Review of Women’s Infidelity and Women’s Infidelity 2 by Michelle Langley
Posted by Jew from Jersey
29 May 2022
Michelle Langley, in her two books published in 2005 and 2008, addresses aspects of women’s infidelity that had not been openly described or discussed much before. She published these books before the release of the OkCupid data and before the rise of the “manosphere” and more widespread discussion of these topics. It is notable, and probably not a coincidence, that Langley researched and wrote these books while she was not employed by any university or think tank and received no grant or award money for them. As she notes in the disclaimer, she has no credentials in any related field.
Langley notes that women initiate some 70-75% of divorces. You might think this is because their husbands prove unfaithful 70-75% of the time. But in what Langley paints as the typical case, it is the women who are unfaithful. Even so, their husbands are reluctant to divorce them. Langley interviewed some 200 cheating wives and cuckolded husbands and noticed striking similarities between their stories, despite the curious fact that every single one of these people thought their situation was unique in some inscrutable way. Langley is here to tell you it’s all painfully predictable. She stresses repeatedly that women are not naturally monogamous. Men are willfully blind to think their wives are incapable of infidelity. Often, the tell-tale signs are staring them straight in the face. In particular, she points out that a wife’s lack of interest in sex with her husband is just that, a lack of interest in sex with her husband. It is in no ways, as husbands love to assume, a lack of interest in sex with other men.
Langley notes that wives lose attraction for their husbands first (“stage 1”) and develop an interest in other men later (“stage 2”). Men tend to blame themselves for their wives’ behavior and wait patiently for the affairs to end. However, Langley notes that while wives prefer to remain married to their husbands during their initial extra-marital affairs (“stage 3”), they do not afterwards regain attraction for their husbands (“stage 4”), even when they remain married to them. Langley thinks that men are naturally more committed to marriage than women and usually love their wives. They are also afraid of losing their children in divorce court. These are the reasons why wives initiate 70-75% of divorces.
The typical picture Langley paints is one where women view marriage as a contest of selecting and securing a high-status man for a guaranteed “happily-ever-after” payoff. They accomplish this by catering to a man’s needs without any consideration of their own or the formation of any interpersonal bond. Once the man commits, the woman believes she has “won” and everything will magically fall into place. Instead, she finds herself catering to the needs of a man she’s not really interested in, which is unfulfilling, tiring, and ultimately humiliating. Her husband has no idea as to his wife’s state of mind because he can only see her impersonal catering behavior and this is all he knows of her and it appears to be what she wants. The wife is incapable of communicating honestly with her husband because telling him the truth would reveal her as a fraud. At the same time, her husband’s inability to figure her out causes her to become estranged from him and also to hold his cluelessness in contempt. She soon realizes she can easily cheat on him while also blaming him for it. According to Langley, it is not only the husband who cannot imagine his wife being capable of infidelity, but also the wife herself. She sees her affair not as evidence that she is not naturally monogamous after all, but as evidence that her husband was simply the “wrong” monogamous partner. This causes her to resent him still more. The same husband she was so proud to have landed a few years earlier is now a source of embarrassment for having unfairly kept her from her real true love.
Yet Langley says wives in this situation are still reluctant to divorce. They do not want their marriage exposed as a sham. They do not want anyone, including themselves, to get the idea they are not naturally monogamous. Instead, they hope to make the husband’s life so miserable that he will initiate divorce, leaving the wife’s reputation and self-image intact. When the husbands are slow to divorce, the wives behave ever more cruelly towards them.
It’s hard to question the facts. Besides being drawn from a large amount of data, they are also presented in compelling detail. And yet while it may all be very true, there is something glaringly missing from Langley’s analysis. The situation she describes, what she calls “limbo,” can last for years. This is in fact the situation manosphere bloggers describe as alpha fux, beta bux: one man for sex, the other for material needs. In fact, the husband is supplying not only material needs, but also social ones, call it: wears a tux. He allows her to continue to present herself to the world as a respectable married woman. But if all their needs are really being met, why do these women all tell Langley they’re so unhappy?
Langley says if the wife takes too long to initiate divorce, her husband will eventually give up on her ever returning to him. He will cease responding to her antics and make it clear that he no longer has any interest in her. At this point, in Langley’s words, the wife will “lose her f**king mind.” Considering that the wife resents her husband for not divorcing her already, why would she be upset when he finally does?
Strangely, there never seems to be any discussion of the boyfriend initiating any change to the status quo, perhaps taking an interest in the woman’s tortured state of mind or insisting that she divorce her husband. Apparently, this never happens. It seems to me obvious that what women want from men is not just fux and bux and a veneer of socially respectable tux, but for a man to take an interest in her state of mind and in particular to resolve her emotional dilemmas. This often means making decisions for her. The woman in “limbo” as described by Langley seemingly has two men to choose from for her needs, yet neither one takes an interest in her mental anguish or does anything to resolve it. No wonder she’s miserable. Langley has already stated that the husband’s inability to notice his wife’s true state of mind causes her to disdain him. Yet her boyfriend, whom she will often describe as her “soulmate,” does no better on this count. Perhaps her own indecision is an indication that this is one choice that women need a man to make for them or else it is meaningless.
Langley is ahead of the curve in many ways. She does say that it is really women who choose men and not the other way around. But she is so committed to egalitarian assumptions that she often ends up contradicting her own observations. She certainly never entertains the possibility that a woman wants a man who will validate her decisions or resolve her dilemmas without being asked and that this is the reason women lose their minds when their husbands finally give up on them. The husband’s final decision indicates that he has in the end understood her and has acted accordingly. This is the one act of love the “soulmate” boyfriend never performs.
Langley’s egalitarianist imperative requires her to attribute observed differences between men and women to “society” and “double standards” that she wishes to abolish. Yet she later ends up resurrecting many of these social conventions in softer new-agey forms. She bemoans the shaming of married women who have affairs. Instead, she wants women to understand their true selves, so that they realize that affairs are harmful. Her first book is full of diatribes against sexual morality, while her second book is full of quotes from self-help gurus seeking a yoga-like enlightenment that will allow the individual to avoid these same pitfalls.
Langley insists women want sex just like men. Yet her own findings are some of the best evidence that women want sex very differently than men. No matter how much sex women may want, they are very particular about whom they want it with. After all, none of the women she talked to wanted sex with their own husbands. Langley insists women are non-monogamous, just like men. She never considers the possibility that women may be non-monogamous in a way that is markedly different from the way men are non-monogamous. To borrow terms from electrical engineering: women are non-monogamous in series, while men are non-monogamous in parallel. Accordingly, women’s mistaken belief that they are naturally monogamous may not be due solely to “society,” but to their own serial way of seeing love interests one at a time. Remember that “stage 1” (loss of interest in husband) precedes “stage 2” (interest in other men).
Langley also insists that women require sexual variety just like men. She explicitly denies that cheating wives are in fact seeking a higher quality man than their husbands. To keep things even all around, she even claims that cheating husbands develop an aversion to their wives just like the aversion cheating wives have for their husbands. However, she later observes that cheating husbands, if forced to choose, will choose their wives but that cheating wives, if forced to choose, will choose their boyfriends. What does that tell you about who is seeking quantity and who is seeking quality? Luckily for the reader, Langley the activist never manages to subdue Langley the scientist.
In the same egalitarian vein, Langley does not like the idea that women are more sexually selective than men, even though this is a logical corollary to her observation that women are the choosers. To make the case that women are not so selective, she points out that it is much more difficult for women to obtain sex than men assume. But surely this is precisely because women are being much more selective in the first place. Women will also stand before a wardrobe full of clothes and insist they have nothing to wear.
Langley insists that women want orgasms, just like men. She sees, correctly, that the reason women so often don’t have orgasms, especially when they are young, is that they are not pursuing men for their own pleasure, but as a game to see if they can secure commitment. Conversely, men pursue women for pleasure and seek to avoid commitment. Langley thinks that if only women demanded orgasms as a precondition for sex, men would be forced to treat them better. She encourages women to do this from a young age and demands they not be shamed for it. But once again, her demands are at odds with her own observations. Men are guaranteed an orgasm during sex, while as Langley herself describes in detail, with women it is always something of a gamble. It is precisely what no one is ever in a position to guarantee as a precondition. She also admits that orgasms are not as important for younger women. While Langley presents herself as the savior of young women, delivering them from shame and lack of pleasure, she’s actually setting them up for failure and humiliation.
Securing some kind of commitment is a way for a woman to indemnify herself from the risk of failure inherent in her quest for orgasms. It is the next best thing to having a precondition for something that cannot be preconditioned. There is also the fact that securing things from men is something young women are just so damn good at. It is their strong suit. Young girls are not as good at orgasms as older women, but they are much better at securing commitment because they are more attractive and more fertile. Since the time these books were written, young women have indeed transitioned away from attempting to secure marriage or long-term relationships from men, but they still focus on leveraging their sexuality to extract other forms of commitment, such as money, goods and services, or attention and status. Young women are really good at this kind of thing, older women — not so much.
Langley claims women are in their “sexual prime” in their 30s, as measured by testosterone levels, pursuit of more aggressive sex, and enjoyment of orgasms, especially vaginal as opposed to clitoral orgasms. In this context, she also stresses women’s universal preference for large penises. But as measured by their attractiveness and fertility, women in their 30s are most certainly not in their “prime.” They are about ten years past it and on the verge of a precipitous decline. Considered in this light, the reason for their sudden burst of aggression to pursue vaginal orgasms is understandable. They cannot expect to attract high quality men as easily as the young girls can, nor can they have the same expectations of tribute or commitment from such men. It is also a lot more difficult for them to get pregnant and this may explain their increased interest in vaginal orgasms and penis size: a large penis can deposit semen directly to the cervix of the uterus and a vaginal orgasm is a good rough estimate of whether this has occurred.
The focus on the bigger penis is also additional evidence that women don’t just want men who are different from their husbands, but who are measurably better in some way. A smaller penis is just as “different” as a larger one, but a woman is not going to be attracted to another man because she heard he has a small penis. The bigger penis is also synecdoche for the bigger man. The older women have far fewer potential births left to them, so they’re going for the highest quality genetic material as their top priority. This may also explain their aversion to their husbands. It’s a sort of safety mechanism to ensure they don’t waste that precious last baby on him. So it is not so much equality of the genders that Langley is effectively advocating here, but equality of competition between older and younger women. She is essentially demanding that young women give up their natural advantages (ability to attract men and extract commitment and other favors from them) and instead play the older women’s game (chasing vaginal orgasms), thus leveling the playing field for the older women in the competition for desirable men.
And of course the double standard most offensive to the egalitarian mind is the social convention by which a high number of sexual partners devalues a woman, but not a man. Langley sees evidence of society’s evil designs in the myth that sex with too many partners will “stretch out” a woman’s vagina so that she can no longer enjoy sex. But, just as the large penis is synecdoche for the larger man, so too is discussion of vaginas getting “stretched out” synecdoche for women’s souls getting “stretched out.” Langley believes that women have traditionally been pressured to keep the number of their male sex partners low so that they have little basis of comparison to see their husbands in a negative light. This is almost certainly true! — but think about that logically for a moment... If women with more sexual experience are less likely to see a future husband in a positive light, then men are being entirely rational when they disprefer such women as marriage prospects. Once again, Langley the scientist is Langley the activist’s worst enemy.
If a woman can form a bond with her husband before her 30s and before she has compared him with too many other men, she might experience the aforementioned burst of sexual aggression in her 30s as a desire for vaginal orgasms with him, and perhaps one last love baby with him. Social conventions or no social conventions, wouldn’t a woman be happier this way than having to go through all that “limbo” crap? And if you really want to get to the bottom of the “double standard,” the question to ask is not why men prefer to marry women who have less of a sexual history. Langley herself has demonstrated that men are in fact acting rationally in that regard. The question should be: why do women not likewise prefer to marry men who have less of a sexual history? But somehow the “double standard” is always presented the other way around.
Since Langley assumes that most differences between men and women are socially conditioned, she predicts that if social conventions are eliminated, relations between the sexes will become more egalitarian. In particular, she wants men to “have to compete the way women compete for men,” to “put a whole lot of work into competing for women just like women have for years ensured their support and survival by competing for men.” It’s downright obtuse that she doesn’t seem to consider that men had to put in quite a lot of work to be in a position to offer that “support and survival.” It’s also a classic example of the apex fallacy. Women are not really competing for “men,” but for the same very small select subset of men they find desirable. So much of women’s writing consists of blaming “society” for what is a mathematically guaranteed outcome of women’s own pickiness and near uniformity of preferences when it comes to mate selection.
Men are never going to compete like this because they are so much less selective than women are, for both short and long-term purposes. If you truly want men to have to compete for women “just like women have,” the way to do this would be to convince men to be more selective, say, by refusing to consort with women who are overweight, have tattoos, are single mothers, etc. This would decrease the pool of women available to them, and they would have to compete for those women. But no woman has ever advocated for men to be more selective, they all want men to be less selective.
In fact, men compete quite a lot, too, but it is in a way very different to how women compete. Men’s competition is thus invisible to women like Langley who assume similarities by default. First, men compete for access to women. This is unimaginable to women because their competition is never for access. Men, even good-looking, smart, accomplished ones, often have trouble gaining access to any women at all. The most beautiful, smart, gifted woman may have trouble obtaining access to the man she wants, but even the ugliest, stupidest, most worthless woman can get access to some man.
Second, men who have access to women compete to monopolize the women, like a winners’ game in poker. Here, once again, Langley the scientist bludgeons Langley the activist and leaves her for dead. She cites an anecdote concerning nine married couples. One man was known to have a large penis, so six of the other eight wives had sex with him. She holds this up as a model of what happens when men and women must compete on an equal footing. It doesn’t seem to occur to her that this is actually a perfect example of harem-building. It is anything but egalitarian. The women “compete” to have sex with the same woman’s husband, while the men compete to have sex with all the wives.
The more egalitarian model was actually the old one-man, one-woman model that Langley and women in general do not like. She quotes disapprovingly from a book written before the Sexual Revolution that encouraged wives to pursue adventurous sex with their husbands and not to worry if their husbands were aroused by other women. And once again, the best case against Langley's advocacy comes from Langley’s own evidence. She reports that many of the wives she interviewed made their husbands lower their gaze in public. But these same wives had no respect for these husbands, had ceased having sex with them, and pursued with other men the adventurous sex they refused at home. So maybe the advice in that old book actually made some sense? But Langley is incensed by it because it is asymmetrical. Presumably she thinks it is unfair to ask wives to accept their husbands looking at other women without also requiring husbands to accept their wives looking at other men. But her own research found that women only looked at other men after they had stopped looking at their husbands and were disgusted by them. So husbands are actually being rational when they become alarmed at their wives looking at other men. They recognize this as evidence that the wife has lost interest in them. Note that the older book is only telling wives to acquiesce to their husbands looking at other women, not sleeping with other women. Those authors recognized that men are capable of being aroused by multiple women in parallel, and were telling women not to overinterpret this to mean that their husbands had lost interest in them. It seems those authors were pretty smart. They not only recognized how men and women were different, but anticipated that women would naturally assume men and women were the same.
And why is Langley so indignant over the advice to women to seek adventurous sex with their husbands? Isn’t this what Langley herself advocates when she tells women not to marry under false pretenses of being a “good girl” and to make their orgasms a priority? In a way, the authors of that book were more ahead of the game than she was, but she cannot acknowledge that because it would require acknowledging certain inherent differences between the genders.
One gender difference that Langley is willing to ascribe to something innate is men’s “insecurity” with paternity. She proposes DNA testing as a solution, failing to grasp the existential nature of sexual desire and the procreational imperative inherent in it. Sexual desire is the reflection of who you want to be the parent of your progeny into the next generations, the only mark your life will leave on the world after you are gone. This is not an insecurity that can be allayed by a doctor’s note. Men are in no way more likely to accept their wives’ infidelity just because the DNA test shows the children are theirs. To use the author’s favorite device of switching the genders and asking how it feels: If a man is widely known to have slept with every woman in the neighborhood, would his wife really be consoled to learn that none of the neighborhood children matched her husband’s DNA?
It doesn’t seem to occur to Langley that paternity is the driving force behind women’s sexual desire as well, and in particular a large motivation for women’s infidelity. If a woman has sex outside of marriage, it is precisely because she prefers the other man as a potential father to future children. In all public discussions of DNA testing, it is always women who object the loudest. They tend to see it as the last advantage nature gave them being stripped away by cruel scientists. In the years since these books were written, this has not changed. Of late, what we hear instead are demands that husbands should cease to care who the fathers of their wives’ children are.