Correlates of Extramarital Sex Norms

Norms regarding extramarital sex for women may be so overwhelmingly restrictive because husbands wish to avoid having their wives become pregnant by some other man. Unless a man then divorces such a wife, he will be investing time, energy, and resources in a child who is not genetically his own, a situation that evolutionary theory predicts men will vigorously attempt to avoid. In fact, infidelity is a very common reason for divorce across cultures and men are far more likely than a women to seek divorce from an unfaithful spouse (Broude, 1994).

Often, societies view infidelity on the part of a wife as an infringement of the property rights of the husband. For instance, the Wogeo of New Guinea say that a man who engages in extramarital sex with someone else's wife is "the same as a thief." Similarly, a woman who has sexual relations with a married man is a "receiver of stolen goods" (Hogbin, 1970).

Norms of extramarital sex are predictably related to other sexual beliefs and practices. Restrictive rules regarding extramarital sex for wives are associated with restrictive attitudes toward premarital sex for girls, restrictions on talk about sex, the belief that too much sex is undesirable, the belief that sex is dangerous, condemnation and punishment of homosexuality, and male boasting about sex and other exploits (Broude, 1975).

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