Don't Want Your Husband to Cheat? Shave Your Legs!

Slice has come up with yet another way for women to humiliate themselves on TV. It's a show called The Mistress. Yes, I watch Slice, it's my guilty pleasure. But fully 2/3 of the shows I find utterly unwatchable. This one was like a train wreck - couldn't turn away from it.

The show is hosted, if that's what you want to call it, by Sarah Symonds who claims to have been somewhat of a professional mistress to some very famous men. She now runs a website and support group called Mistresses Anonymous. She says she wants to help women avoid the mistakes that she made. I think what she really wants is to cash in on the tiny shred of claim to celebrity that she might have.

On each show, she introduces us to a woman who is having an affair with a married man. Then she 'helps' the woman free herself from that relationship. Although she fakes it fairly well, it's pretty obvious that she has no compassion for these women whatsoever. She doesn't listen to a thing they say to her. She goes to their houses, gets them to give her the sordid details of the affair including where they have sex and how often, and then tells them they are nothing more than stupid whores (maybe not in so many words). She then forces them to destroy or throw out anything the man ever gave them and then break up with him.

The show is a clusterfuck of gender stereotyping and judgement. While purportedly taking their side, and trying to help them, Sarah makes it clear to each of the women that even though she is a naive victim, all of this is really her fault in the first place. Every show features a clip of Symonds at one of her 'Affair Proofing Your Marriage' sessions, in which she gives women the secret to making sure they keep their men. The secret? Act more like a mistress than a wife. That involves wearing sexy lingerie, role-playing, showing up at his office in a trench coat, and for god's sake, shaving your legs! Even if any of this advice actually made sense, does she honestly thin that the women in those sessions couldn't think of those things themselves? And don't these women have jobs of their own? Who in the hell has the time to dress up in stockings and a trench coat and show up at your husband's workplace in the middle of the day? The assumptions underneath this advice just boggle the mind.

She plays up the idea that sex is the main reason that men have affairs and although all of the women on the show said that their sex life with the man was very good, not one of these women was a stereotypical bombshell and only one of them talked about doing the kinds of things that Symonds recommends that the wives do. Sure, great sex is usually a big part of an extra-marital affair but it's rarely the only part. If that was the case, the men in these situations would probably have moved on from these women. But these were relationships that had been going on for months, even years - 21 years in once case. There's more than just sex here. I hardly think that shaving your legs is going to keep this from happening.

What's so bizarre to me is that while Symonds paints both the wives and the 'mistresses' (goddess how I hate that word) as victims, she simultaneously puts all of the blame on them. Wives have the ability to keep their husbands from cheating just by paying more attention to them, so if they cheat, the wives were obviously not doing their job. She also puts heavy blame on the other woman for the damage they are causing to the wives and their families. Where is the man's responsibility in all of this?

Symonds says that one of the main reasons she wanted to do the show was to expose the truth of what being a mistress is really all about and bust the myths around the whole thing. The myth she does talk about is that all women are taken care of financially by the married men they date. This is clearly not the case for almost all of these women. Other than that, she seems to actually be perpetuating a bunch of myths. The myth that affairs are pretty much all about sex. The myth that husbands cheat because wives are not sexy enough. The myth that most women don't know if their husband is cheating. The myth that if you think your husband is cheating he probably is (that's a nice one - let's start a rash of unnecessary paranoia, shall we?).

I understand that the women who ask to be on this show see their relationships as problematic (except for one who wanted to be on it solely to prove Symonds wrong - you can guess what happened there). But if you were to look at women who see married men on the whole, and not just this subset who wants to be on the show, I bet you would find lots of women who don't see it as problematic. There are women who enjoy seeing someone who already has his family and his life set up and just wants to have someone to have fun outings, experience, and sex with. They don't sit around waiting for him to leave his wife. They have flings and they move on. This show doesn't acknowledge that this could even be possible. All women want a long-term relationship and all women who get involved with married men are victims. As are the wives. She doesn't entertain the idea that the wives of some of these men might know and not really care. Everyone is painted with the same brush.

The show does fulfill that need we seem to have (and I have to admit that I have a little bit of it otherwise I wouldn't watch this crap) to watch the trainwrecks of other people's lives for entertainment, or maybe to feel better about ourselves. But it's a really superficial and immature way of looking at sex and adult relationships.