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Of Home-Wreckers and Husband-Stealers: Why Is It Always the Woman’s Fault?

December 17, 2010

Dexter actor Michael C. Hall and his wife, Jennifer Carpenter, are divorcing.  The first question the media required itself to ask is, of course, who was the hussy who broke up the marriage?  No hard evidence yet?  No problem!  Just name the woman who worked most closely with Hall, or Julia Stiles, then say she was “the target of rumors she was a ‘third party’ in the breakup.”  People magazine gets cover by stating it as rumor (also known as the “we have to talk about it because people are talking about it” excuse used to disseminate often-false but ratings-gold innuendo), and Stiles gets to have millions of people who don’t know her think she’s a low-down, dirty, man-thieving Jolene.

In the same vein, “reports” have surfaced that infidelity “may have been” at the root of the recent breakup of People’s 2010 Sexiest Man Alive Ryan Reynolds and FHM’s 2006 Sexiest Woman Alive Scarlett Johansson.  The vile temptress potentially at fault here is Reynolds’ Green Lantern co-star Blake Lively, a gorgeous, busty young mostly-blonde who may have taken him from his gorgeous, busty young sometimes-blonde wife.  Or may not have.  “May not have” doesn’t sell papers or get hits, though, and blaming a guy who seems really nice and down-to-earth and safe People-sexy is just depressing.  It’s easier to bring a Gossip Girl into the mix.

The most high-profile scandalous break-up in the past year or so, besides the Tiger Woods Affairs, is probably the LeAnn Rimes divorce.  I mention only her because honestly, if you don’t obsessively read pop culture news like we do, can you name the other three people involved?  Can you even name the guy she supposedly “stole” from his wife?  (Synopsis: country singer LeAnn Rimes and actor Eddie Cibrian supposedly began an affair on the set of Northern Lights.  Rimes divorced Dean Sheremet, Cibrian divorced Brandi Glanville; and Rimes and Cibrian have been together ever since.)  The astute TBTS reader might think, “Hmm, sounds like Cibrian may have had a part in this, too.”  Well, Shape magazine Editor-In-Chief Valerie Latona disagrees with you.  She sent this missive to readers explaining the “mistake” of putting a bikinied Rimes on the cover of Shape:

“Please know that our putting her on the cover was not meant to put a husband-stealer on a pedestal, but to show (through her story) how we all are human. And this woman in particular found strength in exercise in what she said was her most difficult personal moment.”

It’s hard to see that as even a back-handed compliment, but “husband-stealer”?  First, to steal is to take something without the owner’s permission.  No one owns Eddie Cibrian, not even (obviously) his wife.  He appears to be human, and thus probably has free will.  As such, Eddie Cibrian was likely very much involved in his own “stealing” from his wife.  To paraphrase my first and probably last comment to Shape, it is highly unlikely that he innocently accepted a strange-smelling drink from Rimes, then hours later woke up dazed with his dick in her; then, repulsed by the fracture of his marital covenant, he decided to continue down this dark path with his seductress so as not to further sully the honor of his former bride.

Yet, somehow, Rimes has taken almost all of the blame.  Maybe that’s because the woman is, for whatever reason, often seen as the aggressor.  If initiative is the issue, one would expect that if the tables were turned—a guy “steals” a woman from her husband—the “other man” would feel the wrath of public opinion, right?  Ask Meg Ryan, America’s pre-Julia Roberts sweetheart who was “stolen” from Dennis Quaid by Russell Crowe, how that worked out.  Her reputation has never recovered, while Crowe has starred in seemingly every epic film since 2000.

Maybe it’s that society still refuses to accept or try to understand that the female sexual appetite is very similar to men’s—too similar, in fact, for a lot of people’s comfort.  Maybe it’s that men are still seen as being virtually powerless against their own libidos, while women are expected to have unfailing control over their sexual impulses.  More likely, a host of psychological, sociological, cultural, political, and perhaps even physical (but see “Will, Free” earlier) factors combine to explain this phenomenon, much better explored in academic journals than here.

The appropriateness or in- of a woman, married or not, pursuing a married man is not the issue here.  I find more interesting the fact that in matters of infidelity, the woman catches most of the hell.  (Please recall an obscure incident years ago that involved people named Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie.)  When it comes to matters of love and sex, I have found few truer sayings than these: 1) Only two people—at most—know what’s going on in a relationship; and 2) It takes two to tango.

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5 Comments
  1. December 17, 2010 8:57 pm

    I guess you missed the interviews some months ago where ol’ Meg finally came out and admitted that she’d kept quiet and let Russell take the blame for breaking up her marriage. She said the marriage was effectively over when Russell came along but when the tabloids began blasting him as a home-wrecker, she never spoke up…not until years and years later. He never said a thing against her for that, that she’d let him take all the blame for something that wasn’t even so. And he WAS blamed. He didn’t get away with it. He was crucified in the press. I think your argument, thusly, is entirely full of holes.

  2. Shella permalink
    December 18, 2010 3:34 am

    Get your facts straight re: Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid, Matt. Quaid is the one who cheated on Ryan for many years, before she finally kicked mister Serial Cheater Quaid to the curb and shacked up with way hotter Russell Crowe.

    Miss Ryan’s career decline has nothing to do with her private life, that is very obvious. Picking bad movies and inflating her lips did.

    The real nasty person in this story is mister Quaid. Who never once has owned up to his cheating ways, instead allowing the media to blame his ex-wife wrongfully for their divorce. instead, he walked away clear while his ex and Crowe got blamed by the media. WRONG WRONG WRONG.

  3. Shella permalink
    December 18, 2010 3:39 am

    But you are right about one thing: it’s always the women who get blamed when it’s the men who cheat. I think it is because a lot of women are so scared their husbands will cheat, they will automatically blame the other women. That way they don’t have to think about the fact that their husbands are the ones who cheat. Women should stick together, instead, they blame eachother for the wrongdoings of their husbands. Really silly.

  4. Brolga permalink
    December 18, 2010 4:06 am

    It was actually Ms. Ryan who went after Mr. Crowe after living a lie in a loveless marriage to Mr. Quaid for quite some time. As Jo so rightly commented, Mr. Crowe took all the flak, not once letting slip that Ms. Ryan wasn’t ‘stolen’ away from anyone.
    It took a long time for the press to ‘forgive’ Mr. Crowe, and thankfully it didn’t harm his acreer in the long run. As for Ms. Ryan…has anyone stopped to think that she just doesn’t have the talen to survive in the business, unless she sticks to rom-com, which she can get away with.

  5. Joy Joyful permalink
    December 18, 2010 10:25 am

    First of all, Merry Christmas or Happy Chanukah, and a Joyous New Year. I wish that accurate facts about Russell Crowe would be reported by the Media. First of all, Russell did not “break up” or “steal” Meg Ryan from her husband Dennis Quaid. She was separated from him, but either that fact was not reported to the Media or the Media chose to ignore it because Meg Ryan was “America’s Sweetheart”. Meg, herself, finally admitted that Russell did not break up her marriage because she and her husband, Dennis Quaid, already were estranged and separated. Russell Crowe was the consummate gentleman because he took the “heat” without once telling the media that Meg Ryan was separated from her husband, or making a single disparaging remark about Meg Ryan during the time he was being dubbed “a Hollywood Bad Boy,” or “a wife stealer,” or “the breaker up of a Hollywood marriage.” I no longer am an avid consumer of reports about other Hollywood Celebs. If the reports about them are as inaccurate as they are about Russell Crowe, then we fans are reading a lot of misinformation. As a retired Journalist, I remember that a Journalist’s Code of Ethics demanded that we”get the facts straight,” and that we “verified the facts” before printing an item or an article. How I wish this Code of Ethics was being applied in the 21st Century Media. Thank you for soliciting comments and reading these comments. Joy

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