Okay, it was only two husbands, and one of them was mine. And there may or may not have been several glasses of white wine and more than a few cocktails involved. Regardless of the control factor, this highly reliable—if anecdotal—research has merit and will soon be published in a peer-reviewed online publication. Perhaps you’re reading it right now, in fact.
The husbands participating in the study were first presented with three yes or no questions:
1) Do you think it was wrong for Adrian Peterson to use a switch to punish his 4-year-old child?
2) Do you think the NFL should have acted sooner and more firmly in response to the video of Ray Rice punching his wife in an elevator?
3) Do you think it was wrong for a hacker to steal and make public naked pictures of celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton?
Somewhere between drinks two and three, the answers to the above were an unequivocal 1) Yes, 2) Yes, and 3) Yes.
The wives engaged in the questioning were initially pleased by the answers their husbands offered. Followup investigation, however, complicated the results considerably.
When asked if their strong feelings on the matter would affect their consumption of NFL games and participation in the attendant fantasy football league activities, the subjects of the study responded with a firm—and, frankly, uncomfortably loud for a small restaurant—”Fuck, no!”
Researchers were increasingly surprised by the study participants’ reactions to the Cloud hacking scandal. One hundred percent of the subjects queried agreed with the statement, “The women whose photos were stolen and posted were violated.” This result was reassuring to the test givers. However, upon initial inquiry, only 50 percent of subjects replied “Yes,” to the question, “Did you look at the photos?” The other 50 percent first replied with a self-satisfied, “No,” but then reversed their response upon further interrogation. The revised answer was something akin to, “I tried but they were already taken down. So, no, I didn’t look at them.”
When one of the researchers called BS on that line of defense and stated definitely that clicking on the link at all was equivalent to condoning the crime—in, perhaps, an increasingly shrill tone that may have distracted diners at the next table—it seems as if this study participant may have laughed and waved his hand dismissively. Fortunately, that study subject was not married to that particular researcher, which may have alleviated some of the post-study tension in the subject’s home. (The second subject’s response—”Dude, you’re the one taking all the crap, but I’m the one who got to look at the pictures!”—did, however, create tension in my…I mean, the second subject’s…home.)
Researchers are left with a puzzling scenario.
The numbers show that even “good” men casually condone unacceptable behavior, especially when their fantasy football ranking is on the line. But do these findings necessarily represent a disturbing inner life and faulty set of values in the study’s participants? If so, to what degree does that conclusion contradict and thus undermine an otherwise exemplary moral and ethical code that was thoroughly vetted and tested in the early 2000s before procreation and co-signing of mortgages were allowed? How does a test giver remain married to an otherwise respectful man who would sooner give himself a root canal than raise a hand against another human being or steal someone else’s property—but who seems willing to overlook these acts in others?
These results, of course, do not cancel for mitigating factors, such as the current ranking of the New England Patriots or opinion of the dance scenes in Silver Linings Playbook. Researchers are hopeful, however, that with treatment (including such methodologies as unrelenting Sunday afternoon commentary, frustrated queries along the lines of, “What if that were your daughter—not that it should even matter!” and reiteration of the degree of disappointment), subjects’ behavior can be modified and a more appropriate level of outrage and empathy achieved. Or maybe not. Further study is required.
photo: Getty Images Sport/Rob Carr