Shakira, betrayal, and the fallacy of beauty: examining the culture of infidelity
I've researched this topic in depth. I've probably read hundreds of posts by incredible women discussing body acceptance, unedited self-display, and normalizing the surprising fact that bodies are diverse. I've read articles, listened to podcasts, and debated it repeatedly with my therapist. I've moved away from discussing 'body imperfections' or the 'perfect figure,' simply because my mentality has changed.
Nevertheless, one of my initial thoughts post-breakup was, "Could things have turned out differently if I looked 'better'?"
Betrayal isn't about attractiveness, it's a symptom of patriarchal views
Shakira's breakup with Gerard Pique, a couple we held up as ideal for years, has generated similar fears on a larger scale. "If Shakira was betrayed, it's disheartening to say there seems to be little hope for the rest of us," commented a TikTok user. Her video, where she highlights footage from Shakira's concert performance of "She Wolf," has gone viral, being viewed by over 3.6 million internet users.
This sentiment echoes not only on TikTok but also in various women's Facebook groups, where users voice their insecurities concerning relationships and physical looks. Here, you can hear "the Shakira effect": "How can someone betray a woman who looks like her?", "What chance do I have?", "I'll never meet someone who will love me despite of my looks"...
The aforementioned posts, comments, and my own spontaneous reflection are examples of a patriarchal narrative concerning our appearances that has persisted for years. "Many women, like Artemis', subconsciously consider beauty as the pinnacle of worth - losing valuable time pursuing their ambitions to self-scrutinize," writes Renee Engeln in her book 'Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession with Appearance Hurts Girls and Women'.
Societal expectations condition us into believing that thinness, firm breasts, lift facial oval, and a smooth bikini line increase our chances of love, acceptance, success, and other valued traits. If we lose these, we lose in life. Many of us have internalized this line of thought and passed it on to our friends and daughters. Seeing Shakira get rejected reinforces the misconception that, as ordinary and imperfect, we stand no chance of a partner's faithfulness. But, this is a fallacy.
Cheating isn't about wanting someone 'prettier'
Psychologists agree: infidelity goes beyond merely choosing a more conventionally attractive person. Each individual has their own interpretation of what infidelity entails. For some, it might be watching pornography, for others, it might be flirting or exchanging suggestive messages, and for others, it might be sleeping with another person. The definition changes within the framework of consensual non-monogamy and open relationships.
Cheating often indicates unfulfilled emotional or sexual needs. It could also signify boredom with one's own narrative, a desire for something different, a yearning for intense stimulants and sensations. "Choosing a partner is, in essence, selecting a narrative of your life. Yet, we remain curious about how other narratives might look. An affair allows us a glimpse into these alternate lives, into the unknown within us. Infidelity is often a revenge against abandoned opportunities," articulates Esther Perel, an expert psychotherapist with extensive knowledge of infidelity, in her book "The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity".
Psychologist Karolina Tuchalska-Siermińska, on the other hand, alludes to genetic influences driving this behavior. As she emphasizes on her website OdNova.net, the predisposition to cheat is partly influenced by the DRD4 gene, which influences dopamine production. Our pleasurable association with sex comes from dopamine. This gene is present in as much as 50% of the population. "So, there lies the fifty-fifty chance whether nature will lead us into temptation," concludes Tuchalska-Siermińska.
Over time, as Tuchalska-Siermińska points out, dopamine secretion wanes, reducing the ecstasy associated with sex. "Remembering earlier experiences, a deficit emerges and an insurmountable desire to feel that high again arises. Those genetically predisposed frequently seek additional stimuli. A new partner can trigger a rapid, intense release of dopamine," she explains. The initial excitement with a partner fades, another elicits a surge in dopamine levels and libido - this is known as the Coolidge effect.
"Would we love each other more if I were thinner?"
No, if I 'looked better' - whatever that translates to - it would likely change nothing. Regardless, I don't blame myself for having such thoughts. Altering long-held perspectives isn't easy. The narrative in society and media is only beginning to shift, and it mostly affects the bubbles on Instagram and not the mainstream, which still revolves around women's physical appearances.
However, real life is different: physical attractiveness, falling for someone, and romance often make surprising turns, diverging from the mainstream, and beaten path.
"Let’s make this clear once and for all: you can be taller, bigger, more educated, earn more, older, eat more, stronger than your partner," writes Ola Kisiel in one of her Instagram posts. "Because truly, do we think the size of people in a relationship impacts the quality of the relationship? Would we love each other more if I were thinner? Would we spend more time together if I were taller?"
Why Gerard Pique cheated on Shakira with 23-year-old Clara Chia Marti? We don’t know. But it probably wasn't about Shakira's looks.