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How rare it is, in this post-politically correct age of ours, to encounter a public figure who dares say what they think about unfaithful relationships. No wonder, then, that Edward Fox’s assertion that men are hopeless at being faithful has shocked so many.
Fox told Daily Mail: ‘In relationships, men wander naturally, and we cheat because we’re totally different creatures. Men need to . the field and spread their seed, whereas women don’t have that same biological urge — it’s not natural.’
Seemingly oblivious to the eggshells he was trampling on, he continued: ‘Because of that essential difference, women should be more understanding if their partner cheats — but it is very difficult for all women to be tolerant and patient and understanding.’
Very difficult indeed, judging by the furious response of the self-appointed sexism police, but Fox doesn’t give a fig.
‘Men are more animalistic than these metropolitan, so-called “civilised”, “good” people,’ he added, before concluding that he was relieved ‘not to be a young man today’.
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Given Fox’s age (78) many might dismiss his views as those of an old-fashioned roué who has no concept of how the modern world works. In reality they are the wise reflections of a man who’s seen it all and doesn’t care what you think.
The net result is a terrible confusion all round, with women having lots of sex they don’t particularly want but feel they ought to do because, well, that’s what emancipation is all about and, besides, the women’s mags told them to; and men having to do an awful lot of sympathetic listening and general empathising when all they really want is a quick fumble followed by a nice snooze.
Now, as well as misdirected feminism, we also have a new piece of idiot-think to deal with: the concept of so-called “gender fluidity”.
In a world where young people are being co-opted into believing that gender is less a biological imperative than a socio-political choice, Fox’s assertion of reality is as refreshing as a cool shower.
The fact is, most women aren’t as interested in sex as men. They may be to begin with, of course, and desire is by no means a male preserve.
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But once the responsibilities of career, children and goodness knows what else begin to weigh on them, sex seems always to be at the bottom of a never-ending to-do list.
This is because, as well as bearing many burdens, women have a much more complex relationship with their bodies than men. And it’s easy to see why: men don’t get ripped apart by childbirth, or subjected to monthly hormonal cycles, or sucked dry by the menopause.
Men’s bodies aren’t an emotional battleground in the same way that women’s are. They are fertile well into old age, and with reason: as far as nature’s concerned, the more genetic material they manage to propagate, the better it is for the survival of the species.
In the context of marriage, this naturally presents a problem. But then marriage was invented a long time ago, when life was brutish and short.
It was conceived as much to protect females from feckless impregnators – as a way of ensuring commitment to mother and child – as it was to bind women to domesticity.
It also tended not to last very long. Until the mid-half of the 20th century, incidences of maternal mortality were frighteningly high, as was the likelihood of famine, war or plague. The world was full of merry widows and widowers.
It’s only now, when we live well into our 80s in relatively good health, that couples face spending decades together. Marry now, and the expectation is that you will be together for the rest of your lives. And that could be a very long time indeed.
Modern marriage, then, has to be about much more than sex. It’s a longer game, two lives growing together, supporting one another through the vicissitudes of life.
There is only one type of infidelity no marriage can survive: that of the heart. Everything else can be fixed. That is why destroying an otherwise happy marriage because one partner has strayed is like tearing down a house because you can’t agree on the choice of wallpaper.
Because, when all is said and done and you’re both sipping gin and tonics against the advice of your doctor in your garden at the age of 90, will either of you care about some fleeting peccadillo?
Or will you bask in the satisfaction of a life lived to the full – together?
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