Trigger Warnings

Some of my posts deal with rape and that means that bits of this blog may be triggering.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Male politicians and their secret affairs

So here we have another male politician (Francois Holland) who has been having an affair and the call goes up that it's his business, it's his private life, everyone has a right to a private life and move along, there's nothing to see here, the way a man treats the woman he lives with gives us no clue at all as to his character, values or political competence.

This is a very convenient narrative for abusive men.  Because let us be quite clear here, with very few exceptions, men who have long term affairs are abusing their partners.  I'm not talking about drunken one night mistakes, I'm not talking about exit affairs where both partners know the relationship is nearing its end, life's not black and white yadayadayada but some generalisations are legitimate and I'm talking about affairs entered into while pretending to be fully engaged in a monogamous relationship.

In order to conduct a long term affair successfully, the man who is having it, will need to do a lot of lying.  He will need to brush away his partner's uneasy feeling that he is emotionally not present; he will need to deny the reality of her feelings; she will know something is wrong, she will know he's pre-occupied with something outside their domestic and emotional life and she will try to access that.  She will be asking him if anything is wrong, if he is worried about something, if he's over-worked, she'll be offering him support, a shoulder to cry on, companionship, she'll be anxious about him, concerned that he's worried about something he's not telling her - and all the time, he'll be insisting that nothing is wrong, leaving her questioning herself, sometimes getting angry with her for "nagging" him. It's a form of gas-lighting, it's emotionally abusive and if it were any other form of abuse the assertion that it is totally irrelevant to politics would be challenged more robustly.

One of the great successes abusive men have had, is to get it widely accepted that disloyalty to their female partners, tells us nothing about their character and values.  This is of course, because disloyalty to women simply isn't in the same class as disloyalty to real people, men.  When men experience sexual betrayed, they know exactly how awful it is, so much so that in every single patriarchal society that has ever been, they have protected themselves from the pain and indignity of it by wreaking such horrific vengeance on women when they undertook it, that women were hugely disincentivised from engaging in sexual infidelity, or if they were brave enough to break the rules anyway, the punishment would be dreadful enough for men to feel that they had punished their chattels sufficiently.

The penalty for women's sexual infidelity has at one time or another been death (it still is in countries where women are stoned to death if they transgress the sexual rules). In England in the middle ages, to be unfaithful to your husband was Petty Treason (because you were not simply upsetting your husband, you were rebelling against the social order by not knuckling down to the obedience due to a husband from his wife) and therefore punishable by burning to death.  That's how seriously men took sexual infidelity.  As some of the more barbaric punishments were abandoned in Europe, social ostracism and the loss of ones children replaced the death penalty. But for a man sexually betraying a woman, there was no punishment and in fact, no crime.

The idea that in their personal lives, men's behaviour towards the women they live with shows us nothing about them, goes right back to that idea that women are not really full human beings and that therefore, it is unfair to make assumptions about the character of a man based on how he treats the woman he lives with.    No amount of pain or outrage suffered by a betrayed woman, is relevant. Only by how he treats other men or people in general, is it considered legitimate to draw conclusions about what a man is like.

So stop thinking it matters what men do with women in their private lives.  The personal isn't political, because if it were a whole load of men in public life would be without a career and where would we all be then?


  1. Thank you so much for this post. Being cheated on and lied to and betrayed repeatedly certainly feels like abuse and gaslighting--especially when it's done basically right in front of your face and you're told that you're overreacting and it's nothing but even if it was something it would be your fault anyway because you aren't loving enough--but nobody seems to treat it that way. Hurting a woman is treated like a private, personal thing that we're all just supposed to overlook about a man. I'm so sick of it. I'm sick of people telling me not to judge men who cheat and lie to women and people treating me like what my ex husband did to me was just fair game.

    I wasted so much time thinking it was my fault that he cheated or thinking that I was the bad person for judging his friends who treated women like garbage.

  2. Before the advent of the pill, and DNA testing, the results of a woman cheating was potentially bringing a baby home that is not the husband's. And the husband had no way to find out for sure.

    Never in history would a man bring his extramarital lover's offspring home to deceive his wife that she is the mother.

    Things are not always equal.

    Nowadays, women find it unfair if a DNA test can prove their infidelity. Thus DNA testing by men without the woman's consent is criminalized in Britain, Germany, ...

    1. Women were murdered by men even if they hadn't had children as a result of extra marital affairs. So it wasn't the resulting children that was the problem, otherwise the death penalty and the social ostracism would have been confined to those women who had had children as a result of their infidelity. HTH.