“The term “cheating” is erroneous and stupid and no one should use it.”
This is the title of a MyTake by @Thatsamazing. I was originally writing this as a comment, but I got a bit carried away and figured it might work better as a MyTake, purely for formatting purposes. This isn’t a personal attack or anything, I respect this man’s opinion. I’m merely responding with why I believe his claim is inaccurate given the arguments he has made through comments on a separate question and within his MyTake, which you can find here: The term "cheating" is erroneous and stupid, and no one should use it.
I’m going to try and answer this in the most organized way possible. I am going to reference the original MyTake, but it should still make sense regardless of whether you've read it or not. Let’s start with paragraph 4. Let me just say this: I am completely for people having multiple partners if they choose to, whether that be casual hook-ups, an open relationship, polyamory, or anything else, provided all those involved are aware of the situation. I’m also completely for people being monogamous if they choose to be. Be part of the relationship type that suits you and your partner(s). It shouldn't be any more complicated than that!
The initial argument is on the basis that because something is programmed within us, that gives us some sort of right to ignore any boundaries or expected rules within a relationship. Because we evolved to pass on our genes through impregnating many females, that is what we should be doing nowadays.Essentially, the core of the arugment is that we should forego anything we've learned that isn't part of our biological programming.
Should we do everything that we’re biologically programmed to do? Should we only do things we’re biologically programmed to do? This idea that evolutionary processes that come naturally to us overrule anything we’ve learned through our conscious explorations of societal models and processes, as well as the subjective nature of morality. It also ignores the fact that our evolution is drastically behind our changing environment, possibly by as much as 10,000 years!
Rules & Laws
If I attack you on the street because you have your arm around a girl I like, is that acceptable? After all, my inability to manage rage is largely influenced by my genetic make-up and is something that has evolved through countless generations as a defence mechanism, all of which has been necessary in the past to successfully pass on genes. What if a female is relluctant to mate with me? Can I use my larger, stronger build to "convince" her that I'm the alpha and what I say goes? After all, if we’re only going by what we’re biologically programmed to do, then we’re programmed to breed through whatever means necessary and you’ll find that intimidation was a large part of our distant-ancestors approach to mating and still is within the animal kingdom.
The only part of the MyTake that counters this is the idea that a rule must be written down or orally agreed to in order to matter, that once something is illegal, it doesn’t matter whether we’re programmed to do it or not. The poster even mentions consent issues and violence as examples. So, if monogamy was the only legal approach to a relationship (hypothetically) would that mean that you’d consider it fully acceptable to repress biological urges? Is “law” the only thing, in your mind, that separates our evolutionary programming from societal standards and norms?
In a response where I’d asked whether writing a rule down or making a rule official is the only difference between it existing or not, @Thatsamazing responded with:
“What do you think "rules" are? If they aren't written down or agreed upon with a handshake and an oral contract or whatever, no, they don't exist. And why? Because then I can change them to be whatever the hell I want, whenever the hell I want. That's not how the concept of rules works.”
Again, this MyTake is NOT meant as a personal attack, and if it comes across as such I do apologise. However, this idea of rationalizing behaviour on the basis that “nobody wrote it down or explained each aspect of these rules to me” is childish. Where are the rules for holding doors for people or giving old, disabled, or pregnant people seats on public transport? Where are the rules for washing your hands after using the toilet in a public restroom or the rules for not spoiling movies for people as they wait to enter a movie? The fact of the matter is, some “rules” are simply expected and are unwritten. There are behaviours and attitudes that you would consider immoral or wrong despite the fact that they aren’t breaking any laws or going against any agreed upon rules. I'll come back to this point towards the end.
Difference Between Being Honest & Lying
When we get to paragraph 7, the claim is made that we shouldn’t even inform potential partners of our desire to sleep with many women/men. I can understand that to an extent. However, there is a difference between being completely misleading and telling the outright truth. Sure, you don’t have to tell every single person every single thing that goes through your mind at every single moment. Marriage and the idea that bringing it up on the first date would result in a dust cloud as the other person bails is an interesting choice. Interesting because I do understand what you mean and actually do agree with your example, but only when such a topic is brought out of the blue and with the expectation that that person is who you are going to marry.
If you were to ask a woman on a first date what her long-term plans are in terms of a relationship, she would likely tell you that she wants to get married one day or have children or just buy a bunch of dogs. Such a topic doesn’t necessarily come up on a first date, but if it did then there wouldn’t be any reason for someone to lie. So, if someone asks you the same question, I can only view it as fair that you would also answer truthfully under such conditions as not to deceive someone into believing that you’re looking for something monogamous. You don’t have to tell them “I’m just screwing around because human evolution has programmed to do so” but that’s different from leading someone to believe that you’re hoping to settle down with a single partner.
At the end of the day, there are plenty of people of both sexes looking for the exact same thing. I’m in an open relationship and I’ve had no problem finding single people who are still into the idea of going on dates and hooking up, despite my relationship status. I mention this to them prior to even going on a single date!
Using the “people can’t be honest” excuse is just that: an excuse. You don’t want to put the extra effort in that would result in not only finding more compatible partners but avoid emotionally harming others along the way. I agree that you don’t have to tell the whole truth all the time, but that doesn’t mean deception is acceptable either.
If someone asked you on a date what your long-term plans are in terms of a relationship, would you tell the truth?
The Relationship Rules
My disagreement would be this: relationships have rules, despite what the author of the original MyTake may claim. These rules are explained as a relationship develops. In the initial stages of “dating” someone, you’re not expected to follow rules because they have not been established through discussion. If that person requests that you both become exclusive, then you are expected to be exclusive. If, at that point, you don’t wish to be exclusive, then you can disagree with the expected behaviours that follow such a dynamic.
Similarly, if you’re in a relationship with someone and they are expecting monogamy (which is the dominant relationship style in the Western world) but you’re expecting something else, then that’s something that needs to be discussed. Simply choosing not to mention something because you disagree with the idea of monogamy is simply idiotic. I don’t agree with marriage, and I make that perfectly clear from the beginning. Similarly, a general lack of communication between you and a partner is not an excuse to do something that you know they view as being morally wrong, even if to you it is morally acceptable.
As I mentioned in a comment, all relationship types have rules, even if you’re denying that they do. In a monogamous relationship, you’re expected to be loyal to your partner and not engage in sexual or romantic activity with any other person. The extent of these rules does vary from relationship to relationship, but they are there nonetheless, and there is certainly a minimal expectation to follow within such a dynamic. If you’re in an open relationship, there are rules. If you’re polyamorous, there are rules. Even friendships have rules.
I’m going to end this point by explaining why I don’t think your MyTake is accurate or justified by following on from my last point about friendships. You may tell me that there are no rules in friendships, that anything can go. Friendships, after all, are relationships. Rules don’t need to be spoken, they don’t always need to be agreed to, sometimes they just exist as the default position, but that is something that has to be established within any relationship between those involved. Failing to do so simply leads to conflict and suffering.Especially when one person simply chooses to ignore these rules because they don't agree with the concept of unwritten rules.
Let me explain with an example: If you slept with your best friend’s mom or dad, would they be ok with it? What about a sister? What about a girlfriend? Unlike laws or school rules, relationship rules don’t follow a laid-out structure or adhere to a consistent list of consequences. Those within the relationship will judge you for your actions and you will be held accountable based on them.
Simply stating that because nobody informed you of a rule through an oral agreement or a contract, you can therefore ignore all the examples where we follow rules that haven’t been established up-front is highly inconsistent with reality. Granted, I don't know how you treat your friends.
I’d be particularly interested in what @Thatsamazing thinks of this final point: would you sleep with your best friend’s girlfriend and feel that it’s morally acceptable because 1) you’re genetically programmed to reproduce, 2) you didn’t agree with your friend at the start of your relationship that you wouldn’t sleep with any of his girlfriends that he may have in the future?
The final argument made within the MyTake relates to semantics. Apparently we need to remove the stigma associated with the term “cheating” because it inhibits people’s ability to flirt, have sex with more that one person, and have open sexual discussions with partners.
Firstly, I’d point out that if you’re in a relationship with someone and can’t have open sexual discussions, then that reflects on your relationship, not the use of the term “cheating”. Secondly, find a partner who doesn’t mind you doing these things you’re searching for, then it isn’t cheating. If a couple in an open relationship sleep with other people (agreed between themselves) then it isn’t cheating. So this argument around the term “cheating” doesn’t actually make sense.
Finally, a comment from the @Thatsamazing in response to my point surrounding the difference between romance and a relationship was this:
“And what is the magical difference between romance and relationships? It's just semantics, sir. Nothing more.”
This comment alone highlights an inability to acknowledge something that is the very basis of the argument. Romance happens naturally, it can happen between anyone, it’s a feeling, an emotion, it’s excitement. A relationship is a label that describes a connection between two or multiple people. Clearly, there is more than semantics at play here!