Why Cheating Claims, Proven or Not, Harm Women More Than Men

The double standards are real.
Photo/s: Proud Rad via Kylie Padilla Instagram

Former couple Aljur Abrenica and Kylie Padilla again became talk of the internet last week, when the ex-husband accused his ex-wife of cheating and that she was the first to be unfaithful.

As Abrenica flipped the narrative of the philandering husband, netizens proceeded with their usual sleuthing, coming up with possible theories on what really went down. Comments were more unforgiving than when news of his alleged cheating first broke. Some of the new comments even questioned Padilla's mothering capabilities.

"Men can't resist temptation," Padilla's own father previously went viral saying. But whatever went down between the two is supposedly their family's concern alone. What's worth discussing, however, is the public's renewed fascination over this entire fiasco now that it is Padilla, mother of the household, who is being accused. 

"..In my defense, while we were formally married, I never had any extra-marital relationships with other men. That is my truth," Padilla said in an interview that aired Sunday night, denying her estranged husband's claims. 

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“I’m angry kasi I’m raising my children. They don’t see that. Sobrang unfair, but you have to be strong in our society din," she said. 

ALSO READ: Marites Nation: Why Filipinos are so Invested in Celebrity Breakups

Double standards?

In his book, When Men Behave Badly: The Hidden Roots of Sexual Deception, Harassment, and Assault,” psychologist David Buss explored the underlying psychology of infidelity, explaining why men tend to get more of a free pass compared to women when it comes to infidelity or their having multiple sexual partners.

Throughout human history, Buss said men in power have managed to lay down parameters that give themselves more latitude for their promiscuity. When he founded the Mormon religion, Joseph Smith formalized polygamy, arguing that God wouldn’t have made women so enticing if he wanted to limit a man to just one woman.

Across the world, countries that permit polygamy have Muslim majorities, though the practice is rare in many of them, according to Pew Research Center. Often citing Prophet Muhammad, who had multiple wives, Muslim supporters of polygamy would refer to Quran verse 4:3, which instructs men to take as many wives as they can take care of (with a limit of four). 

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According to historians, polygamy was supposedly a system for women to be cared for, resulting from wars in Arabia in the seventh century when there were many widowed women and orphans requiring financial support. But nowadays, more and more Muslim women, even those not living in conflict, say they feel neglected and trapped in their polygamous setups. 

For society at large, a recent study of more than three dozen cultures found that women get criticized more for having casual sex and cheating on their parters, compared to men. This is true even for the most egalitarian countries, including the Philippines, which supposedly leads Asia in terms of closing the gender gap. 

Allegations of cheating, proven or not, have consequences

Cheating as an issue is interesting for many to begin with, understandably so in a country desperate for distraction from a raging pandemic that has taken the lives of so many people. But the possibility of Padilla as the one who committed it first seems to have made the matter more worthy of the attention, affirmative of society's harsh and inconsistent standards.

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Regardless of who commits it among genders, cheating is always a serious concern, especially between two individuals who once promised to exclusively spend the rest of their lives together. In October of 2020, the Supreme Court set an important precedent for matters of infidelity between married couples when it affirmed a man's jail sentence for inflicting "psychological violence" on his wife by having an extramarital affair.

He was convicted for having violated the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act, sentenced to a minimum of six months and one day in prison up to a maximum of eight years and one day. He was also ordered to pay a P100,000 fine and P25,000 for moral damages and was required to undergo mandatory psychological counselling or psychiatric treatment.

On social media, cheaters often receive backlash even from people they don't know once they get exposed. Even when the offense has yet to be proven. The public scrutiny can feel like a lifetime for anyone who has been on the receiving end of the vitriol. 

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"Siyempre, when we say 'cheated,' ang unang iniisip ng mga tao, nanlalaki. Talagang in their minds ginawa ko yun, and may mga blind item that said that," Padilla had said in her interview, reacting to the public's assumptions. 

“It’s really sad. Hindi naman ako puwedeng mag-complain kasi artista ako, e, and I’m on social media too... and my cryptic post. But tao lang tayong lahat so we gotta take what we get," she said.

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