There are many days I despair about the state of the world. Today is definitely one of those days.
Today, I stumbled across a YouTube channel called To Catch a Cheater. It’s as stupid as it sounds.
The premise of the series is simple and deeply flawed: a concerned partner will dob in their partner as one who they believe has the potential to cheat. (Potential being part one of the deep flaws of the concept. Bear with me though, it gets worse.)
Then, the TV crew sets up innocent partner with an actor, who tries to seduce them. All the while, a camera crew films the whole thing and the other partner watches on. Delightful, eh?
I have two things to say: A) that’s not how cheating works and b) um, that’s not how cheating works.
Listen: Relationship counsellor and psychiatrist Esther Perel explains to Mia Freedman why happy people still cheat.
Take Kesley for example. Kelsey didn’t trust her best friend. Not her boyfriend – her best friend.
So, she called up the crew at To Catch a Cheater to see if – wait for it – Brittany would be such a bad friend, she’d be ballsy enough to kiss Kelsey’s boyfriend. (The ultimate test of friendship, obviously.)
And so, Kelsey’s friend Brittany was set up by the crew to ‘bump’ into Kelsey’s boyfriend.
The conversation flowed, the duo were flirting, Kelsey’s boyfriend occasionally touched Brittany’s thigh. Suddenly, there were metaphors being thrown around like nobody’s business – ahem, like, blowing candles and such – when both finally kissed.
End of experiment, so you would think. Kelsey was right, her friend is a snake.
But Kelsey isn't happy, you see. Her boyfriend took it too far. He shouldn't have kissed her!
Kelsey calls her boyfriend, they engage in a fight, look like they are about to break up and the episode... just... ends.
There is an entire YouTube series based on jealous partners setting their partners up to cheat, only to become more jealous and for the partner to, well, cheat.
Here's a thought! What if the partner was never set up to cheat? They they would never... cheat? Then there would be no problem? And no broken relationship? And everyone would be happy?
But there's something else not right here.
From the outside, everyone seems to have consented to be on this absurd show. And while we don't know the context around why they consented, or if they knew what they were consenting to, it's highly likely it's all set up. Right?
So why do 1.4 million viewers subscribe to this channel? Even when they suspect it's all fake?
In 2015, it was found that globally, almost 39 million people have joined the Ashley Madison website since it was launched in 2001. That's 39 million people worldwide willing to cheat on their spouse.
We all have an inherent fascination with the concept of cheating. Is it because we are tempted? Is it because we are desperate to hear about the flaws in other people's relationships to make sense of our own?
As relationship expert Esther Perel told Mia Freedman in an interview for No Filter, straying isn’t necessarily a symptom of a relationship gone awry.
“It’s the quest for lost parts of one’s self, it’s the quest for a sense of aliveness, for vitality," she said.
Clearly, 1.4 million people enjoy watching this 'aliveness' quest, no matter how fake it looks.