When Men Cheat On Pregnant Women

It seems unfathomable — but it’s actually quite common.

I n an intimate black and white maternity photo shoot, Tristan Thompson stands closely behind Khloe Kardashian, gently cupping her growing belly in his hands. Khloe’s long blonde spirals cascade down her shoulder, and as your eye follows the soft slope of her hair, they come to rest on the outline of her curvaceous figure, dressed in delicate black lingerie. The happy couple are gazing out of the window, her hand rested assuringly on his broad shoulder. It’s as if they are saying, “I’ve got you, babe,” to each other. Khloe, a woman on the cusp of motherhood, has finally found love.

But in true Kardashian fashion, everything about the photo is perfectly staged, including the relationship. At least, based on what we’ve learned since then about Tristan’s alleged affair, with videos of him making out with women who were decidedly not Khloe hitting the internet last month.

It seems unfathomable for such a seemingly, and publicly, devoted fiancé to cheat on his unborn child’s mother the week that she’s due to give birth, but it’s actually not so uncommon. Studies indicate that 1 in 10 men cheat on their pregnant partners, while 1 in 5 cheat on their partners, pregnant or not. And the risk of men cheating on their partners grows with the fetus. That means, the more pregnant the woman, the more likely the man is to cheat.

The more pregnant the woman, the more likely the man is to cheat.

But cheating is not due to some character flaw or relationship drama. Infidelity is belittling, a classic trait of misogyny, and cheating is, in turn, a product of patriarchy. It comes from the underlying rumble that minimizes, disparages, and objectifies women.

Men don’t have to assault women to participate in misogyny, they just have to use her to satisfy a need for power, approval, and validation — at her expense. While men might justify infidelity and say it’s due to a lack of sex, fear of intimacy, or need for validation, the reality probably has more to do with entitlement and objectification. In a culture that fetishizes female body parts, it becomes easier to mistreat and discard women as objects, even those who are carrying your child, rather than interact with and treat them as revered human beings.

It becomes especially easy to write women off when one’s worldview has been framed by the Madonna-whore complex. A theory of Sigmund Freud’s, the Madonna-whore complex assumes that women can be separated into two stereotypical identities: an asexual partner or a sexual being. As Madonna, women are not as enticing or desirable and become easy to ignore and forget. We are shoved into the mothering cupboard, a small, sometimes dark space that leaves little room to pursue our own wild dreams and desires, without much say in the matter.

I felt boxed into the role myself by my ex-partner, after pregnancy, commitment, and motherhood — as did Khloe, it seems, even though her sultry photo shoot suggests that she is as sexy and desirable as ever. Yet within this Madonna-whore framework that girds the patriarchy, sexy and motherhood rarely exist together. That is why headlines read “Hot Mama” and not just “Mama”; desirable and motherhood can’t, presumably, live together naturally. While Khloe embraces her sexy side, it’s possible that Tristan lacked the ability to desire her as a mother.

In this, he and others are acting as part of something much larger, and nefarious.

Infidelity is an act of patriarchal power that emotionally devastates a pregnant woman and assaults her self-esteem, and the ideology that women serve one of two purposes, either as lover or mother, is dangerous. It perpetuates rape culture and sexual harassment while entitling politicians (who are mainly male) to legislate female bodies, policies that punish women for being whores and force motherhood on us to be Madonnas.

Infidelity is an act of patriarchal power that emotionally devastates a pregnant woman and assaults her self-esteem.

But we are at our most vulnerable when we are pregnant. No one, other than our partner, wants us in this state of painful engorged breasts, stretch marks, and leaks in all the wrong places. He knows this. He has claimed us and he has no competition. This leaves us susceptible to his acts of sexism and misogyny. What can be more minimizing and belittling than being cheated on by your partner while pregnant?

That kind of betrayal leaves you a little weaker, a little more broken, a little less perfect. That is patriarchy at work.