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Women’s Reaction to Opposite- and Same-Sex Infidelity in Three Cultures

Data from Canada, Samoa, and the Istmo Zapotec

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Previous research indicates that Euro-American women are more upset by imagining their male partners committing homosexual infidelities than heterosexual ones. The present studies sought to replicate these findings and extend them to two non-Western cultures wherein masculine men frequently engage in sexual interactions with feminine third-gender males. Across six studies in three cultural locales (Canada, Samoa, and the Istmo Zapotec), women were asked to rate their degree of upset when imagining that their partner committed infidelity that was heterosexual in nature, as well as infidelity that was homosexual. In two Canadian undergraduate samples, women reported greater upset at imagining partner infidelity with a female, whereas a community sample of middle-aged women reported equal upset across infidelity types. Samoan women reported substantially less upset at the thought of partner infidelity with a third-gender male (fa’afafine) than with a female. Istmo Zapotec women reported equal upset toward infidelity with a female or a third-gender male (muxe), whereas a second Zapotec sample reported slightly greater upset at the thought of infidelity with a muxe. Results illustrate how cultural contexts moderate the degree to which same-sex infidelity scenarios are upsetting to women.

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  1. Throughout the manuscript we employ sex-related terms (i.e., male/female) to refer to an individual’s biology, inasmuch as they possess either male- or female-typical primary and secondary sex characteristics. Gender-related terms (man, woman, gender nonbinary, etc.) denote gender identity, which is somewhat more susceptible to cultural influence and may not align with biological sex.


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The authors wish to thank the Government of Samoa, the Samoan Fa’afafine Association, as well as Trisha Tuiloma and Alatina Ioelu, without whom research in Samoa would not be possible. We also thank the Office of the Municipal President in Juchitán, Mexico, as well as Felina Santiago and Julio C. Jiménez Rodríguez for their assistance in Juchitán.


SWS was funded by a Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarships (Doctoral) from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada (grant number 767–2016-2485), as well as a 2016 Student Research Development Award from the International Academy of Sex Research. FRGJ was supported by a National Geographic Society Early Career Grant (grant number HJ-017ER-17), a Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid of Research (G2017031591840826) as well as a 2017 Student Research Development Award from the International Academy of Sex Research. PLV was supported by grants awarded by the University of Lethbridge Research Fund (grant number 13261), and an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada (grant number 435–2017-0866).

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Correspondence to Scott W. Semenyna.

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The materials and methodology for this study was approved by the Human Subject Research Committee of the University of Lethbridge (#2016–046).

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Semenyna, S.W., Gómez Jiménez, F.R. & Vasey, P.L. Women’s Reaction to Opposite- and Same-Sex Infidelity in Three Cultures. Hum Nat 32, 450–469 (2021).

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