Commentary and analysis talk shows shouldn’t necessarily be held to the standards of hard news where facts are supposed to be confirmed by two or more independent sources, but during a panel discussion of Weiner’s juvenile behavior, in the course of which similarly bad behavior by Elliot Spitzer, Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods and others was brought into play, the host (a woman I respect) signed off by noting that the philanderers and adulterers named were all men.
By no means is bad behavior be excused, but the obvious inference to be drawn from the host’s statement – that women are faithful and men aren’t – was at best a value judgment wholly unsupported by facts and as such of no value in advancing progress toward gender equality. Indeed, unsupported statements easily become cannon fodder for conservative reactionaries.
There have been numerous reputable studies on the subject of infidelity beginning with the Kinsey Reports of 1948 (men) and 1953 (women). Though primitive and highly flawed by modern research standards, the Kinsey Reports basic findings remain intact: men and women both wander from the nuptial bed in statistically significant numbers. The reasons vary and men do indeed stray more often than women, but the percentages are similar and women are catching up fast.
There are also wide discrepancies in how many individuals stray, but according to serious researchers it is in no case is it more than 25% and some studies maintain that a truer figure is around 6%. Part of the difficulty faced by researchers is that by the very nature of the questions being asked it must be assumed that some of the subjects are lying. There is no professional agreement on how much lying is involved or how to factor lying into statistical results. (Psychology Today has an interesting article on the subject posted here and some relevant statistics from the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy can be found here.)