Jealousy is one of the significant motivations of actions of those, who have a romantic relationship. Numerous books and plays were written about jealousy, lots of movies were shot, and millions of lives were broken because of it. With the development of social sciences people became interested in the origins of this phenomenon, and the mechanism of its genesis. Jealousy is an emotion common for people in all cultures and regions, regardless of their age, race or ethnicity.
To talk about jealousy we should first define, what it actually is. There are different definitions for this notion. For example, Buss, Larsen, Westen, & Semmelroth believe that: “Jealousy is defined as an emotional state that is aroused by a perceived threat to a relationship or position. It motivates behaviors that counter the threat”. (1992). In the same time, Daly & Wilson define jealousy as a “…complex human emotion that is provoked by a perceived threat to an exclusive dyadic relationship” (1983).
It was noticed that both man and woman are capable of being jealous, but it was obvious that the emotion that was referred to as “jealousy” was different for males and females, as they exhibited it in different ways.
Many scientists assume that the differences in man’s and women’s apprehensions of infidelity, and their reactions of it, are dictated by the society in which the chosen individuals dwell. Considering the fact that the socialization is gender-specific, it’s no wonder, that the reactions are different. There are different factors in the societal apprehension of infidelity of man and woman, which dictate those differences.
The first, and one of the most significant one, is the difference of connotations of man’s and woman’s infidelity existing in the society. The thing is that in our society a belief exists that love is the prerequisite of sex for woman. That is why a woman who had sexual contact or contacts outside the dyad is considered to be both physically and emotionally infidel to her male partner. In the same time, men are considered to be keen on having sexual contacts without any feelings involved. “Thus, gender differences in sensitivity to sexual and emotional infidelity may simply reflect these differences in connotations with men reacting more strongly to cues that imply a partner has been doubly unfaithful” – Sheets and Wolfe explain in their research of sexual jealousy in heterosexuals, lesbians, and gays. (2001). This hypothesis leads to a conclusion that heterosexual males are more affected by the sexual infidelity of their partner than heterosexual women are. It also implies that men are more distressed by the sexual infidelity, than by emotional one.
Another hypothesis explaining jealousy gender differences is so called “hypothesis of double standard”. The thing is that in our society indeed a double standard exists that implies it is normal for a male to be sexually infidel. Men are considered to be able to maintain two or more relationship, and their emotional commitment to their stable partner doesn’t suffer from the sexual relationships outside of the dyad. In the same time, women are believed to be unable to have a relationship with someone except for her permanent partner without breaking the stable dyad. Thus, it’s clear that men are more afraid of sexual infidelity than women as they see a threat to their relationship. In the same time women know that sexual infidelity doesn’t mean that a man wants to terminate the relationship, thus they tend to accept it more or less calmly. But when the partner demonstrates emotional infidelity woman is nervous, as she feels their relationship is threatened.
One more viewpoint is that a persuasion about men’s promiscuity in sexual affairs that exists in the society, makes women more tolerant towards sexual infidelity. This hypothesis explains the fact that women are more tolerant towards sexual infidelity of their partners than men are. From the early childhood girls are prepossessed with the knowledge that sexual freedom is normal for males, and that a woman is unable to do anything for to circumscribe it. For to adapt to it women subconsciously downplay the significance of partner’s physical fidelity.
One more explanations for the gender differences in the stimulus that evoke jealousy is the assumption, that the emotional support and intimacy is culturally prescribed to be more important for women. In fact, the psychologists say that both men and women need intimacy in the relationships, but while women are encouraged by the society to build emotional bonds, men are taught to be emotionally independent from those, who surround him. Expressing, and, moreover, feeling excessive emotional commitment towards woman is socially disapproved for a man. This is the reason why women react immediately and actively when they feel a threat to the emotional part of their relationship, while men wait for more valid reasons to appear for to begin expressing jealousy.
It’s obvious that women spend much more time and effort for the child bearing. For men one sexual contact that has ended successfully is enough for to father a child, while woman has to bear and raise the kid. Women have traditionally been a limited reproductive resource to men, due to the fact that women are usually cautious in choosing a sexual partner. Every woman knows subconsciously that if she gets pregnant she would have to take care of the survival of the child she will bring to the world. Thus there are two factors for which women define, which male is the best sexual partner. (Okami, Shackelford, 2001)
1. His physical characteristics – would he be able to father a healthy and strong descendant.
2. Would he agree to provide support to a woman and her children, and grant them the resources needed for survival?
Considering the fact that a man feels himself superior to other males when a woman chooses him as her sexual partner, his distress is higher when she is involved in sexual infidelity. For a man the fact that his woman has a lover, subconsciously means that she questions his sexual abilities, which are the matter of most pride and, in the same time, of most concern, for lots of men.
Jealousy is one of the most uncomplicated emotions a human being can feel; people have been aware about it since prehistoric times. In fact it is just being angry when someone threatens to take away something one possesses.
Nevertheless, the complex of feelings called “jealousy” is very different for males and females, the same as motivations of jealousy are. Therefore men and women are very different, even in perception of simplest human emotions.
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