Sunday, July 05, 2009

Why Adulterers?

A number of individuals have, over time, expressed curiosity over my outspoken disapproval of adultery. My diatribes significantly precede the advent of Facebook. Back in college, I suggested a symposium on "The Virtues of Temperance and the Evils of Adultery." Back when I was in the Ph.D. program--in the days before strong computer security--I instituted a screen saver in the Department computer lab with the message "Adulterers are the scum of the Earth." Officially, the origin of that banner message was undisclosed, but some people probably had their suspicions. Unfortunately, zealous prudes are few and far between.

Most reasonably people would probably agree that adulterers are disgustingly sinful psychos, but a lot of reprehensible characters fall into that category, so that still leaves the question of why one would want to target adulterers with special zeal.

Cynics might suggest that having never been married, there is little risk in my targeting this group. There are, however, probably a large number of other scumbags I could target without running a risk of hypocrisy.

When first asked, I suggested that one reason for this target is that adulterers are likely to be so afraid of getting caught that they would be unlikely to raise suspicion by retaliating. That, of course, is a reassuring consideration, but hardly the whole story.

A more reasonable explanation might be that although I can intellectually absorb studies that show that a significant percentage of individuals commit adultery at least once during their lifetime, emotionally accepting that real people would do something so stupid in large numbers just doesn't happen. Yes, I know I am naive. If I didn't actually see a large number of people smoking, I would have difficulty believing that they would do something that stupid, too.

Studies have apparently found the incidence of adultery over a lifetime to run somewhere between 10-25% in the U.S. There is a question of as to the accuracy of these findings and, at the risk of stereotyping, rates are likely to be even higher in less morally conscious countries such as France. Some scumbags may deny their wrongdoing or attempt to come up with some rationalization why their contemptible transgressions are "not really" adulterous actions. Other individuals who are misguided enough to want to shock an interviewer or otherwise project a bad image--but not quite reprehensible enough to actually engage in this despicary--may falsely claim to have committed the transgression.

It is very difficult to understand why real people are willing to succumb to the temptation given the disastrous consequences that may result if they are caught. The fear of punishments keeps most people from engaging in various types of criminal activity. Why are the bozos in denial of the potential consequences of being caught engaging in philandery but not in denial of the likely punishment for counterfeiting, disturbing the peace, and murder?

Supposedly, there are only about thirty serial killers in action at any one time--not to say, of course, that those psychopaths can't do a lot of damage--but it is still a very small group. I am fully intellectually aware that the ranks of adulterers is much larger, but accepting this as "genuinely" true is another matter.

There is safety in attacking a largely non-existent group.