Are Men Only As Faithful As Their Options?
With two prominent Black men in the headlines for infidelity–Tiger Woods and now, Tiki Barber–ESSENCE.com wanted to get some answers on questions about cheating and fame from the Black man’s point of view. We went to Anthony C. Rucker, a Black relationship expert, life coach, and author of “Relationship Cookbook” with Chris Rock’s claim from his 1999 HBO special “Bigger and Blacker” that “a man is only as faithful as his options.” Is this the truth?
ESSENCE.com: Do you agree with Chris Rock? Is a man only as faithful as his options?
ANTHONY C. RUCKER: Yes, if a man wants to be single or live the single lifestyle, he will only be as faithful as his options… and his woman’s limitations. But if he wants to be in a relationship, it doesn’t matter what his options are, he will be faithful.
ESSENCE.com: Do you think celebrities are more likely to cheat?
RUCKER: No, it’s not the temptation; it’s what we teach them. I used to work with Lionel Richie and I remember walking into a room and women were all vying for my attention. We teach celebrities that they are above the rules and regulations and that they’re special. They are deserving of anything their fame and notoriety brings them. They can have five women if they want. Everyone thinks it’s cool and the wife usually knows about it, but she’s cool with it because of the fame and money he brings home. Women have this low expectation of men, like we can’t control our hormones, so they give us a lot of leeway because they don’t think we can do better. There is nothing a woman can do to stop a man from cheating because a man doesn’t decide he’s going to cheat based on what a woman thinks, they do it because of what they feel or want.
ESSENCE.com: Do you see a pattern with Tiger Woods and Tiki Barber, any commonalities?
RUCKER: Tiger is different because he’s been in the spotlight from when he was a young child. He’s like Michael Jackson, nobody ever told him “no” since he was a child. What is “no” to him? When you tell Tiger to keep it real, what does that mean? He has had the world at his fingertips. Fame and money are like a magnifying glass–if Tiki is doing this now, he’s always had it in him, he just didn’t have the motivation to do it. Just because he didn’t do it in the past doesn’t mean it wasn’t in him, or for all we know, this is just the first time he got caught. He seems to be in the second half of his life–he was married, played in the NFL and had a huge career–and he didn’t have to worry about a morality clause. Now, as a news correspondent, he can enjoy the second phase of his life. I find it disturbing that this is happening now while Tiki’s wife is pregnant with their twins.
ESSENCE.com: Do you think there are specific tendencies or characteristics that apply to Black men when it comes to infidelity?
RUCKER: Men are taught to judge themselves by how much they have and how much they control, whether they are Black or White. As boys, we are taught that any sign of emotion or weakness will hinder you from your goals. We are told to “man up” or win at any cost. But then as a man, we are taught to be empathetic and get in touch with our emotions. It’s confusing. So, it’s hard for men to make that transition and that’s why most of them don’t do it well. In my book, I talk about how women don’t want a soft or punkish boy–they always want them to stand up and be a man–but that’s conflicting.
ESSENCE.com: Do you see Black men as more faithful, or less faithful than men of other races?
RUCKER: I see them as about the same. I have friends of every race, ethnicity, and culture, and we all have the same issues with fidelity and infidelity.
ESSENCE.com: In your own experience as a Black man, do Black women or women of another race approach you more aggressively in a romantic way?
RUCKER: Yes, it’s funny because it’s sort of what I hear happens to Eastern women (Indian women, Asian women, etc). The majority of the approaches that I get, or Black men get, are on an exotic interest level. They look for the man who is well-endowed or they want to know if it’s true. They want the ghetto swagger. They are looking for some part or trait of our culture to be true. It’s like, why do good girls get with bad boys? It’s that unknown.
ESSENCE.com: What about if they know you are committed to another woman in a relationship or in a marriage?
RUCKER: They want us more because they we’re that “good” guy. They don’t care if we’re in a relationship because they want that faithfulness, togetherness, or man they can trust. When they see us doing that, they want to get with us. They think that they can get with us and it’s that “special” syndrome, where if they get us, we won’t cheat on them because we had that “special connection.”
ESSENCE.com: Does it make a difference to them if your commitment is to a Black woman or a White woman?
RUCKER: No, they just want that commitment. I have never seen an undesirable Black man with a White woman and a Black woman complain about it. They only complain when good catches are with the White women. They may play it off like they don’t care, but they’re jealous.
ESSENCE.com: Would Black women be less likely to entice a Black man to cheat if he were with a White woman (like Tiger with Elin) or an Asian woman (like Tiki with Ginny)?
RUCKER: When a woman wants something and they want it badly, very rarely do the individual circumstances weigh out–especially with men. It would be more intense because it’s like a Black woman stealing a Black man from a White woman… she’s bringing one back to the team.
ESSENCE.com: Do Black men feel less guilt or hesitation about cheating on a White woman than if they would stray from a Black woman?
RUCKER: It depends. Sometimes brothers get with a White woman as a sign of prestige and power and since they’re more of an object, they don’t really feel bad. If he’s with her because he loves her and wants to be with her, then it will be the same in trepidation any man would have, because he’s cheating on a woman he cares about. But if she were just an object or trophy, it wouldn’t be a big thing.
ESSENCE.com: Why does it seem more celebrities are cheating–and why more Black celebs like Tiger, Tiki, etc?
RUCKER: Celebs do it because they can. You believe you can get away with it. But I don’t think race has anything to do with it. When Black folks do things people try to turn it into a pathology, it’s not an individual act–they try to make it like an innate character flaw or like a disease in their genes… a genetic trait. It’s not. The truth is 85% of all relationships end in divorce, and it’s not along specific color lines.