Is it equally, less, or more immoral for a husband/boyfriend to cheat on his wife/girlfriend than vice versa? Is ethics solely an exercise in logic or is there room for socio-psycho-evolutionary factors?

You have raised a question that goes to the heart of one of the most serious relationships: what is the moral role of fidelity and respect in terms of sexual relationships? For many of us in 'the west' the 'cheating' would be equally wrong for a male or female. Just as it would be equally wrong for a male or female to cheat in other areas of life to steal money from innocent children it would seem to be equally wrong for either to cheat on each other. But there are different social, cultural expectations that come into play in some places today that reflect an old, patriarchal bias that tends to look more strictly at cases of adultery or infidelity involving females rather than males. I suggest that there is no viable ethical or religious or evolutionary ground for this imbalance or unfairness today. So, while I suspect that any justification that gives greater allowance to the male is a reflection of distorted values, a perversion of a mature religion or simply bad anthropology, it should probably be conceded that there are some social contexts today in which male fidelity is regarded as especially noble, a reflection of good judgment involving greater, intentional resolve, than female fidelity, owing to the greater expectations and opportunities in some social contexts for males to violate their promises of fidelity. From my point of view, this is regrettable. TO BE CLEAR, I do not think it is regrettable that women do not have equal expectations and opportunities for infidelity as males have in such contexts! An ideal society, in my view, would not be one in which all couples of whatever gender are encouraged to form lasting commitments to fidelity and then encouraged to have optimal opportunities to betray each other in ever more tempting, exciting conditions! But...... allow me one more paragraph about the special bond of sexual fidelity and why one should treat male and female fidelity and infidelity in the same way, irregardless of whether one's society is sexist.

Consider two kinds of relationships: one in which persons are boyfriend and girlfriend, and the other involving marriage.... I imagine that in the first case there is sometimes an assumption of fidelity or monogamy but not a solemn vow and maybe at most a general agreement about honesty. I suggest that the dishonesty involved with cheating at that stage in life would be on the same level of seriously lying to one another --a likely element, presumably, in most cases of "cheating" otherwise why would we call it "cheating"? But once there is a solemn vow as in marriage or the equivalent it seems that there is a more grave wrong, requiring confession, repair, forgiveness, reconciliation, if the relationship is to survive and perhaps even in the best case even become stronger and deeper for both parties loving each other enough for there to be reconciliation. When one takes seriously the potential beauty or ugliness of how this intimate relationship, protected and bound by vows, is lived out, I suggest that the two parties are first and foremost equally answerable to each other and not to the social institutions and patters of life around them. So, in most cases of marriage, the vow of fidelity is made between the persons. For those of us in different religious traditions, the vows may be made "in the presence of God" or the families or communities, but these in many if not most are cases in which the vows are WITNESSED. For Christians, for example, there may be a prayer that God would bless the marriage and grant strength and grace for their flourishing, but the vows are made between the persons who marry. Thus, if I betray my husband, I am not betraying a vow to God or my family or community. I am betraying him. In this sense, I suggest that even in a sexist society that might grant more "freedom" to one gender or the other, "society" is not the thing that persons make vows to when joining together to form an intentional relationship. It is, I suggest, within that intentional relationship of the two persons who have made promises to one another that the morality or immorality of each other's actions, motives, desires, and intentions will be forged.

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