Philip Weiss is an investigative journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Esquire, and Harper's. A controversial 2008 article, "The Affairs of Men," published in New York magazine, sought to explain why so many men pursue sexual variety. Weiss also writes the Anti-Zionism blog, Mondoweiss. He is the author of American Taboo: A Murder In The Peace Corps, and he's working on a novel.
Question: Will you cheat on your spouse?
Weiss: Well, Erick Janssen, who is a sex researcher at Kinsey, has tried to come up with a model to predict who will cheat and who won’t and so the two important variables in his sort of matrix of infidelity are first your sensitivity to arousal, and there is a wide range of how easily aroused people are. And he does a test where he asks you, “If you touch a stranger at a party or brush against a stranger who you find attractive do you become aroused? If you make eye contact with her do you- or him do you become aroused?” And these questions are- select out those people who are much more sensitive to sexual stimuli and I guess my sense is from his numbers that it’s probably around 40% of the pool who answer yes a lot, that it kind of distributes itself. Now within that group of people who are easily sexually-- So these are your candidates in a way for infidelity and for whom sex is kind of- they’re more in the water. They’re just-- It’s-- They’re more subject to sexual messages, signals and arousal and then- but within that group you have-- I guess it maybe splits half and half of people who have a good brake pedal. These are all people who have a strong gas pedal, who easily- a very sensitive gas pedal, but within that group some people are more easily able to govern that response and he seeks that group by asking such questions as, “If you are having sex with someone in a public place and someone else comes along are you- does that cause you to become apprehensive and stop having sex?” And for myself that question-- It’s a nice fantasy to have. It wouldn’t bother me if someone came along or- it wouldn’t stop me and I think he asks a number of questions like that which are determined to how much you would stop yourself and how much of- how much risk would keep you from following through on sexual behavior. So the people who- the sort of 20% of his model who have a strong sexual response and don’t sort of banish some of the risks and fears about it those are the people who are most prone to have- to cheat in their marriages.
Recorded on: 6/10/08