Reverse Hypocricy

I’ve been following Desperate Housewives, and it occurred to me; there is a completely different set of standards for women cheating than men.

What, you ask, it took me two seasons to realise this? Not exactly. The point I’m making is that in DH the men are expected to adhere to a much higher standard than the women.

When Gabrielle has an affair with their gardener, husband Carlos forgives her. Takes him a bit of time to trust her again, but he forgives her. When Carlos has an affair with their maid/surrogate mother, she throws him out of the house. Keeps the maid, though; who else is going to mend her couture dresses?

Hypocritical, anyone? It gets better.

When Lynette and Tom Scavo hire a nanny, an attractive twenty-something who Tom accidentally sees naked (her fault; she was strolling around the house not realising someone was there). Excited, Tom runs off to make love to Lynette. When Lynette works this out, she and Tom have a blue and the result is the nanny gets fired. I thought that was fair enough; I wouldn’t want someone living with bf and I who bf was attracted to, and I would hope the same applied to him. But in light of the Gabrielle-and-Carlos storyline, a pattern seems to be emerging.

Women can sleep around, men can’t.

The exception to this rule is Bree’s husband, Rex. But Rex dies a rather painful, lonely death, so he well and truly got his comeuppance.

I wonder if Marc Cherry has taken the existing stereotype – that men have much higher libidos and therefore are more entitled to play around while their chaste wives wait patiently at home – and deliberately and gleefully turned it on its head. The women expect fidelity from their husbands, are outraged at the merest hint of playing around, yet Gabrielle’s affair is largely blamed on Carlos’s emotional neglect, and Gabby, in turn, throws Carlos out when she finds him screwing the maid.

(Incidentally, after one partner has cheated, is it as big a thing when the other does? Is there a line which, once crossed, doesn’t have nearly the same impact being crossed again?)

I don’t think Cherry is that far-sighted or satirical. But the main reason this show interests me is its take on fidelity. Susan threw Carl out after one indiscretion (that she knew about, anyway). Bree tolerated Rex only for the sake of his health. Lynette threw the book at Tom for being attracted to someone else, and Gabrielle threw Carlos out for sleeping with someone else. Meanwhile, newly-divorced Susan plays around with abandon, Bree shows no guilt about dating so soon after Rex’s death, and Gabrielle justifies her affair by whatever means necessary – and throws her husband out for the same behaviour.

Not so fun when your sense of entitlement is thrown right back at you, is it?



  1. Maartje says

    I don’t actually think it is a reversal. In a standard patriarchal society a man has duties to his wife. To set her up in a house, get her with child etc. If he can’t do his duty in the bedroom to satisfaction and the wife steps out on him it is of course not really allowed- but to him it is not about her, it is an affront to his honour. He is likely to take her back if only to prove to her he is better in bed than this other man.
    This kind of competitive behaviour has long been discouraged in women and she will therefor find fault with him when he steps out, in stead of with herself.

    This is of course a gross over generalisation and I am aware a lot of people act in different ways but this is how I always figured it is.


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