You are on page 1of 13

com/photos/keithallison/2311055636/ Creative Commons

Tiger Transgresses: 5 Little Known Secrets To Why
Good Men Cheat
Jed Diamond, Ph.D. has been a marriage and family counselor for the last 44
years. He is the author of 8 books, including Looking for Love in All the Wrong
Places, Male Menopause, and The Irritable Male Syndrome. He offers
counseling to men, women, and couples in his office in California or by phone
with people throughout the U.S. and around the world. To contact Dr. Diamond,
send an e-mail to or visit him at

I’ve been asked repeatedly in the last few days, “Why would a man
who has everything—A beautiful wife, loving family, a fortune
estimated at $1 billion—endanger it all to have affairs with women
that don’t hold a candle to his wife? What’s going on here?”

Golfer Tiger Woods, engulfed in media speculation over his

private life after a car accident in the middle of the night,
apologized on Wednesday for "transgressions" in a statement that
apparently addressed allegations he had extra-marital

Woods, the world's number one golfer and a married father of two
young children, said in a statement published on his website that
he had "not been true to my values and the behavior my family
deserves," without directly addressing the allegations of infidelity.

"I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with
all of my heart," Woods said. Woods said his Swedish wife Elin
Nordegren "has always done more to support our family and
shown more grace than anyone could possible expect."

"I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing

with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with
my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone," Woods
said in his statement.

For many, why men do dumb things is self evident. “Because men
are dumb beasts and all they want is sex,” they say. For others,
they wonder what all the uproar is about. “You can’t expect a man
to have sex with only one woman. It’s not natural. What’s the
problem if he gets a little on the side?”
An evolutionary psychologist like myself looks at things through a
wider set of lenses. Let’s start by taking a look at what it means
to be a man.

1. What Does It Mean to Be Male?

Nothing is closer to our sense of self than our sense of “maleness”

and “femaleness.” When our babies first emerge from the womb
the mother (and increasingly the father who is in the delivery
room) hears “congratulations, it’s a boy,” or “it’s a girl.” Many
“parents to be” will say that they would be happy with either a boy
or a girl, but none can ignore the fact that boys and girls are not

Although we all recognize the differences, there is a great deal of

controversy about what differences exist, whether they are
inherent or a product of culture, and what these differences mean.
In the past differences have often been used to restrict the
freedom and opportunities of one group, most often women.
Even the consummate scientist, Charles Darwin, believed that
men were naturally smarter than women.

This superior male intelligence, he proposed, arose because of

the unique tasks that men practiced. It was the men that fought to
win mates, made tools to hunt, cooperated with other men, and
fought wild animals to “bring home the mammoth.” He believed
that the need of our male ancestors to compete with each other,
created a superior level of intelligence. He assumed an
aggressive, intelligent Adam and a gentle, nurturing Eve. This
image conformed to what Darwin saw everywhere around him in
Victorian England.

This sexist view of gender differences was bitterly attacked after

World War I. Margaret Mead was among the intellectual leaders
of the period who believed that differences were not built in, but
were a product of the particular culture in which a person lived.
As Mead wrote in 1935, “We may say that many if not all of the
personality traits which we have called masculine and feminine
are as lightly linked to sex as are the clothing, the manners and
the form of headdress that a society at a given period assigns to
either sex.”

This view that what makes us male and female is largely

determined by our environment has held sway since then.
Certainly when I was doing my graduate training in the 1960s that
was the view in most academic settings. To suggest that there
were inherent differences between males and females was to
open oneself to attack as being ignorant and sexist. For some
women, and particularly for many academic feminists, there was a
fear that acknowledging that there were inherent differences
between males and females would lead back to a time when
“different” was seen as “inferior.” It was an understandable fear.

However, there is an increasing body of evidence that has

accumulated over the last 25 years that shows that males and
females are different in many ways. Even many feminist
academics now recognize these differences and realize that men
and women can be different without one being superior to the
other. According to Dr. Bobbi S. Low, Professor of Resource
Ecology at the University of Michigan, “New research in
evolutionary theory, combined with findings from anthropology,
psychology, sociology, and economics, supports the perhaps
unsettling view that men and women have indeed evolved to
behave differently—that, although environmental conditions can
exaggerate or minimize these differences in male and female
behaviors, under most conditions each sex has been successful
as a result of very different behaviors.”

This was certainly my experience raising a boy and a girl. No

matter what my wife and I tried to do to raise our children in non-
sexist ways, there were certain things that just seemed to be built
in. Our boy turned everything into guns, even when we gave him
dolls. Our daughter spent lots of time playing house even when
we tried to interest her in baseball. “Some societies minimize the
difference between the sexes; others—perhaps the majority—
exaggerate them,” say David Barash and Judith Lipton authors of
Making Sense of Sex: How Genes and Gender Influence Our
Relationships. “But the differences are never reversed, and thus
evidence mounts in favor of a biological common denominator.”
We will see that a good deal of what leads to the Irritable Male
Syndrome can be understood in terms of the ways the biology of
being male interacts with the environment we find ourselves in. It
isn’t a question of nature versus nurture. Our biological nature
influences our environment and our environment can have a
profound impact on our biology. So let’s take a look at some of
these male attributes and see how they can help us understand
why men are so vulnerable and subject to stresses and strains
that lead to increased irritability.

2. Y Am I Like This?

Genesis, chapter 5, tells us about "the generations of Adam":

Adam begat Seth, Seth begat Enosh, Enosh begat Kenan... down
to Noah of the flood. Translated into modern genetic terms, the
account could read "Adam passed a copy of his Y chromosome to
Seth, Seth passed a copy of his Y chromosome to Enosh, Enosh
passed a copy of his Y chromosome to Kenan"... and so on until
Noah was born carrying a copy of Adam's Y chromosome. The Y
chromosome is paternally inherited; human males have one while
females have none.

All human cells, other than mature red blood cells, possess a
nucleus which contains the genetic material (DNA) arranged into
46 chromosomes, themselves grouped into 23 pairs. In 22 pairs,
both members are essentially identical, one deriving from the
individual's mother, the other from the father. The 23rd pair is
different. While in females this pair has two like chromosomes
called "X," in males it comprises one "X" and one "Y," two very
dissimilar chromosomes. It is these chromosome differences
which determine sex. That’s the good news about the Y
chromosome. If we didn’t have it we would all be females.

However, the bad news is that the Y is very short compared to the
X with which it is paired. Until quite recently it was believed that
the Y chromosome was becoming ever shorter and some felt that
it might lose function all together. However, a 40-strong team of
researchers led by Dr. David Page of the Whitehead Institute at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has found that the Y
chromosome is much more important than scientists once

As well as having a previously unknown and elaborate back-up

system for self-repair, the Y chromosome also carries 78 genes,
almost double the previously known tally, the researchers
reported. "The Y chromosome is a hall of mirrors," says Page,
whose team has for the first time identified the full genetic
sequence of a Y chromosome, from an anonymous donor.

The team believes the Y has developed an apparently unique way

of pairing up with itself. They found that many of its 50 million
DNA "letters" occur in sequences known as palindromes. Like
their grammatical counterparts, these sequences of letters read
the same forward as backward but are arranged in opposite
directions - like a mirror image - on both strands of the DNA
double helix. This means that a back-up copy of each of the
genes they contain occurs at each end of the sequence. When
the DNA divides during reproduction, the team believes, it opens
an opportunity for genes to be shuffled or swapped and faulty
copies to be deleted.

3. The Dating and Mating Game: Small Sperm, Large Egg, Look

Biologists have a very simple and useful definition of what is male

and what is female, whether we are fish, ferns, or human beings.
An individual can either make many small gametes (sex cells) or
fewer but larger gametes. The individuals that produce smaller
gametes are called "males" and the ones that produce larger
gametes are called "females." Although the human egg is
microscopic, it is large enough to house 250,000 sperm.

The small gametes are designed to fuse with a large one, and the
large ones are designed to fuse with a small one. The female
strategy produces gametes that are large, and have a high rate of
survival and fertilization. The male strategy is to produce as many
as possible, to increase the chances of finding a large one. About
400 eggs are ovulated in a woman's lifetime. A healthy male
produces 500 million sperm per day.
An individual must either invest in a few large eggs or in millions of
sperm. Thus, there will always be many times more sperm than
there are eggs. Consequently, sperm must compete for access to
those rare eggs. Although these basic facts of life may be
obvious, the importance and implications may not be.

In fact, this difference in the size of our sex cells makes a huge
difference in how we act as males. As we will see, it helps explain
why men can become so irritable, why we die sooner than
women, why we are involved in more violent arguments, and why
we become more depressed. “The cellular imbalance is at the
center of maleness,” says geneticist Dr. Steve Jones. “It confers
on males a simpler sex life than their partners, together with a
host of incidental idiosyncrasies, from more suicide, cancer and
billionaires to rather less hair on the top of the head.”

Generally it is easier to move the smaller sperm to the larger egg

than vice versa, and so it is the male that seeks out the female
and the female who makes the selection from those males that
come courting. “Males are in flux in almost every way: in how
they look and how they behave, of course,” says Jones, “but,
more important, in how they are made. From the greenest of
algae to the most blue-blooded of aristocrats their restless state
hints at an endless race in which males pursue but females

This is one of the reasons that there will always be more irritable
and insecure men than women. Because they carry the larger,
scarcer, and valuable eggs, women will always be more sought
after than men. Men will always have to take the initiative and
women will always get to choose the most attractive male from
those who present themselves and reject the others. In the game
of life, women hold more of the evolutionary valuable cards.

4. Making Babies: Will My Genes Be Carried On?

None of your direct ancestors died childless. Think about that for
a moment. It’s obvious that your parents had at least one child.
Your mother’s parents and your father’s parents had children. If
we could look backward and trace our ancestors as far back as
we could go, we would find an unbroken chain of reproductive

We all know people today who don’t have children. However, that
was not the case with any of our direct ancestors. Over a period
of 5 million years, not one of our family members dropped the ball.
We are a product of their reproductive success and you can bet
that what it takes to pass on our genes to the next generation is
built into our attitudes, desires, and behaviors. From an
evolutionary perspective, whatever contributes to our genetic
success makes us feel good. Whatever stands in the way of our
evolutionary success makes us feel irritable, angry, and

Although our current research on the genome gives the impression

that humans are increasingly in charge of our evolutionary future,
it is a valuable exercise to look at humans “through the eyes of
the gene.” Richard Dawkins was the first to make this view
explicit. In his book The Selfish Gene, he says “No matter how
much knowledge and wisdom you acquire during your life, not one
jot will be passed on to your children by genetic means. Each
new generation starts from scratch. A body is the gene’s way of
preserving the genes unaltered.”

From a gene's perspective, it is less important whether we survive

to a ripe old age, than whether we reproduce. Charles Darwin,
the father of modern evolutionary theory, called this process
"sexual selection." The idea that reproduction was the key to
understanding why we do what we do was ignored for many years
after Darwin's death and has only recently come back into vogue.
"Its principal insight," says Matt Ridley, author of The Red Queen:
Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature, "is that the goal of an
animal is not just to survive but to breed. Indeed, where breeding
and survival come into conflict, it is breeding that takes
precedence; for example, salmon starve to death while breeding.
And breeding, in sexual species, consists of finding an
appropriate partner and persuading it to part with a package of
The basic reality of sexual selection helps us understand a good
deal about men and why they do what they do. We often wonder
why it is young men, more often than young women, who take
risks that put their lives in danger. An important reality is that
during these key reproductive years it is the males who must
compete against other males for access to the females. Whether
he is a bull moose or a bull headed 20 year-old, he is willing to
fight other males or take risks in order to have the best chance of
having sex with the most attractive female he can find.

At the other end of the age spectrum it helps us understand why

older men more often leave their partners or have affairs than do
older women. Rarely do these older men hook up with a woman
the same age as their wives. It’s almost always with a younger
woman. Why? From an evolutionary perspective a person’s
success is measured, not by their bank account or the value of
their car, but by the number of children they are able to bring into
the world and who grow up enough to have children of their own.

Have you ever watched Dr. Phil, the psychologist who became
famous on Oprah Winfrey’s show? One of his favorite answers to
women who ask “why does he do that?” (Usually the “that” has to
do with some way in which the man is treating the woman badly.)
Dr. Phil’s answer is often an in-her-face “Because he can.” What
he usually means is that he does it because she lets him get away
with it.

In the world of evolution “because he can” means “because he

can produce children.”

Let me be very clear here. I’m not saying that because men have
a genetic urge to leave their wives or have affairs with younger
women that this is a good thing. I’m not saying that we are
prisoners of our genes and that we have no power to decide what
is right or wrong. I am saying that our biological urgings to
reproduce and pass on the most genes to the next generation is
powerful. If we are not aware of the strength of these desires we
will have less success controlling them.
Remember, too, that for every older man who hooks up with a
younger woman, there is a younger woman who wants to connect
with an older man. As we will discuss later in the chapter, men
have a biological attraction to young, attractive females because
they have the best chance of producing children. Women have a
biological attraction to successful men with resources available to
share with them and their children (These are often older men
who have had a chance to become successful in the world).

Yet, biology is not destiny. Older men don’t have to leave their
wives and have affairs. Younger women don’t have to go after the
husbands of those older wives. We all can choose, but the
choices aren’t always easy.

Are you one of the people like me who has a hard time keeping
your weight under control? I do well until I see the candy, cake,
pies, or pudding. I can’t resist. Why is it so difficult for us?
Evolutionary biology can help us understand our desire for sweets
and other strong urges. It tells us that for most of our 5 million
year ancestral history, sweets and fats were scarce. Those who
learned to find the most and eat what they found were the most
successful and passed on their genes to the next generation.

The problem today is that we still have the same biology, but now
sweets and fats are everywhere. If we followed our biological
urgings all of us would be 400 pounds and unable to walk. My
point is that we can and do control our evolutionary desires, but it
isn’t easy.

The knowledge of how difficult it is can help us be more

successful. Whether we want to understand why we overeat, why
young men take such high risks, why Viagra is the most
successful drug of our times, why men stray, or why we are so
irritable, we need to understand our evolutionary history and how
our genes act on our minds, bodies, and actions.

We may not like the ways our genes influence us, but we better
pay attention to their pull. “Genes never sleep,” say Drs Terry
Burnham and Jay Phelan, two experts on genetic influences and
authors of Mean Genes: From Sex to Money to Food—Taming
Our Primal Instincts. “Instead of a blissful ‘they got married and
lived happily ever after,’ gene fairy tales end with offspring and
more offspring—any way the genes can get them.” In order to
further our understanding of the ways males are losing our
position in the game of life, we need to look more deeply into the
differences between males and females.

5. The Evolution of Desire: Are There Two Human Natures?

Though the process is not always conscious, we never choose

mates at random. We are all descended from a long and
unbroken line of ancestors who competed successfully for
desirable mates, attracted mates who were reproductively
valuable, retained mates long enough to reproduce, and fended
off interested rivals.

The way we carry out these vital functions is what evolutionary

psychologists call our "reproductive strategy." It is our
characteristic way of doing things, our standard operating
procedure. It is what draws us to certain people, "the whisperings
within," as Evolutionary Psychologist David P. Barash calls them.
We don't always follow what we hear, but we must always listen.

When the anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon asked which

females are the most sexually attractive to Yanomamo Indian men
of the Amazon rain forest, his male informant replied without
hesitation, "females who are moko dude." In referring to the life-
giving fruits of the jungle, Chagnon was told, moko dude means
that the fruit is perfectly ripe. When referring to a woman, it
means that she is post pubescent but has not yet borne her first
child, or about fifteen to eighteen years of age.

Since women's ability to conceive and bear children decreases with

age, youth is a direct indicator of reproductive capacity. “Across
all cultures,” say Barash and Lipton, “men consistently express a
fondness for youthful women.” Another such indicator is beauty.
Psychologist David Buss found that men throughout the world had
a similar definition of beauty. "Full lips, clear and smooth skin,
clear eyes, lustrous hair, and good muscle tone," he says," are
universally sought after." Those who believe that beauty is
arbitrarily defined in each culture are not aware of the increasingly
convincing literature on the evolutionary basis of attraction
between the sexes. `

Attraction to beauty seems to be built into our biological makeup,

according to psychologist Judith Langlois and her colleagues. In
one study, adults evaluated color slides of white and black female
faces for their attractiveness. Then infants of two or three months
of age were shown pairs of these faces that differed in their
degree of attractiveness. The infants looked longer at the more
attractive faces. “This evidence,” says Buss, “challenges the
common view that the idea of attractiveness is learned through
gradual exposure to current cultural standards.”

Based on his research findings, Buss found a host of other

differences between men and women and concluded that there
are actually two human natures, one male the other female. He
believed that both the similarities and the differences could be
explained by understanding evolutionary pressures that our
ancestors faced over the last five million years.

For instance, men's greater jealousy over his mate’s sexual

infidelity can be traced, Buss believes, to the uncertainty men
have over the paternity of their children. Every woman who gives
birth is 100% certain that the child carries her genes. For men, on
the other hand, there is always a degree of doubt. In evolutionary
terms the consequence of raising a child that may not carry his
genes, but those of another man, is the death of his line. Those
men who took an easy-going approach to the possibility of his
mate being sexual with other men left fewer genes than those
men who were sexually jealous.

What makes Buss' findings so compelling is the breadth of his

research. "If mating desires and other features of human
psychology are products of our evolutionary history," says Buss,
"they should be found universally, not just in the United States."
To test his theories he conducted a five year study working with
fifty collaborators from thirty-seven cultures located on six
continents and five islands from Australia to Zambia. All major
racial groups, religious groups, and ethnic groups were
represented. In all, his research team surveyed 10,047 persons
worldwide. His findings held up in every culture he surveyed.

I’m sure Tiger’s transgressions will be discussed and debated for

a long time, just as those of Bill Clinton and other powerful men
have been. We have come a long way from our hunter-gatherer
ancestors, but our genes “desire” to get themselves passed on,
still does, and always will, influence male behavior.