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The most surprising part of a new survey on adultery

Is it worse when men or women cheat?

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Zoë Petersen, Deseret News

This article was first published in the State of Faith newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Monday night.

If you’re like most Americans, you believe extramarital affairs are morally wrong. But would you say it’s worse for a husband to cheat than a wife?

Until very recently, I assumed the gender of the cheater wouldn’t sway public opinion. But then I saw the results of a new poll on marital infidelity from the Survey Center on American Life.

To my surprise, researchers found that the share of Americans who say adultery is “morally wrong” changes depending on whether the spouse who strays is male or female.

“Roughly two-thirds (66%) of Americans say that when a man has an affair it is always morally wrong. Fewer Americans (55%) say it is always morally wrong when a woman has an extramarital affair,” the Survey Center on American Life reported.

This “moral double standard,” as the researchers called it, was especially pronounced among women.

“Seventy percent of women say that a married man who has an affair is always morally wrong, while fewer (56%) say the same when married women have relationships outside their marriage,” the report said.

The gap grows even larger if you look only at responses from young women. Then it’s 73% (always wrong for men) versus 51% (always wrong for women.)

“The double standard among older women is not nearly as large,” researchers noted.

The Survey Center on American Life didn’t offer any theories as to why people view male cheaters differently than female cheaters, and I’d hate to hazard an uneducated guess. But even without a clear explanation, I find the data fascinating, since it shows that moral beliefs really do shift based on context.

Or, as the researchers put it: “Our moral judgments are often conditional in ways we might not always predict.”


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Place of the week: Palafoxiana Library

Palafoxiana Library in Puebla, Mexico, is the oldest public library in the Americas, according to UNESCO. The Associated Press recently paid it a visit and studied its religious roots.

“The library owes its existence to one of Puebla’s early Catholic bishops, Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, who in 1646 donated his private library of 5,000 volumes to a local religious college — with the hope that anyone who knew how to read would have access to them. In 1773, more than a century after Palafox’s death, the bishop of that era ordered the construction of a majestic library to house the collection,” The Associated Press reported.

The article pointed out that tourists hoping to see the library might get a little confused when they first walk in. Its vaulted ceiling and the Virgin Mary portrait near the entrance make it seem more like a chapel than an academic space.


What I’m reading ...

The Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from Dylann Roof, who killed nine people in 2015 during an attack on a Bible study at a Charleston church. Roof had argued that it wasn’t fair for him to have to represent himself during the sentencing phase of his trial, according to Reuters. (He had fired his attorney team after he learned they could present evidence of mental health challenges against his will.)

Being bored is a “morally perilous situation,” according to one boredom scholar, who recently spoke with Christianity Today. And, unfortunately, most people respond to it in ways that harm, rather than help, them.

An Indiana judge on Friday considered a religious freedom challenge to Indiana’s abortion restrictions. Those restrictions are already on hold because of a separate lawsuit, according to ABC News.

Tricia Hersey, better known as the “Nap Bishop,” is building a movement around a shared passion for the “divine right to rest.” “She urges followers to use time they might otherwise devote to extra work to sleeping instead, the stretches they’d spend staring at a screen to staring into space,” The New York Times reports.


Odds and ends

My newsletter editor, Ginny Romney, is a chocolate connoisseur. And now she’s launching a newsletter about chocolate to share her wisdom with all of us! Subscribe to learn more about this beloved sweet treat.

Ahead of the midterm elections, Nate Cohn, a political analyst for The New York Times, answered a reader question about who answers phone calls from pollsters. I was shocked by this stat: “In the poll we have in the field right now, only 0.4% of dials have yielded a completed interview. If you were employed as one of our interviewers at a call center, you would have to dial numbers for two hours to get a single completed interview.” Cohn’s piece helps explain why phone-based surveys are being phased out in favor of online surveys.