Why do so many men (and it's increasingly common with women too) have partners on the side (beyond their wives or girlfriends or husbands or boyfriends)? And why is it okay to do it openly?
This is the question that my friend Amarkai’s posed in an email to me. To give you some background, Amarkai has been living outside
In response to Amarkai’s question, I was going to do a regular blog post in which I would present my thoughts and ask you to share with us what you reckon accounts for such blatant infidelity in Ghana. Upon further reflection however, I decided against writing it in the regular style of my blog entries. Instead I thought to try a new approach to addressing this question. The approach I took was to pose the same question to three personalities. First, on the list was a cheater, specifically a man who admits to cheating on his girlfriend. Let’s call him Papa Abayie. Next, I interviewed Salimatu, a married woman who believes she has never been cheated on. Finally, I interviewed Korshie, a man who has never cheated on his girlfriend and has no desire to do so in the future. All the personalities interviewed are Ghanaians, in their mid to late twenties and have at least a bachelor’s degree.
There Are No Whys About Cheating
When I asked Papa Abayie (PA) why he cheated, he responded by saying “no whys, I don't even think about it for a second. Basically, I have sex whoever I want to”.
Maameous: so to you, it doesn't matter that you’re committed to someone else. You'll have sex with another person if you feel like it...and not tell your girlfriend.
PA: Bang on!
Maameous: Would your girlfriend feel bad if she found out?
PA: She would feel worse than bad
Maameous: So by not telling her, you save her the pain?
PA: Well maybe…but that's not what I'm thinking. I don't tell because she has no right to know
Maameous: Am I right to guess then that you do not think you have a right to know if she cheats on you?
PA: Yep, who ever has a right to know that his/her partner is cheating? How do they expect to benefit from the info?
Maameous: But some would argue that since there is some risk of passing on a venereal disease to her if you happen to contract one by sleeping with a third person, she has a right to know that you’re putting her at risk by not being faithful.
PA: Sure, but that is a different argument which has nothing with you cheating. I’m not reporting the act of “cheating" but the fact that I may put her at risk. I will only report if I wasn't protected and/or have been diagnosed with a disease. In the process, of course, I will be making it known that I cheated but that will not be the point of the info. Basically this is the premise for my argument: if cheating is bad, it's bad. If it's not, then it's not. Whether it's bad or not should not be premised on what the other party will accept. To me cheating is not bad and therefore I do not expect anyone to demand for me to "report" it.
Men Cheat Because They Have Too Much Power, Are Weak, Or Believe in Tradition
According to Korshie, some Ghanaian men have too much power in their homes, adding that in such homes, women are cowered into accepting it. He also mentions that the acceptance is partly due the fact that traditionally, polygamy is accepted. He said some men also cheat because men are visually weak, which is to say they are easily attracted by what they see. Korshie said if he had his own way, Ghanaian women would be modest in the way they dress. He said there is too much emphasis on being sexy and he sees no reason why being sexy should be part of a woman’s self image or why women feel the need to show off themselves on the streets. He believes the only one who needs to see your sexy side is your significant other.
Korshie groups cheaters into two categories: Those who go out to look for it, and those who do it because the affair blooms from a friendship. He believes that those who go in search of it cannot be helped but that those who find themselves in it because they developed feelings for a friend should be advised to flee whenever they find themselves in a position where there is the potential for romantic interests to be roused. In his experience the guys who don’t cheat are those who take their Christian life seriously, those who are in relationships which mean a lot to them, and those who would like to cheat but don’t have the guts.
Men Cheat Because Society Lets Them
Playing devil’s advocate, I said to Salamatu, we all know that men are attracted by what they see. She acknowledged this, saying that human beings will be attracted to different people at different times and so men with partners may be attracted to certain women, but she takes issue with the fact that many Ghanaian men seem to have no problem with cheating and actually go ahead to do it. In other words, she thinks feeling an attraction towards a member of the opposite sex is acceptable, but acting on it is not, and being blatant about it is a complete no no. She mentions that she knows a lot of men who would openly let it be known that they have mistresses. If you're going to cheat, at least be courteous enough to hide it, says Salimatu. “A couple of my friends' dads had kids with their mistresses and brought the kids to live with them and the wives had to deal and accept it”. She also alludes to a double standard in Ghanaian society which forces women to be faithful: “Ghanaian women are also attracted to other men but for the most part don't cheat because it's considered horrible for a woman to cheat”, meanwhile a lot of Ghanaian men act like it's their right to cheat and give excuses like their wives let themselves go after childbirth or don’t have time for them because of the kids forgetting that they both contributed to bring the pregnancy into being and it's not the wives' fault if they got fatter or less sexy. On whether women sometimes make it difficult for men to remain faithful by the way the dress, she does not agree with Korshie. When I asked her what she thinks a guys ought to do if women dress sexy, she says “keep it in their pants…they're not helpless babies!”
Men Cheat Because They’re Wired that Way
To these I’ll add one argument that has not yet been raised, which is that biologically, humans are not monogamous, therefore remaining faithful goes against our natural tendency. This may explain why you’ll find men chasing after women who are less attractive than their wives. Perhaps this is why
I hope these responses shed some light on what is a very relevant question with no straightforward answers. I’m sure your comments will help us understand our men even better. So I end by asking you what Amarkai asked me. Why do so many men (and it's increasingly common with women too) have partners on the side (beyond their wives or girlfriends or husbands or boyfriends)? And why is it okay to do it openly?