It’s one of many hilarious anecdotes in Jim Bouton’s classic exposé of Major League Baseball, Ball Four. He recalls an unnamed teammate talking to a young woman who asks him if he’s married and he replies, “Yeah, But I’m not a fanatic about it.”
Well, millions of people are just like him. Even though 'thou shalt not commit adultery' comes in at number 7 on the Top Ten Commandments list, over 80% of American consider adultery more objectionable than human cloning, suicide, and polygamy. That’s why they call it cheating.
But there are countries where infidelity is somewhat morally acceptable, or at least a pleasurable vice. In France the President was caught with a hot young cutie and nobody said much about it - but what do you expect from a country where the new “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie is classified suitable for children 12 and up?
In the last decade the big players in the hookup business, Durex Condoms, and online dating sites for married people have conducted exhaustive surveys to work out where in the world people are cheating most. Here, TheRichest has crunched the data to find out which ten countries are most often cited as enjoying illicit sexy affairs.
There are some outliers in the data, however. For example, in a 2005 poll by Durex, Turkey was ranked as the infidelity capital of the world. The credibility of that number is thought to be dubious, as Muslim countries are invariably among the least adulterous in the world; that particular result has therefore been eliminated from the following findings as anomalous. In fact, Paris has been voted the Infidelity Capital of the World, although the numbers suggest the real capital might be much further east...
10 Finland: 36%
Technically Finns don't cheat. They have “parallel relationships.” It might be worth trying that one on your spouse if you get caught. Interestingly, the rate among middle aged and younger cheater declined sharply through 2010. One blogger in Finland says that sex in the nation “… is viewed as a very positive experience, so when a person is presented with the possibility of a sexual experience, it's in some ways socially sanctioned to pursue it."
A survey by Match.com found one in five married men had had affairs with at least ten women - seven times the rate among women.
9 United Kingdom 36%
Here the survey found definite evidence of “Anglo-Saxon puritanism” in the UK views of morality and sexuality. Not only are they at the lower end of the European infidelity rate (or is that the higher end of the monogamy rate?), they lead the league in guilt. About half of British respondents who admitted cheating say they regretted it, about twice the rate of the French. The ranking suggests only commoners were surveyed. Including the Royal family’s exploits would have made the country Top Five easy.
8 Spain: 39%
After directing Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Woody Allen said Penelope Cruz was so hot, his pants caught on fire. You would think the Spanish machismo and sultry women would top the Hot Chart, but surveyors concluded that religion and convention can inhibit extramarital activity.
Spain is, traditionally, strongly Catholic and so cheating would inevitably be frowned upon socially. Despite the taboo, Spain has a surprisingly high divorce:marriage ratio of over 60, so perhaps the Spaniards are choosing to end one relationship before embarking on a new one?
7 Belgium 40%
Who knew? Belgium is more widely known for having the best French fries on earth than for being a hotbed of hanky panky. But consider this: The online relationship site Gleeden is the Ashley Madison of Belgium for married men and women looking to hookups. It has 1.1 million members. That's 10% of the entire population looking for illicit sex.
One Gleeden advisor said “Having a lover or a mistress becomes almost the norm and is no longer a secret that is whispered. The lover, the mistress, is the ultimate antidepressant.” How ironic that more traditional antidepressants can cause sexual dysfunction whereas Gleeden’s prescription will have the opposite effect.
6 Norway: 41%
Victoria Milan found that new registrations on their cheating site increased by 78% during a heat wave. When you live in the Land of the Midnight Sun, it seems there's a short mating season. Those long, cold, bleak winters may discourage stepping out.
A blogger called ‘A Canadian in Norway’ observed the comparatively low rate of cheating in Norway may be because “Norway is small and everyone knows your business so infidelity is less common. Just as well, you’re apt to find the neighbour you’re having an affair with is a blood relation.”
5 France: 43%
Few French cared a soupcon when it was revealed that President Francois Hollande had a young, hot mistress. In fact it’s something of a tradition for French Presidents.
French is the language of love and the French are known for their passion and élan. So it’s almost a shock that France isn’t in fact the number 1 world leader in infidelity.
The French are so much more civilized about these things. It’s the only country in the world in which a majority of people believe affairs are not morally unacceptable. 63% of French people believe it is possible to love someone for life without being faithful to them. Only 28% of French people surveyed regretted their affairs. So, perhaps spiritually at least, France is the center of the unfaithful universe.
4 Germany: 45%
Another surprising ranking, few would have guessed married Germans are more amorous than the French. But they're just quieter and more discreet about their sexual transgressions.
They were second behind the French with 60% reporting infidelity as morally acceptable. They are also the most egalitarian society when it comes to these matters. 40% of men confessed to affair as did 43% of women, the randiest women in the European Union. If lineups of young men start to form at German consulates everywhere, you know why.
3 Italy: 45%
When a country’s past leader is famous for ‘bunga bunga’ parties and is convicted of paying for sex with an underage sex workers, it’s not a shock to find the nation falls into the upper tier of cheaters.
Besides, Venice is the birthplace of Casanova, the epitome of skirt chaser. It's a reputation Italian men retain to this day. Casanova wrote to an Empress he was seeing that “dishonour only arises in reality when the infidelity if made public.” But that was in the 18th century, before they invented divorce lawyers - a lot more than dishonour hits the fan these days. Maybe Casanova's mentality is why the Italian divorce rate is among the lowest in the world; the Italians are all just so good at hiding their escapades.
2 Denmark: 46%
Copenhagen has lost its reputation as Sex and P*rn Capital of Europe to Hamburg and Amsterdam but it’s still called “a social and erotic arena.”
Frommer’s travel guide says that sex shops peddling magazines and X-rated films stand adjacent to decent and well-recommended family hotels. But it’s still called the infidelity capital of Denmark. Cheating site Victoria Milan thrives here, and is lately seeing an increase in membership mostly from women, which is taken as a sign of growing equality between the sexes.
1 Thailand: 56%
Bangkok’s Patpong is the most notorious red light district in the world and the sex trade is a fair-sized economic sector, much to the dismay of most Thais. And dismay was the official reaction when a Durex poll found married Thai men and women among the most promiscuous in the world.
There isn't necessarily a direct connection between sex work and adultery, but the industry contributes to a no-holds-barred vibe to sexuality in Thailand. Patpong is the first and sometimes only part of the country tourists see. Among expat males, young Thai girlfriends are a status symbol. There's also an old tradition of polygamy called Mia Nois, lesser wives, which remains primarily among rich men.
Whatever your kinks run to, you can probably find them here. Without a doubt, it’s the Wild Wild East.