Every serious blog should have regular Tiger Woods postings, so here is my second reference in the same week.
As the story of Tiger’s various liaisons became public, many people were shocked at the sheer number of women involved (not to mention the many similarities between these women). I’ve been wondering why this is the case. Say, for the sake of argument, that we agree that his behavior is revolting. Why? Once marital fidelity has been abandoned, is the nature of the offense important?
As an aside, I wonder what is the trade-off—in terms of scumminess—between the number of lovers and number of encounters? In other words, what does the scum production function look like when it comes to adulterous behavior?
Perhaps, for some, there is a strict lexicographic ordering with respect to number of lovers, meaning the degree of scum depends solely on the number of lovers. Others might place a heavy weight on the frequency of encounters with the number of women involved a minor issue. I bet that for many people both margins are important and the iso-scum curve looks somewhat like an ordinary isoquant (the combination of inputs that leads to a constant level of output—in this case scumminess) .
Early in my marriage (19 years and counting, thank you!), I discovered that my spouse and I had very different perspective on what makes infidelity bad. She commented that so-and-so’s adulterous behavior was particularly wretched because he didn’t seem to even care about the woman he was cheating with. My reaction was that caring about the other woman would be even worse because it implied not only a sexual infidelity, but an emotional infidelity as well. I bet this gender difference is broader than just my experience.
I bring this up not because we should care about Tiger Woods’ private activities, no matter how scandalous. My concern is that fidelity, in general, and marital fidelity, in particular, are bedrock values in any successful society. In a sense, I feel some comfort that people are outraged by Woods. But are they outraged for the right reasons? Does the interest in the story come only because it is a famous celebrity? Is it because he had a beautiful wife and children and, therefore, no “reason” to cheat (suggesting that husbands of less beautiful wives are more justified), or is it just entertainment value with no moral reflection going on.
I’d like to think it is because people see his behavior as a complete lack of respect for marital commitments and that he, as a role model, is helping undermine the moral bedrock of our society, and they are appropriately outraged. Any chance at all that my hope is justified?