16 November 2011

Unfaithfully Yours 愛偷吃的男人


What do Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods and Arnold Schwarzenegger have in common? They are all American icons who use their celebrity status to make our world a better place. Yawn. They all have promising young daughters who are destined to follow in daddy’s footsteps and achieve great things. Yawn again. As if the column title hasn’t already given away the answer, all three of them are powerful men who, at the pinnacle of their careers, put everything they had on the line and cheated on their wives.

Powerful men who fell from grace


For every Bill, Tiger and Arnold, there are hundreds other famous men who got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. At times it seems that the more successful a man gets, the more willing he is to throw away everything for a fleeting moment of carnal pleasure. According to a 1950s study on American men by the Kinsey Institute, there is a one in two chance of indiscretion occurring during marriage. In the Information Age where you can download free porn, order Viagra and hook up with an old flame all at the click of a mouse while the wife is asleep in the other room, that estimate seems a wee bit conservative.

The ground-breaking study on sex and the sexes

So why do famous men cheat? The notion itself seems to defy the basic principles of economics. Common sense tells us that those who have little or nothing to lose – the loser dude in a trailer park – would be more inclined to cheat. But studies suggest just the opposite. A recent New York Times article cites evidence that people who have more to lose are more prone to risky and self-destructive behavior. In much the same way best-paid executives are more likely to engage in insider trading, powerful men are more likely to stray. Is it ego, arrogance or the delusion of grandeur that makes men in high places cheat? Or does life on the fast lane demand a dose of clandestine thrill to spice things up? After all, high-stake politics and billion-dollar acquisitions can get a little stodgy if you do it day after day. We can psycho-analyze the cheating man all we want, but at the end of the day it might all come down to one word: probability.

Caught in the cookie jar

Remember your high school science? Chemical reactions occur when particles collide. We all know that. We also know that only a fraction of these collisions can cause a chemical reaction. Increasing the concentration of the reactant particles, scientists argue, leads to more collisions and therefore more successful collisions, ultimately raising the rate of reaction. This Collision Theory, first proposed by German chemist Max Trautz in 1916, is seemingly applicable today in explaining why men who have it all are more likely to lose it all. Fact: successful men meet more women of higher caliber than the average Joe. Fact: women throw themselves at these men like moths to the flame and lemmings to the cliff. Result: more collisions, more chemical reactions. It is that simple.


Modern chemistry explains it all

If an eighth-grader understands this, so do politicians. That's why the sex snare remains the weapon of choice for politicians on the look-out for ways to destroy their opponents. Better still, the smarter the target is, the harder he falls. When the scandal of former chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Dominique Strauss-Kahn first broke in May this year, many in France suspected that the hoopla with the hotel maid was but an elaborate set-up to sabotage Strauss-Kahn’s bid for the French presidency. Within a week after his arrest, the disgraced 62-year-old bowed to mounting political pressure and resigned from the IMF. Even after he was cleared of all criminal charges five months later, he threw in the towel and walked away from the presidential race. Whether he was guilty or not, the damage was already done. The trap of infidelity did it again.

Strauss-Kahn arrested by police, convicted by the public

The epic fall of tragic heroes in the likes of Strauss-Kahn is not limited to the West. Here in Hong Kong, there is no shortage of public figures who have rolled the dice in the underworld of adultery and lost. From actor-comedian Jackie Chan to property tycoon Walter Kwok and even our chief executive heir-apparent Henry Tang, these powerful men have been known to keep mistresses, fornicate with movie starlets, impregnate domestic caregivers, and, in the case of one Stanley Ho, did all of the above. In truth, men looking for a booty call in Hong Kong are spoiled for choice, whether it is a guys' night out on Lockhart Road or a day-trip to nearby Macau or Shenzhen. For those who prefer to go off the grid, there is that three-day golf trip to Hainan Island where a visit to the massage parlor gets them much more than a back rub.

Henry Tang mobbed by reporters 

In a city known for materialism, even torrid affairs can’t escape a bit of commercialization. In Hong Kong, money is always part of the equation, even – or perhaps especially – when it comes to love and lust. Just a few weeks ago, a bar hostess was sentenced to seven years in jail for blackmailing a wealthy businessman, referred to as Mr. X by the local press. When their four-month affair ended on a bitter note, the accused demanded a whopping HKD140 million (USD18 million) in “break-up fees” and threatened to murder Mr. X and his family if he didn’t pay up. After the 1987 thriller Fatal Attraction scared the pants off male movie-goers around the world, random men reportedly went up to Glenn Close, who starred as the bunny-killing mistress Alex Forrester, and thanked her for saving their marriage. It looks like Hong Kong has just found its very own Alex Forrester to keep married men in line.

Glen Close in the final scene of Fatal Attraction


Male infidelity is a phenomenon that transcends time and culture. The question of why-men-cheat is a horse that has been beaten to death by psychologists, feminists and day-time talk show hosts. Entire shelves of books have been written about it. Ah yes, women are from Venus and men are, well, just pigs. Biologists tell us that male primates are hunter-gatherers biologically programmed to maximize sexual partners. Female primates, on the other hand, are nurturers who stay in the cave and raise the young. That’s why men and women behave so differently when it comes to sex. But does it excuse us or condemn us? And when the seven year itch creeps up, are men supposed to scratch it or ignore it until it festers into a flesh-eating ulcer? To all of that, America’s leading sex columnist Dan Savage offers yet another perspective and a badly-needed glimmer of hope. The writer urges all of us to re-examine the institution of marriage and stop pretending to be something we are not: monogamous. Couples should be upfront about their sexual needs, Savage argues, and once in a while they should let a bit of air out. That means an occasional stray by either spouse, if handled with honesty and an open mind, can be a good thing. Perhaps the guy has a point. Perhaps marriage is more than strict rules and prohibitions.

John Gray's new book

If all of that sounds a bit radical to you, that’s because it is. So before you rush home tonight and suggest an open relationship to your girlfriend at the dinner table like the characters in the Farrelly brothers’ comedy Hall Pass, you are well advised to take Savage’s advice with a pinch of salt and keep that wishful thinking to yourself. When it comes to the “M” word – be it marriage or monogamy – remember what a wise man once said: freedom comes not from the absence of restraint but the presence of discipline. Or was it a woman who said that?

Wishful thinking in the Farrelly brothers' comedy Hall Pass

*                      *                       *

This article previously appeared in the November/December 2011 issue of MANIFESTO magazine under Jason Y. Ng's column "The Urban Confessional."


As printed in MANIFESTO



30 comments:

  1. Jason,

    Controversial hot topic indeed ! But, this might be the most avoiding topic amongst the men talk. "Freedom from the presence of discipline" ~ Men agree with it ? how many, I just doubt about it?? May be it's what women said so. Ah ah ! There is one (at least you are !)

    In fact, I totally disagree with what Mr Savage, so called leading sex columnist in America, said "an occassional stray by either spouse" would let a bit of air out. If this really happened, the whole marriage will be "." So, where are the love, trust and commitment ? "Gone with the wind" completely ?! I don't think this act will be truly accepted at the Western Culture, not even mentioned in Asia.

    At last, I would really give yr article a "like" again. It is thought provoking, insightful and inspiring. 能夠以男生身份和角度,去道出「男人之苦」,那麼透徹,實在不易!

    Jean

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think no one wants to be cheated on and will expect the other half to be loyal and faithful. It will be really heartbreaking if you know your wife/ husband cheated on you. You wont be unfaithful to him/her if you really love him/her because you dont want to hurt him/ her a bit. Those who are not serious about the relationship surely don't know what true love is. I really cant agree with what that so-called leading sex columnist Mr Savage suggested. What's the difference between us and animals then?Even though you are honest about what you did, you've already hurt your loved one.

    Lily

    ReplyDelete
  3. Jason,

    An excellent write-up on controversial "Unfaithfully Yours". In recent years, it seems a fashion trend spreading like wildfires here in Hong Kong and abroad where many men of honour (?) (of wealth, celebrity status or high offices) strayed out of matrimony and caught with their pants down. Just a thought. Marriage is a bond of relationships and trust. People come together because they have something in common, be it interests or others - nurtured and bonded over time. Infidelity occurs when one partner (in this case - the man) strays out because he cannot overcome lust over discipline - temporarily or just for that moment in time, blinded by all known outcomes and consequences. A wake-up call to all who are living under the establishment of marriage. Maybe or maybe not. With this said, I also know of many instances where the strayed partner is the woman and not the man. And this to the Chinese spouse is humiliating when scowned by others as wearing a green cap.

    Martie

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks, Jean. Reading your and Lily's responses, I realize how little room there is in our culture for Mr. Savage's views on relationship to take hold. I really think that he (and what he proposes) deserves more credit -- not that one needs to agree with him to hear him out.

    Cheers,

    Jason

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Lily,

    I think what Mr. Savage is saying is that no one needs to be hurt if the occasional stray is handled with pre-discussion, full disclosure and full agreement. The idea is clearly not for everyone but at the same time it might work for *some* couples. That's all he is saying.

    I think many people, like yourself, are too shocked or offended by the very idea of an open relationship to give its merits another thought.

    Jason

    ReplyDelete
  6. Martie,

    Ah yes, the proverbial green hat, an inherently sexist construct in Cantonese culture.

    Going back to your point about women cheating on their husband -- you are right, I know a couple of women who did that and ended up with a divorce, though the instances of men cheating on their wives far outnumber the other way around. The situation is not unlike sexual harassment in the workplace: women do harass men, but far less frequently than men harassing women. I think the ratio is something like 1 to 6.

    Cheers,

    Jason

    ReplyDelete
  7. By the comments some are already leaving on your blog, would you suggest a polygamy society? Just imagine what a lot of business that would bring in for the matrimonial and probate lawyers, hehehehe

    Christine

    ReplyDelete
  8. 生物學有一說法,解析為何雄性較濫慾、雌性較專一這現象:雄的由於沒有生育成本,為求盡可能“多”地留下後裔,使遺傳基因多樣化及強化,便四出播種。相反,雌的生育成本較高,所追求的便由quantity 演化為quality;一旦與高質素的雄性結伴後,便盡可能地使之留下,分擔撫育下一代的責任。「一夫一妻制」,在動物界中是絕無僅有。而在人纇社會裡會奉行,相信是留種以外,還有其他考慮 : 譬如生活/情感上的 value-add、道德上被社會認同接納、方便當權者管治等等。隨著社會奉行自由戀愛,及離婚彼彼皆是,與其說「一夫一妻制」是從一而終,最多也只是「階段性專一」而已(即同一時段中,只有單一伴侶)。

    VT

    ReplyDelete
  9. I agree with you, VT. Monogamy is a mere social construct, a cultural belief so ingrained in us that we are blind to any alternatives. I am not advocating one way or another, I am just asking people to keep an open mind and choose what is right for themselves and let others do the same. Live and let live.

    Cheers,

    Jason

    ReplyDelete
  10. Jason

    Congratulations on this article - very interesting read and from a divorced girls point of view if there was more honesty and maturity in relationships then everyone might be able to handle it better! Most people are not upfront about their needs before, during or after a relationship and this is where so many fail, people think that by admitting certain wants then it will upset their partner but in actual fact it has a high probability of having the opposite effect.

    One thing that you are missing though is the point of view that women are sometimes even more guilty than men - some women (generalising here) don't care if their current amour has strings attached, in fact sometimes that is the attraction, bizarrely because if he can commit to one woman then he must be a good bet! And for every girl that says she wouldnt touch a married man there are at least another five that would not bat an eyelid at trying to hook a married man - in short women are sometimes just as much (if not more) to blame in the infidelity game.

    Coming to Asia at this stage in my life (divorced long time ago, raised a child, worked hard, studied hard) has allowed me to have a healthy dating life and because I am able to keep everything in perspective then it works for me - I have no expectations or hidden agenda which seems rare in this city!

    A similar article from a womans point of view would be very interesting!

    Lisa

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great comment, Lisa. You are exactly right in pointing that the article focuses only on MALE infidelity. If I were to balance it with the other gender, the article would have been twice as long and my magazine editor wouldn't have it. That being said, a follow-up piece (Part 2) discussing female infidelity might work very well. So stay tuned!

    Cheers,

    Jason

    ReplyDelete
  12. To quote Carla Bruni, the wife of French President Nicholas Sarkozy..”monogamy bores me terribly”

    the French have a differing approach to fidelity/infidelity. as well as for Asians, Latin Americans, compared to Americans.

    In my early 20’s, I use to think that men did all the cheating. Then I picked up this book (can’t remember the title) with 20 or so short essays from women who had an affair. Married college boyfriend, then years later met her true love. Wife has a successful career and made more money, husband was threatened by this, so he would belittle her, so she found someone new who was more secure w/himself and loving. Wife discovered that she preferred women….etc…..all kinds of scenarios.
    - Unhappy, unfulfilled in their marriage
    - Deserves someone better
    - No passion, no spark
    - Want to give partner a taste of their own medicine
    - Met someone who treats her better, is attentive, sexy, emotionally available

    yes, Please write an article about why women cheat.

    I think in some parts of the world, the gap betw men who cheat and women who cheat is lessening.
    I don't agree with the double standard in society, or that men are all pigs.

    Lieing, cheating, covering up, hurting others and betraying is a lot of work, and a mess.
    Being open or honest is a good start.

    LJ

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi LJ,

    Do try to remember the title of that book you read -- I'm most interested in reading it!!

    I completely agree with you when you said that lying is "a lot of work." It really is.

    Cheers,

    Jason

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks - also would like to commend you on your use of 'wee bit' nice to see scottishisms in the most unlikely places!

    Lisa

    ReplyDelete
  15. HAHA, that was meant to be a pun -- as is "scared the pants off" -- since much of the piece is about the wee wee...

    ReplyDelete
  16. I dont think all men are pigs though LOL

    GH

    ReplyDelete
  17. Great topic and it makes a lot of sense why men with a lot on the line would take that risk. Although it might not be a risk anymore because many women will stick around with these powerful men anyway after the affairs because they can't afford to stand alone. Therefore, the men can truly go ahead with their scandalous affairs without having anything to lose...

    ReplyDelete
  18. Dont tell that to Tiger Woods or Arnold Schwarzenegger, Miss Fong!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Jason,

    I tried searching for the book title, but haven't found the exact match. But I can tell you I found the book at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, PA. It was probably 1994. There is a way to contact them from their website. It left an impression on me, after reading one story after another, "oh so that's how it can happen... it can happen all time!"

    When I moved to NYC, I met a female co-worker who was seeing five men at once. She kept this up for 8 months or so, then it dwindled down to seeing two. getting to know her, I understood her reasoning, or influences of why she did that.

    It's fascinating to us reading about powerful men risking everything, don't forget Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner of this great state of NY.

    Ordinary common folks have fascinating stories too.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/relationships/8140103/Why-are-so-many-married-women-having-affairs.html

    LJ

    ReplyDelete
  20. Dear Jason,

    First of all, thank you again for the wonderful and interesting piece on Infidelity. The topic of infidelity can be quite an interesting topic here in Asia. I believe infidelity does happen more frequently in such a crowded and densely populated city like ours. As you mentioned, the crowded the city is, the higher the "probability" for a collision to happen. I bet infidelity rates are a lot higher in a big metropolitan cities in the US such as NYC, Chicago, SF, LA versus some of the smaller country bumpkin cities like Kansas City per say.

    Nevertheless, that shouldn't be an excuse nor a justification on why a person commit acts of infidelity.

    Once again thanks for your thought provoking article.

    Love,
    AB

    ReplyDelete
  21. Dear Jason,

    Here comes my version of the topic so close to every man’s heart (is that an over-statement?).

    Three lines into your article and I was almost roaring with your signature humour again.

    When you mentioned that “[i]n the Information Age where you can download free porn, order Viagra and hook up with an old flame all at the click of a mouse while the wife is asleep in the other room, that estimate seems a wee bit conservative.” I totally agree with that comment of yours, especially when free porn is getting notably easier to access nowadays. An ex-colleague of mine has made it a point of showing how easy it is to get it, as if I would be interested. He should not be my facebook friend, but if he is reading this comment of mine now, he knows who he is. This “all-embracing”, prevailing, intrusion of facebook.com into our lives has no doubt earned its farthing in bringing old flames together, right ?

    [To be cont'd]

    Christine

    ReplyDelete
  22. When you examine why famous men cheat, postulating that “people who have more to lose are more prone to risky and self-destructive behavior”, doesn’t that accord with the risk-averse versus risk-loving scenario in Economics? Guess they are just more risk-loving and if they are lucky to have won before and have better means / backing, that might partly explain it.

    “[B]est-paid executives are more likely to engage in insider trading”, but then these people possess the means and have access to insider information that ordinary Joes like me don’t, so I wouldn’t say it is exactly comparable. Or maybe even me with half my limbs in the field, I just don’t pay enough attention to the fluctuations in the securities market and how quickly the velocities change.

    When you question whether it is “ego, arrogance or the delusion of grandeur that makes men in high places cheat?” I would say it is all of these, they want it all: both the women and the wealth and someone to feed them with “admiration” and drool over them as to how “brilliant” they are (if they are truly brilliant, they wouldn’t have done it in the first place nor would they been caught). Or again, as in one of my comments to your earlier articles, it could very well be self-abasement eating their minds and they need to stuff their empty stockings with these elements which they think will earn the admiration of the other “blockheads” (expletives excused please).

    [To be cont'd]

    Christine

    ReplyDelete
  23. When you say it boils down to “probability”, that could very well be true. But as with the case of a gambler, their hope in things beyond them surpasses the most devout of all Christians or believers. They NEVER believe that they will be caught until they actually are and with their pictures blown up on front pages of glossy tabloids.

    As for “women throw themselves at these men like moths to the flame and lemmings to the cliff”, I do have some reservations as to whether this applies to all. Guess I don’t fall into the category of these higher calibre women then… good to admit to myself that I am just a simple, humble soul.

    It is so true that sex snare remains the weapon of choice for politicians too. “色字頭上一把刀”, it’s true on the political platform too, right? As for the ex-IMF chief scandal, that is actually quite tragic if this is the way our society is heading when every crooked thing is further manipulated for another wrong. Ifthis is the case with modern day society, can we still truly trust in genuine relationship with one another.

    I laughed to read your line about “even torrid affairs can’t escape a bit of commercialization.” Why else would those “high caliber women” lust after these men, and how else would these men get them so easily. There is a price on everything in our society, remember? If we are fortune, the price is probably immeasurable, if we are sick, it all boils down to Economics and Accounting.

    BTW, just a closing comment. Don’t be too harsh, pigs can be very cute (like McMug and McDull and even Ms Piggy) and probably deliver wiser or more perceptive truths than we humans can sometimes. So don’t downgrade them ! :>

    Christine

    ReplyDelete
  24. Jason,

    Suddenly recalled something as I was checking your blog out. I agreed with VT's comments as that was the information I got from some report I read earlier as well. But is that reducing us humans to mere reproductive machines? And with the advance of science, what of the implications of cloning, and not just reproducing, another life naturally? One of my friends told me the other day that forming your child to be the type of person you want him / her to be doesn't only begin at birth, or blasting Chopin's music (or is it someone else'?) during pregnancy and enrolling the child in the elitist schools once you know you are pregnant. They are already taking so far back as when and how (i.e. posture or something) etc etc a couple should consummate their wedlock to produce a child of the character they want, i.e. whether an optimist? A happy or serious fella? Or the quite studious type or something. I think the whole idea is getting a bit far too over-the-top. We are no longer respecting and cherishing a human being for what he is.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Monogamy, and hence some marriages, fail because it conflicts with lust, which is part and parcel of being human. I agree wholeheartedly with Jason that monogamy is a mere social construct. On the other side of the coin however, polygamy in a relationship/marriage (as proposed by Dan Savage) will also fail (in most cases) due to our nature as humans to be jealous. You just can't have your cake and eat it too. Hence there is, and never will be, a real solution to the complex issue of infidelity. 

    The way I've personally resolved this conflict in my life is I've steered clear of relationship territory, and have always opted for more casual options, in which neither party alludes to monogamy and therefore no one is deceived.  I am by no means saying that this comes without it's fair share of trials, that its the one-size-fits-all solution, or that its even ideal. Its simply that for me, who equates "settling down" with a death sentence, its a good compromise. IMHO, life is too short to be unexciting. (Ducks oncoming knives.)

    Thanks Jason, for yet another insightful, thought provoking, beautifully written article.

    LF

    ReplyDelete
  26. PS: Just thought I'd add that I'm not wealthy, famous or male (or unfaithful, for that matter!) I just wrote a comment to add to the discussion/s made in the other comments. Cheers, LF

    ReplyDelete
  27. Thanks, LF, for the contrarian viewpoint. I have a hunch that you are not from Hong Kong... :-)

    ReplyDelete
  28. I do believe there are still many good men somewhere out there ! Right ?! ~~

    Jean

    ReplyDelete
  29. Great article Jason. In my humble and un researched opinion, if given the opportunity, most men will cheat. Men with power have lots of opportunities. Nuff said.

    Maria

    ReplyDelete
  30. 9 out of 10 do.

    Kee

    ReplyDelete