A sparkly engagement ring used to be the symbol of ultimate security for single girls. However, a dangerous ilk of women is on the rise: those who donâ€™t consider a wedding band a deterrent, while searching for Mr. Right. They crave the excitement of a passionate romance, but one with an added challenge on top. In other words: They want your boyfriend or husband and arenâ€™t the least bit afraid to go after him.
If the tabloids are any indication, one may assume that chasing married men is largely a habit formed in Hollywood â€“ from Rachel Uchitelâ€™s recent confession to bedding actor, David Boreanaz (a married father of two), to stripper Michelle â€œBombshellâ€ McGeeâ€™s tryst with Sandra Bullockâ€™s soon-to-be ex, Jesse James, to her fling with shamed golfer, Tiger Woods.
However, this recent batch of philandering female star-chasers is indicative of a real-life trend thatâ€™s been taking place for a while, say scientists at Oklahoma State University.
In a prominent and highly publicised study, researchers divided bachelorettes into two groups and showed them photographs of a hot guy â€“ telling one group he was single and the other he was in a relationship; then, they asked the women how likely they were to pursue him. Only when the woman believed he was committed to someone else did interest in the male subject skyrocket.
So what gives? Itâ€™s not like mate-poaching is a new concept. The idea of seeking several partners â€“ even those who are taken â€“ well, thatâ€™s classic Darwinian thinking. However, some experts say the more sexual equality females gain in society, the more Rachel Uchitel types are likely to come crawling out of the woodwork.
â€œResearch shows that in societies where women are economically powerful, the more sexually and socially-aggressive they are,â€ says anthropologist Helen Fisher, Ph.D., author of Why We Love. â€œAnd today, with more men out of work than women (due to the recession cutting more male-oriented jobs), weâ€™re seeing women become bolder in every area of their lives.â€
Thereâ€™s even a chemical explanation for why many women pursue guys in relationships.
â€œAny block to romantic love drives up dopamine â€“ a brain chemical associated with love and reward,â€ says Fisher. â€œThat brain rush can feel addictive.â€
And, for the female mate-poacher who Oklahoma researchers say bases her self-esteem on her looks and romantic status, that brain rush can be an intoxicating and driving force, causing her to view already-committed men with rose-coloured glasses.
â€œMen in relationships have already proven their willingness to commit, which is a major draw to these women,â€ says Ian Kerner, Ph.D., sex and relationship therapist. â€œThe possibility of landing him may make her feel special and maybe even superior.â€
But this high doesnâ€™t last for long. Expending all their energy on already-committed men is a risky business, says Kerner. Thatâ€™s because these men are often happy to have sex on the side, but are rarely willing to leave their wives or girlfriends.
Proof can be gleaned from Michelle McGeâ€™s infamous quote in Steppinâ€™ Out magazine: â€œI think men are made to spread their seed. Women need to accept that. If youâ€™re going to be married to somebody, you need to know that men are not meant to be with one woman. I think you can totally love your spouse and still sleep with other women. That urge will always be there, if youâ€™re a man. I believe you can love your wife 100 per cent and still stray.â€
But in the end, both women get shafted. â€œThe problem is, by expending all their energy on men in relationships, female mate poachers are overlooking potential guys who could be compatible long-term mates,â€ says Kerner.
Yet, sometimes it does work out. Angelina Jolie â€“ no doubt our generationâ€™s most famous mate-poacher â€“ snatched Brad Pitt from Jennifer Aniston; five years and six kids later, they seem to be going strong. But in Angieâ€™s darkest hour, does she ever wonder whether one day she could become the next scorned wife?