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The Naked Truth The Sexual Health Blog

Cheating: a matter of personality?

August 25th, 2011 by Mitchell Tepper, PhD, MPH

What causes infidelity? The Kinsey Institute has some answers...

How sexual personality traits influence infidelity


Many of us are still a little dumbfounded about why Arnold Schwarzenegger would have an affair with his housekeeper while married to the likes of Maria Shriver. A new study by researchers at Indiana University, The Kinsey Institute and the University of Guelph, sheds some light on the topic by taking a first look at the influence of sexual personality traits on infidelity.

Sexual excitement + inhibition = infidelity
Research findings are based on a larger study on the Dual Control Model of Sexual Response, which suggests that sexual desire, arousal and associated behaviors (e.g., infidelity) rely on a balance between sexual excitement and inhibition. Bottom line, low sexual inhibition, especially in combination with a high degree of excitement, contributes to sexual infidelity among both men and women.

Additionally, people who said they were in a monogamous relationship were more likely to report cheating on their partner (i.e., any sexual activity that might jeopardize the primary relationship) when they also experienced one of the following:

  • Sexual performance anxiety (interestingly, because there may be less pressure to impress outside the primary, emotional commitment)
  • Willingness to take sexual risks without fear of potential consequences (sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, getting caught, etc.)
  • Low chance of losing or diminishing sexual arousal in the face of risk or danger.

So one could make the argument that Schwarzenegger ⎼ a powerful, aggressive man with a strong sex drive and who enjoys a thrill ⎼ probably wouldn’t end up being a poster boy for monogamy.

Reasons for cheating by gender
According to the study, reasons for going outside the primary relationship for sex differ by gender. For men, how easily they become sexually aroused plays a bigger role in infidelity than it does among women; for women, an unhappy relationship and sexual incompatibility with their partner are more likely predictors of infidelity.

What about being “in the mood” for sex?
In the study, both men and women who said that mood influences infidelity were also more likely to report cheating on their partner. The authors suggest that, for some people, the urge to cheat may be fueled by a desire to relieve a negative mood or emotion; for others, positive moods (e.g., happy anticipation) may lead to feelings of being invincible and invulnerable to negative consequences (like getting caught, or contracting an STD).

These findings, while not earth shattering, provide a deeper insight into how we think about infidelity, and the challenges of monogamy.

Related info:

Photo: Flickr user schumigirl1956, CC2.0

One comment on “Cheating: a matter of personality?

  1. Pingback: Cheating: a matter of personality? : Mitchell Tepper, Ph.D., M.P.H.

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