERRIBLE WAGES OF PORNOGRAPHY ADDICTION solely based on the fact that they jerk off to porn, which is like using my life as an example of THE TERRIBLE WAGES OF COFFEE ADDICTION because I drink it when I wake up. So, this is a joke – and, if seen in the right light, it is in fact funny.

The issue here? The real, problematic issue? Is that ladies – and dudes! – read so many actual, serious articles, citing these exact same arguments, in language not that different from yours, that it’s actually difficult to pick up on the fact that it is a joke. Like, if I go to Clown University, and I’m surrounded by fully-clown-dressed clowns every day, the fact that I show up in clown makeup isn’t going to be funny. It just makes me indistinguishable from all the other clowns in the room.

And, if somebody really hates clowns (and who doesn’t hate clowns, really?) because they read “IT” at a young age and it totally scarred them, or because they used to date a clown and the clown was really mean to them, or maybe just because they are SO SICK OF CLOWNS, FOR REAL, and they decide they want to go to the Clown U campus and punch a clown in the face, they’re just as likely to punch me, the “ironic” clown, as they are to punch any of the other equally clown-looking clowns around me.

Basically, what I am saying is that clowns are sexist.

No, wait! What I am saying is: your article might not have come from a place of sexist intent, but it ended up reinforcing sexism, because of the cultural context surrounding it.

Now, in the more serious, less jokeful part of your article, you come back to the fact that men and women can both be big cheatery cheating cheats. Totally with you there! But here’s the thing you used to illustrate that:

Women can be faithless, and for centuries, they’ve done their fair share of tasting forbidden fruit. Literature is full of the sorrow women have caused: Menelaus laid siege to Troy because Helen ran away with another man.

Actually, many versions of the story say that Paris raped and kidnapped Helen. Her complicity in this is a tricky issue, because Greeks (like many cultures) didn’t really establish the firmest of distinctions between “raping a lady” and “having consensual sex with a lady.” So this may be a pointless nitpick, considering that the story’s been told both ways.

Othello smothered his beloved because he believed her to have cheated on him.

If we’re talking about “suffering,” or “the suffering caused by women,” we might want to establish that the person who suffered most in that exchange was probably the lady who was killed by her husband (after she ran away and cut all family ties to be with him) for no reason whatsoever. This is a slightly less pointless nitpick: Desdemona is not the person you want to bring into your “ladies cheat too” argument. Trust me.

Even frat boy romantic comedy “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” was all based around that Kristen Bell, from “Veronica Mars,” cheating on that funny fat dude.

DON’T YOU BRING “FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL” INTO THIS JOHN DEVORE.

DON’T YOU DO IT.

DO YOU WANT TO UNLEASH THE FURY?!

DO YOU???????

Okay. Phew. After attending one of my court-mandated anger-management sessions (I’m in a special group for people who’ve been traumatized by Jason Segel’s screenwriting abilities: there are more of us than you’d think) I’m back to tell you: all of these people are made-up. There are probably real-life examples you could have used. Especially considering that you include an appeal to history in your article, like so:


There isn’t a word for a women whose husband cheats on her. But the English language gives us a word for a man whose wife runs around on him. That word is “cuckold,” and there are few names as limp and pitiful sounding as “cuckold.”

Yes. And I submit to you that the reason why there are names for men who’ve been cheated on by women, but not for women who’ve been cheated on by men, is the fact that, in the culture from whence this term originated, cheating on your husband was punishable by beating or perhaps death, whereas cheating on your wife was an accepted fact of life. So, men who were cheated on by women were NOT the norm, whereas women who were cheated on by men kind of were. There’s also still the idea that a man ought to own and lay claim to a woman, as a means of asserting his masculinity, and that her decision to have sex with other people challenges his ownership of her (rather than her commitment to him or to their relationship) and is hence damaging to his manhood, whereas women are encouraged to accept and take the blame for men’s desire to cheat, since it’s In A Man’s Nature and whatnot. And all of this ties into the idea that (straight) men have active, undeniable, force-of-nature-type sex drives, whereas (all) women either lack sex drives and perform sex just to make dudes happy, or else are vile perverts and whores. We might pretend to have gotten past that, but we haven’t, really. Which is why men are still regarded as the gender most likely to cheat.

I mean. Maybe you know all this.

I just didn’t read it in your article.

You see what I’m saying?

17 Comments

  1. JohnDeVore wrote:

    I do. I think. There's a lot to ponder here.

    I thought the bit about the fable was nice.

    Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Permalink
  2. CaitieCat wrote:

    Heh – I think the woman equivalent for "cuckold" should probably be "woman with a male partner".

    I JOKE! I exAGGerate!

    See? See how that works? :)

    (Nice one, Sady, as always)

    Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Permalink
  3. Tangoing with Evita wrote:

    THANK YOU.

    Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Permalink
  4. Anonymous wrote:

    Still struggling with the idea of Desdemona being used as an example of a faithless woman who "caused" sorrow. There's some Olympic-standard mental contortions going on there.

    Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 5:58 pm | Permalink
  5. Melinda wrote:

    The first excerpt seems like something out of Boner Party.

    Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 6:09 pm | Permalink
  6. Adrianna wrote:

    "She cheated on me, and I suffered SO VERY VERY MUCH and the only payback I could get was a good SPOUSAL MURDER"

    WHY is it that men's suffering (caused by women) is a real live literary device used to justify beating/killing of women? WHY?

    Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 7:18 pm | Permalink
  7. jeannie wrote:

    Quoth wonkette: It's a sad day for feminism, as nobody can seem to think of any women policitians who sleep around.

    Heh.

    Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 8:06 pm | Permalink
  8. Obstreperous B wrote:

    The word for a woman whose husband cheats on her is 'cuckquean'. It's been around since the 16th century.

    Friday, June 26, 2009 at 12:14 am | Permalink
  9. snobographer wrote:

    I wouldn't exactly call it common usage, OB.

    Friday, June 26, 2009 at 8:45 am | Permalink
  10. troubleinchina wrote:

    I keep being distracted by the idea of Spartan Wives being all lovey-dovey with their husbands when they got home from war, since that doesn't really jive with my understanding of Spartan culture or women.

    "Return with your shield or on it" isn't really the same thing, you know?

    Friday, June 26, 2009 at 8:55 am | Permalink
  11. Nanella wrote:

    "Girlfriend/wife" and "narcissistic supply source" appear to be interchangeable terms in Mr. DeVore's world.

    Friday, June 26, 2009 at 10:09 am | Permalink
  12. FlipYrWhig wrote:

    in the culture from whence this term originated, cheating on your husband was punishable by beating or perhaps death

    Hmm. But cuckoldry is also a staple of comic plots, wherein the cuckolded man (usually older) gets what he deserves for trying to keep his hot young wife under too-strict supervision and surveillance. Of course, those plots are also about seducing the man's wife as a means of bringing him down a notch. But all this I mention just to note that cuckoldry can be comic, too.

    Friday, June 26, 2009 at 11:05 am | Permalink
  13. Obstreperous B wrote:

    Oh, it's far from common usage, but if words like that are going to be using up space in my brain that could otherwise be used to store phone numbers or the location of my keys, I like to bust them out on the extremely rare occasions that they're relevant.

    Friday, June 26, 2009 at 1:09 pm | Permalink
  14. Sniper wrote:

    I wonder how many guys throw a fucking parade every time their wives get a raise. Just saying.

    Friday, June 26, 2009 at 1:41 pm | Permalink
  15. Anonymous wrote:

    Re: cuckquean. Great word, but since quean means whore, still managing to cast aspersions on the woman's sexual continence.

    Friday, June 26, 2009 at 3:13 pm | Permalink
  16. Anonymous wrote:

    Erm, "adultress"?

    Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 2:04 am | Permalink
  17. Sady wrote:

    @All, about the "YOU DON'T WORSHIP US ENOUGH" passage I quoted: I really do think that's part of a joke, based on the fact that he cites almost EVERY stereotypical excuse for guys' cheating (evo psych, men can't control their wandering genitalia, men are giant babies who need to be applauded for using the Big Boy Toilets and eating with forks and knives or else they'll throw tantrums) before coming down to the "everybody cheats" conclusion. And he did it in such over-the-top language. The problem, which I tried to point out in the post, is that we're so used to seeing these arguments made seriously – especially after a big cheating scandal – that it's hard to see it as a joke. It's the problem with any kind of "ironic" sexism/racism/homophobia, coming from dudes/white people/straights: there's no clear mark of irony on it, so it's so easy to miss the joke that you might as well not make it.

    Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 9:19 am | Permalink