In a survey conducted (more than 500 women), more than 80 percent of women of various backgrounds believe in beneficial lying, while 60 percent of interviewees admit to an addiction secret. Women tell all sorts of lies. There are infidelity lies, financial lies, and smaller, white lies about time and commitments that border on excuses. Where a man will lie for a secret as a quick fix in his lie, a woman will carefully guard her secret – this secret is a part of her existence, it can make her powerful. Women choose very specific kinds of lies, lies that might not even occur to men. Compassionate lies, uniquely female in nature, manifesting as “I’d rather lie than hurt your feelings.” This is a familiar form of lying, and it softens up the hard truth. We tell our best friend she looks good in a dress when it’s unbecoming.
Another female lies used to assuage the status quo is the betterment lie: “I lie to improve the situation.” This particular lie certainly has its pluses, and most women say it’s the bread and butter of female lies. So, when it comes to a bonus, a raise, or promotion, a betterment lie could expedite matters, it could make all the difference that women tell lies in order to be recognized. Designated lies are lies about a specific situation, our past, our education, our family life. The message here is “I have too much to lose if I unveil by secret, my lie overpowers my moral code.” Finally, there is the beneficial lie, justified by women for its conviction. A woman’s explanation of this kind of lie is “it’s more important than the truth.” “How could I have built this business if I hadn’t buried my secret – past debts.”
There are societal directives that keep women invested in their secrets and lies, to varying degrees:
- Shame factor – disclosing a lie can make us look bad. Woman would prefer to delude themselves when it comes to the ramifications of having a secret rather than face their shame. Women are keenly conscious that they can be disgraced by a discovered secret and they take great care to cover their tracks.
- Guilt game – guilt is another emotion women avoid when it comes to their secrets. Guilt is linked to shame, but a woman who feels ashamed believes that she didn’t measure up; a woman who feels guilty believes that she did the wrong thing (such as not taking action, not telling the truth)
- Denial quotient – this is how women dismiss guilt and shame. It’s easier not to dig deep enough to acknowledge the need for a lie, to deny the dark side of lying. This applies to various secrets that women preserve.
In a culture where the notion of romantic love is subsuming and sex is the ultimate declaration of such a commitment, women keep secrets. In the book on female infidelity, A Passion for More: Wives Reveal the Affairs That Make or Break Their Marriages, 65 percent of the interviewees reported that sex was better with the lover than in the marriage, and 90 percent felt no guilt but a sense of entitlement in conducting the affair. In one research, Women and Love, 60 percent of interviewees felt an affair was “a way of enjoying myself ...having one person appreciates you in a way that another doesn’t.” The research further shows that 13 percent of the women are “in love” with their husbands, while 82 percent love their husbands, which is defined as “caring and/or companionship.” Once there are children in marriage, the romance disappears, and 70 percent are dissatisfied with the sex.
The above findings explain a need for lies when it comes to women and their sex lives, let alone romantic longings. While it is standard fare to complain about a husband up to a point, an affair is off-limits. Sure, women will confide in a sister, a best-friend, someone who will cover her secrets which are worth protecting. Women will go about their business as wives and mothers with a lover on the side. For those women willing to risk having a lover (60 percent of married women conduct extramarital affairs), lies of all sorts unfold.
Another way in which women lie about their love lives involves old boyfriends and ex-husbands. We see women settle into what appears to be happy relationships and marriages, and assume they’re set. Yet women say they are missing an emotional connection. These women describe the list of happiness, without the real thing. For women who remain in these unions, it’s a lie lived daily, for the sake of children, and financial stability.
Also, women lie about their sexual encounters and number of partners. It’s surprising that so many years after the sexual revolution, this is actually still the case, and that the perception of women-as-pure is at a premium. On a lighter note, women are known to lie about orgasms and how enjoyable sex is with their partners. The famous fake orgasm of Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally underscores how well women pretend.
The women who confessed to family secrets concerning domestic (physical or emotional) abuse and incest say they kept the secret in order not to disrupt the family. Furthermore, the women made excuses for the perpetrator, or failed to tell a mother or sister what had transpired. This makes it easier for the woman, as the victim, to blame herself rather than blow a whistle on a husband, stepfather, uncle, or older brother or family friend who appears incapable of the abuse he inflicts.
Sex addiction, long considered a male disorder, has not actually been defined by our society. We recognize that male standard: porn on the internet, a lack of connection with one’s partner, unnatural urges. But the public would be surprised if a female revealed a pornographic secret. When it comes to cyberspace pornography, 70 percent of women say they do it in secret, as reported by TopTenREVIEWS, an Internet site. Chat rooms offer a woman a fantasy life if she is unhappy with her partner, or single, and so, in many cases, the addiction begins. Women know how to cover this shameful secret and guilty act, because the stigma against sex addiction for men is strong, for women the taboo is stronger – the cover up is greater. TopTenREVIEWS reports that 17 percent of women struggle with pornography addiction, women favor chat rooms twice as much as do men, and 9.4 million women access adult Web sites on a monthly basis.
The internet only increases the odds of a woman fantasizing about the man she meets, since what one presents about herself/himself online can prove very different from the reality. That means the couple is operating on false premises. By joining a Web site such as Match.com, Tagged, Friendfinder or eHarmony, can be both a positive and negative experience. For some subscribers, it’s a healthy way to meet a potential mate; for others, it’s a way to hook someone before he learns to much, if he ever does. In this way, there is a provision for female lies and deception, which can be perpetuated once the couple meets.
Source: Little White Lies, Deep Dark Secrets by Susan Shapiro Barash, 2008