Mistresses had a hell of a year in the spotlight in 2010. Some women were upfront about their affairs with married men, while others attempted to keep their secrets on the low. But their stories were blasted everywhere from tabloids to mainstream news. And the blame being placed on the mistresses took the attention away from the man who actually took the vows.

Alicia Keys has been fairly low-key since the birth of her son, Egypt Daoud Dean, but she recently resurfaced with her exclusive interview in Essence’s June issue.

For the past two and a half years, Keys has remained silent on her relationship with husband Swizz Beats, even amid all of the chatter. Keys has been accused on blogs and by former fans of being a home wrecker for contributing to breaking up a family. Meanwhile Swizz Beats’ ex-wife Mashonda was fairly vocal about the situation with her ex-husband and Keys’ relationship, as well as him fathering another child in London while they were separated. Keys walked with her head held high and never spoke on the issue.

As I was flipping through her cover story, I recognized Keys’ refusal to admit any foul play.

“Everything was in order,” she says firmly. “We didn’t start seeing each other until after they had been separated for months…Of course, people will believe what they want to believe. But I know the truth will shine through.”

After I read the interview, one of my girlfriends and I chatted until the conversation led to the topic of mistresses. Although she understood my stance, she asked, “Why is the woman always blamed and never the man who said the vows?”

Her question has a valid point. For me, holding Keys, or any other mistress, accountable for knowingly participating as the other woman does not negate the fault of the man who took the vows. Both of them equally are at fault. Disagreeing with Keys’ choice to date Swizz Beats while he was still legally married, and acknowledging him breaking his vows doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive. But I do think in situations where the husband is unfaithful, the side chick is scrutinized more than the man.

We live in a patriarchal society. The man’s number of sexual encounters oftentimes defines his manhood. It’s rarely a shocker when there is breaking news of a public figure cheating on his wife. In some sick way I think we’ve become accustomed to men and infidelity. (Yes, I understand women cheat too.) Whereas women are held to an unfair moral standard. Society is uncomfortable seeing women outside of the realms of some unrealistic chaste being. It’s a double standard. But it is the world we live in.

The scrutiny of Keys, although many give her a pass, is different than the average woman’s. The image the public had of Alicia placed her somewhat on a pedestal.  She was the beautiful, articulate, humble, down-to-earth, wholesome and talented artist who appeared to have the total package. She was also a breath of fresh air in the music industry when she dropped “Songs in A Minor” in 2001. She became the spokeswoman for female empowerment; and nearly everything she did was centered on that identity. Yet she knowingly dated a separated, but still married man.

People will undoubtedly argue Swizz Beats and Mashonda were separated, which gave them the green light to date other people. And that’s fine. But there is a conversation to be had about my friend’s question regarding the mistress being blamed.

Maybe there is some flawed system at play in these types of circumstances where society unfairly blames the mistress. And perhaps that ought to be reevaluated. The “other woman” is not bound by law to respect anyone’s vows that are not her own. But disregarding the mistress’ role is unrealistic as well.

Why is the mistress condemned while the man usually walks away unscathed? Is it right for the mistress to own any responsibility for the affair since she isn’t the one who took vows?

Speak on it!


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  • I say Swizz and Alicia are to blame… But, come on Alicia what about Girl Power. What about being a girl’s girl??

  • Buffy

    Husband choses to flirt with another woman, sets up times and places to date her, lie to the wife about strange phone calls and suspicious behavior, keeps maintaining the other relationship, wife finds out truth about what husband has been doing, yells and cries at husband, yells and cries at other woman, take husband back. Husband lays low for awhile, husband learns to control behavior and phone calls better to keep wife off his trail with his NEW mistress. See what happens while everyone else focuses on the other woman? He is on to the next other woman because the SOURCE of the problem wasn’t dealt with. The source is the unhappy, bored, husband. All these emails about what a woman “owes” another woman… Ladies, you don’t know what that husband is telling the other woman he’s having sex with, the women at the bar, the women at work. Is it her responsibility to track you down and ask what is going on in you all’s marriage? All she knows is that YOU know he’s leaving work early, coming home late, losing weight, dressing differently, not taking you out, not having sex with you, come on now, you know the signs. Either have the guts to throw his cheating, lying butt out and be done with him, or stop being a hater on a woman who has a man’s attention. Most black women are not even married, so I know you don’t expect much from the men you deal with. Fornication is also a sin. He’s not your husband EITHER.

    • I hit the thumbs down button completely in error. I totally agree with this post! Keep, keeping it real girl!

  • Anna

    In most cases its 50% the man and 50% the mistress (if she knows he’s married). Otherwise its 100% the man.

    However, there are circumstances where the line blurs and things are not clear. Sometimes men stay with a wife that they don’t love anymore for the children’s sake. They want their children to grow up in a united family so getting a divorce is not easy.

    My father married my mother after divorcing his previous wife who had two children. After talking to him about that he said he had never loved her (he married her because he was lonely and he thought he did love her) had two kids and then had the lousiest 5 years of marriage of his life which included her cheating on him and hitting him with a belt. People talk about the fact that women should leave abusive relationships and well men should too but its kind of like taboo in our society. He met my mother while still married and fell in love.

    Here’s the thing. We do not own people. We do not own their hearts. A man may love you but you do not own his heart just as he doesn’t own yours. I don’t blame Alicia Keys. She could have met him after his divorce but she met him while he was married. That is not a capital offence especially since he was separated and basically in a nunfunctional marriage. She was not responsible for the destruction of his marriage because it was already messed up between him and his previous wife.