Why gay men relate to Mark Sanford

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imageContributing blogger Mike Alvear is an Atlanta-based columnist, author and TV personality who rants on sex, dating and pop culture while living at the corner of urge and merge. Find more from him at his blog.

Why men relate to Mark Sanford. And Elliot Spitzer, John Edwards and Bill Clinton.

We can’t understand why these guys handled the aftermath of their affairs with such monumental stupidity, but inject us with truth serum, banish the women and you’ll get a rather inconvenient truth: We understand why they did it.

We understand the aching, overwhelming desire to shtuup the new girl at the office (or the new guy at the gym).

We know that having sex outside the relationship doesn’t mean we don’t love our spouses.

We know there isn’t some deficiency in our spouses that drives us into the arms of strangers.

We understand the Mark Sanfords of the world because we’ve either done what they’ve done, are currently doing it or hoping to do it.

And it isn’t because we’re bored, depressed, unhappy, not being treated right at home, going through a mid-life crisis, looking for adventure, need validation or…

Wait, wait, here’s my favorite: Because we have a fear of intimacy.

Bull. That’s what people (especially women) say to themselves so that they don’t have to face the ugly truth: Men are not meant to be monogamous. We are beat into monogamy by unreasonable moral codes. And much to the dismay of society, temporarily beating something into submission doesn’t change the nature of what you’re beating.

The reason most people (and by that, I mean women) can’t understand why so many men would risk their relationship and careers for sex is that they try to apply logic to a biological imperative.

Statistical evidence, not just anecdote, reveals that men are intrinsically motivated by youth and beauty while women are driven to wealth and status. The anthropologists in the 37-country study of sexual selection believe the results don’t show that we’re all just a sack of shallow snits, but that we’re acting out our biological imperatives. For men, to bear as many offspring as possible; for women to have their offspring survive.

As Matt Ridley writes in “The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature,” casual sex for a man has always been a low-risk activity with a huge payoff: “A cheap addition of an extra child to his genetic legacy….We are by definition descended from prolific ancestors rather than barren ones, so it’s a fair bet that modern men possess a streak of sexual opportunism.”

Women, on the other hand, faced massive risks when it came to casual sex. As Ridley notes, “These enormous risks were offset by no great reward…women who accepted casual sex left fewer rather than more descendants, hence modern women are likely to be equipped with suspicion of casual sex.”

If you want to see Ridley’s biological theory of casual sex in action, you only need to look at the gay community. Studies show that gay men often have up to 100 or more partners in their lifetime. Lesbians? Fewer than 10.

This isn’t some “Men are Pigs” or “the poor-dears-can’t-help-themselves” rationalization of why men go outside of their primary relationship for sex. It’s the simple truth. If you want to know why men “cheat” you might as well ask why men breathe.

Trying to make a man monogamous is like trying to make an artist into a mathematician. You can lock him into a room full of numbers for eternity, but let him out and the first thing he’ll do is draw.

The real tragedy of the Sanford affair isn’t just that yet another powerful man destroyed his career, that yet another woman is betrayed or that yet more children are hurt. It’s that we refuse to change the terms of our committed relationships so that they allow for our fundamental natures. And that traps us into an endless maze of hurt for everyone.

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