Finally, men are not the only ones blamed for the infidelity bug. Recent research suggests that women may also possess an inherent urge to behave unfaithfully. Why women cheat?
When it comes to infidelity, we seem to have a very concise, often biased opinion. For example, we believe that men are more likely to cheat than women, and that cheating is a result of an unhappy relationship or a selfish lack of morals.
But perhaps it’s much more complex than that. Perhaps there is something buried deep down in our genetic engineering that unconsciously pushes us to act out sexually.
We’ve all heard the tired assumption that men are likely to cheat because of their animalistic desire to “spread their seed.” But, what about women? What’s their excuse?
Scientists have pinpointed one particular gene that might be linked to a woman’s likelihood of cheating
It’s called the vasopressin receptor gene, which is often associated with animals and is involved in creating trust, empathy and sexual bonding.
Research that’s been conducted with animal models confirms the theory that vasopressin might play a large role in fidelity, or the lack thereof. Other hormones linked to our emotions, such as dopamine and oxytocin, could also be causing the same effect. This information is accredited to a report in the New York Times by psychiatrist, Richard A. Friedman.
It all comes down to a small rodent called the vole. Voles have two closely related species with very different lifestyles- the Prairie vole is monogamous, while the Montane vole is promiscuous.
The difference in these rodents’ sexual behavior is explained by the positioning of the vasopressin receptor gene in their brains. Amazingly enough, scientists have learned how to manipulate this positioning in order to change their behaviors.
They have made a promiscuous vole monogamous just by changing the expression of this gene. Scientists can do the same with female voles by altering the oxytocin receptor gene, or in other words the “love hormone.”
But let’s get back to humans for a moment, shall we?
A study was published in 2014 that examined 7,400 sets of human twins in Finland between the ages of 18 and 49 that had been in long-term relationships. Out of these statistics, 9.8% of men and 6.4% of women had endured at least one affair in the 12 months prior.
After comparing the difference in the rates of cheating between identical twins who share all of their genes, and non-identical twins who do not, results revealed that 63% of the variation in infidelity in men and 40% in women could be attributed to genetics.
Brendan Zietsch is lead researcher from the University of Queensland in Australia, and has tried to determine why some people are more apt to cheat than others.
After completing the research, Brendan stated in a press release, “Isolating specific genes is more difficult because thousands of genes influence any behavior and the effect of any individual gene is tiny, but we did find tentative evidence for a specific gene influencing infidelity in women.”
Forty percent of the variation in promiscuous behavior in women could be attributed to genes.
So what does that mean for you and your partner, or a potential suitor that you’d like to stay faithful with?
Well, before you go out and have them tested for the placement of their vasopressin or oxytocin receptor genes, remember that correlation does not mean causation.
So what can we take away from these studies? Well, for one, we now know that, while it’s not acceptable in a monogamous relationship, cheating is sometimes unavoidable depending upon the participants involved.
And maybe we need to put less blame on the individual who cheats, and more blame on things such as genetics and our cultural environment.
After all, sexual monogamy is quite unusual in nature. In fact, humans are among the 3-5% of mammalian species that practice monogamy, along with the swift fox and beaver — but infidelity is common even in these species.
We can’t choose or control our genes, and there’s a reason why the best sex can often come from a situation of infidelity: seductive novelty.
With that said, unlike animals, we do follow social constructs and possess emotional responsibility that can allow us to make the right decisions for our partners and ourselves.
If a monogamous relationship is what we seek, or what we have signed up for, then we should follow through. Genetics and all.