‘Homewreckers’ website: why is it always the women who get the blame?

Women who have ‘stolen’ someone’s husband are being outed by betrayed wives. But we have to challenge the belief that if a married man strays, he’s not responsible

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The Independent Online

Just when you think the internet can’t find any more ways to degrade and humiliate women, they go and invent one. In a new and particularly nasty form of “slut shaming” which was reported last week to be growing rapidly in popularity, a US based website allows the wronged wife or girlfriend to expose “the other woman” in her relationship for all the world to judge.

Similar to "revenge porn" in that it aims to name and shame women who are deemed to have transgressed, the She’s a Homewrecker website encourages the injured party to vent her spleen, not against the man who cheated on her, but against her female rival. Make no mistake, this is no forum for harmless anonymous ranting. Created by a woman and apparently aimed exclusively at females, it states explicitly that, “We will not publish any stories without photographs and names”. The website has even published contact details for the alleged mistresses, along with a disclaimer that it is not responsible for the posts.

Apart from being potentially defamatory and downright dangerous, the site is a particularly hideous form of girl-on-girl nastiness, encouraging an unhealthy “mob mentality” amongst spurned wives and girlfriends banding together. It is taken as read that the person responsible for the affair is the harlot-like temptress, because men, bless them, have no choice in the matter. The age-old assumption is that men are so in thrall to their penises that if a woman, particularly an attractive one, is to offer it to them on a silver platter, the poor, weak male creature cannot possibly be expected to exercise self-control and keep it in his pants. The female of the species is seen as the archetypal Biblical whore, Eve, Jezebel, Salomé and Delilah all rolled into one ball of wanton woman to be placed in the online stocks and then fed to the wolves. Even after years of struggling for equality, it seems that when it comes to affairs, it’s still the guys who get the pleasure and the girls who get the blame.

The terms “homewrecker” and “the other woman” both reek of the 1950s , implying that women must still compete in a Darwinian struggle for the scarce resource of a marriageable man, and that only testosterone-driven men possess the sexual appetite for affairs. Although the term “the other man” does not exist in common parlance, women also cheat on their long-term partners, and recent studies have indicated that once factors such as income and employment status become equal, women might be just as likely to take lovers as men. The website also assumes that a man can be “stolen”, as though he is a piece of private property, when women have resisted the notion that they themselves can be owned since the first wave of feminism.

I’m not suggesting that infidelity is something to be condoned, but relationships are complicated things, and I would guess that most of the women being "outed" on this website are not the devil incarnate. Affairs are exciting at first, but ultimately painful and messy for all concerned. I doubt that many women set out to be someone’s “bit on the side”, since you’re lucky to get out of an affair without being hurt yourself and causing harm to others.

There are countless examples of mistresses faring pretty badly once the affair is discovered, particularly with high profile men. Monica Lewinsky was a classic case of a plaything who was no match for the wife, and was quickly discarded and left to fend for herself in the full glare of the media. Perhaps the “poster girl” for mistresses everywhere is Camilla Parker-Bowles, hardly the typical femme fatale, but it appears as though she kept her counsel, got her man, and seems to be living happily ever after. Diana did not exactly “slut shame” Camilla – the tabloid press did that for her – but preserved her public dignity by containing her comment to her famous Panorama barb, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”

The women doing the posting on “She's a Homewrecker” are understandably hurt and angry, but washing their soiled linen in such a public arena is unlikely to bring them lasting satisfaction. They are misguided in blaming the third party, rather than the man who promised to love them forever (if, in fact, he did). I am not suggesting that any woman should do a Lorena Bobbitt, but if anyone has an axe to grind, best grind it in the right place, not on some vile, misogynistic website. The late Sir James Goldsmith once remarked that, “When you marry your mistress, you create a vacancy,” so whilst it may be human nature to think of “the other woman” as a bitch, it pays to remember that karma can be the biggest bitch of all.