opinion

Emily Ratajkowski's husband reportedly cheated on her. We need to talk about the response.

According to reports, Sebastian Bear-McClard, the husband of 31-year-old model, actress and author, Emily Ratajkowski, has cheated on her. 

The cultural response is best summed up by the tweet: "Emily Ratajkowski's husband cheated on her? I didn't even know you could do that."

While the internet tweets and comments and compiles TikTok videos with slide shows of Ratajkowski along with the caption, "How did she get cheated on :(", it's worth clarifying that these rumours are, as yet, unsubstantiated. 

A source told Page Six, "Yeah, he cheated. He's a serial cheater. It's gross. He's a dog." Ratajkowski, who has been married for four years, has also been photographed without her wedding ring. Rumours that producer and actor Bear-McClard cheats on Ratajkowski have been persistent for years. But the facts of the story are almost not really the point. 

The most interesting element has been the response. 

You see, Ratajkowski would have to be considered one of the most beautiful women on the planet. Any magazine that ranks the "world's sexiest women", from Rolling Stone, to Sports Illustrated, to FHM, has included Ratajkowski. 

Then, in March 2021, Ratajkowski gave birth. Eleven days later, she shared photos and videos to Instagram which featured a body that looked entirely unchanged by pregnancy and birth, zooming in on her flat stomach. 

There was, inevitably, a lot of discussion regarding the helpfulness of sharing such images that bear little resemblance to most women's postpartum bodies. In any case, Ratajkowski has continued modelling and remains what I think is fair to call an absolute male fantasy.

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Rumours that this woman - with her lips and her stomach and her breasts - has been cheated on, have been met with shock. 

"If Em Rata got cheated on," a tweet reads, "I've got no hope."

Another asks, "I'm sorry but who the f**k is Em Ratajkowski's husband cheating with? Imagine having the kind of confidence to think you could do better than Em Ratajkowski. This is why we need to bully men more."

This commentary betrays our most basic assumptions: that when a man cheats on a woman, it is due to her own lack of desirability. 

When women are cheated on, we are programmed to search for fault within ourselves. A voice whispers in our ear, perhaps if we were just thinner, or put in more effort, or if we'd had more sex, or if we'd been more attentive, or if we just looked a little bit more like, say Emily Ratajkowski, he wouldn't have 'strayed'. The term 'strayed' does a fantastic job of putting the onus on the woman in this scenario - as though she wasn't working hard enough to keep his attention.

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It is as though we imagine women exist in some sort of hierarchy, with Ratajkowski at the top. If a man couldn't even be content with her, then what hope do any of us have?

One of the countless problems with such a conclusion is that it assumes our entire value as women is indexed upon how we look. Our status, according to this logic, is determined by our body fat percentage and waist to bust measurements. This imagined hierarchy not only reduces the humanity of heterosexual women but also the men who love us. 

The irony is, as Mamamia's Entertainment Editor Laura Brodnik highlights, we are not shocked that Bear-McClard cheated on Ratajkowski 'because' she is the mother of their child.

Or because she is a New York Times best-selling author.

Or because she is a woman who was arrested for protesting Brett Kavanaugh's supreme court nomination, which in part has contributed to the historic overturning of Roe v. Wade. 

We are not indignant that Bear-McClard reportedly cheated on his wife, a woman he lives with and proclaims to love. 

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The real outrage comes from the implosion of our sense of the social order. 

'This man got the best one!' We shout. 'And he still wasn't satisfied!'

But we are reading this story all wrong.

Ratajkowski isn't the point here. Her husband reportedly cheating on her is not some kind of indictment on her value, physical or otherwise. 

Infidelity is not a relationship assessment, fidelity a 'gift' afforded to only the most beautiful among us. 

The story here - if the rumours are to be believed - is Bear-McClard. He is the one who made a choice, not Ratajkowski.

It is a lesson popular culture continues to teach us. 

You can be Beyonce, one of the world's best-selling recording artists, and your partner will cheat. 

You can be Sandra Bullock, thanking your husband after winning a Screen Actor's Guild award, and your partner will cheat. 

You can be Sienna Miller, the It Girl of the early 2000s, and your partner will cheat. 

We need to stop looking in the direction of the Ratajkowski's and the Beyonce's and start looking in the direction of the men who made a choice.  

It's not about the person who didn't cheat. It's about the person who did. And the people who cheat - who are just as often women as men, although we often read their behaviour differently - do so because they are impulsive or selfish, distracted or tempted, or searching for newness, the thing every relationship will eventually lose.

Some people will cheat because they do not know how not to. 

Yes. Even on people who look like Emily Ratajkowski. 

Jessie Stephens is the author of best-selling book, Heartsick. For more, you can follow her on  Instagram.

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