Philip Weiss really wants to fuck tattooed 20-something waitresses. The problem is, he's married. He decided to write a several-thousand word story for New York full of anecdotal evidence, pseudo-science, and cautionary tales meant to explore why marriage has never quelled his desire for firm, unknown flesh. When I first read it I was furious — mostly because Weiss expects sympathy for his "condition." He begins the essay by saying 'When the Eliot Spitzer scandal broke in March, I had only sympathy for him: another middle-aged married guy tormented by his sexual needs. I'm 52 and have always struggled with the desire for sexual variety." He goes on to plead for a more open society, one in which it is not seen as morally suspect to have sex outside of marriage. And yeah, he says a lot of misogynistic things, including comparing all wives to Yoko Ono (which in addition to being sexist is soooo trite), but I couldn't even get that angry about it, because I was too depressed about the way he talks about marriage in general, and his marriage in particular.
Sitting in Schiller's, I…suggested that we could change sexual norms to, say, encourage New York waitresses to look on being mistresses as a cool option. "That's fringe," my friend said dismissively. Wives weren't going to allow it, and we men grant them a lot of power; they're all as dominant as Yoko Ono. "Look, we're the weaker animal," he said. "They commandeer the situation." He and I love our wives and depend on them. In each of our cases, they make our homes, manage our social calendar, bind up our wounds and finish our thoughts, and are stitched into our extended families more intimately than we are. They seem emotionally better equipped than we are. If my marriage broke up, my wife could easily move in with a sister. I'd be as lost as plankton.
Despite his potentially-wandering weiner, Weiss stays with his wife. Why? Because he's weak? Because she plans his vacations and deals with his mother? Perhaps I'm naive, but I'd like to think that most men stay with their wives because they have things in common with them; because they appreciate their human qualities. Not because their wives are their jail house wardens, keeping their free-floating sexuality under heavy lock and key. I don't have some romantic view of marriage: I don't think it will satisfy every urge and create a state of ecstasy populated by unicorns and sunflowers. But Weiss's description of his wife's role in his life is so ultimately mercenary.
I think some people will read this article and think all men feel the way Weiss does. As previously established, women think about fucking other people, too. I'm even willing to grant him the biology — that men are more tormented by their sex drives than women are. But even if that's the case, marriage is about compromise. And if the agreement you've made is to be faithful, then you need to compromise your desire to fuck other people. I'm sure Weiss's wife is currently compromising her desire to punch him directly in the nuts.
The Affairs Of Men [New York Magazine]