Baltasar Nordstrom: As the new year gets underway and the Tiger Woods affair begins to wind up, Tiger may be about to be given a late Christmas gift that he probably did not want. With the number of his paramours peaking (at least for now) at 14, his badly betrayed wife Elin has reportedly hired a high-caliber attorney for the purposes of divorce. The mass media portray his story, of course, as nothing more than that of a highly talented and tremendously well-compensated American athlete who goes wrong and indulges widely in extramarital affairs with willing, amoral tarts over his five years of marriage. What Tiger did to Nordic Elin is symbolic of a much larger, ongoing phenomenon that goes to the heart of multi-racial, multicultural America.
Tiger had been marketed by the media and his corporate sponsors as, to quote Lisa Schiffren, “an all-purpose icon: a man of personal rectitude, a lovely smile, apparent openness; a family man, with a lovely wife and two adorable babies.” The Woods image was “constructed for corporate consumption” for business reasons. Though the talent was real, the image was a “fraud,” “an act,” manufactured for corporate profits. He was also, because of the marriage of the dark-skinned Tiger to the pure Nordic (blond, blue-eyed, very White-skinned) Elin, packaged, or at least understood by some to be, to quote Schiffren again, “our first living embodiment of the collective hope for racial reconciliation.” It all went very well for a while until this particular deck of cards came crashing down on November 27th.
Citing corporate profits as the underlying motive for the construction and maintenance of this false idol only begins to tell the story, however. It is undeniable that large enterprises like Nike, Gillette, AT&T, and Gatorade did have a stake in portraying Tiger as a clean-cut all-American, and, according to Shiffren, some of his philandering, as well as his “personal nastiness, arrogance, and general non-cuddly nature”, may have been known to at least a couple of his corporate sponsors and media outlets. He is rumored to be the most-fined player on the Professional Golfers Association Tour, throwing his clubs and having a dirty mouth (frequent “audible obscenities”), among other things, something that could not have escaped the attention of all his corporate benefactors. Other dynamics are in play, however.
First, to state the obvious, Tiger himself is a member of the corporate class that has showered him with wealth. His wealth lies somewhere in the $500 million to $1 billion dollar range. The cover-ups of his character flaws, to the extent these cover-ups existed, were done in collusion with him, for his personal profit. He knew he was not the clean-cut, all-American male he was presented as, yet raked in his sponsorship fees nevertheless.
Second, his philandering could not have happened were it not for his wealth and fame. It is highly unlikely that he would have been the target of so many attractive women if he were a handyman or office clerk, for example. His infidelities were enabled by his membership in his class and are a result of the way wealth and fame are distributed in the United States.
It would be too much to say that the wealth-infidelity connection is causal, however. Presumably, most wealthy people do not engage in extramarital affairs to the extent Tiger did. Though wealth made it possible, the causality must lie elsewhere.
This brings us back to the mass media’s portrayal of Tiger’s affairs as the result of the weaknesses of a single man — a man who perhaps let his talent and success go to his head — but his transgressions are the problems of an individual man nevertheless. Other professional athletes like Kobe Bryant, Alex Rodriguez, Michael Jordan, Wade Boggs, and Babe Ruth have had the same problem, though none except for Ruth to the same or greater degree, and there is no reason to suspect infidelity is significantly more typical of professional athletes than of other males. (Joe Namath and Wilt Chamberlain are often included in lists like this, but they frequented women only as bachelors.) The rambunctiousness of professional golfers in particular remains to be documented. Nevertheless, professional athletics does bring with it money and fame, facilitating the sexual and relational appropriation of women. The question is whether this provides a full explanation of Tiger’s proclivities. The answer is that his profession most likely does not, since most professional athletes, at least married ones, abstain from such extensive philandering as Tiger’s.
Class and profession provide dynamic semi-causal social forces that, as suggested, are insufficient in cases like Tiger’s to explain all forms of behavior. Society comprises other social groupings besides class and profession, however, so for a full analysis of Tiger’s behavior we are scientifically and rationally obliged to look at other social groupings to see if they might explain, or at least add to the explanation of, what Tiger did. This includes racial/cultural heritage.
Race differences in sexuality are basic to Prof. J. P. Rushton’s life history theoryof race. Rushton finds a general racial ordering from Blacks, to Whites, to Asians such that Blacks show less paternal involvement in children, less pair bonding between partners, and greater attraction to short-term sexual relationships. The theory and data compiled by Rushton suggest that Tiger Woods’ Black racial heritage would be part of the explanation for his behavior.
For example, according to Treas and Geiden (2000), “There is racial variation in the proportion of families headed by a single parent: 22 percent for white, 57 percent for black, and 33 percent for Hispanic families.” Even though single-parent, the great majority of these “families” were headed by women: 90.1 percent of Black single-parent households and 79.3 percent of White single-parent households. Most Black children under age 18 (58.27 percent) lived with one parent, compared to 23 percent of all White children under age 18 that same year.
Further, almost 70 percent of Black children are born to single mothers, compared to 24 percent of White children born to single mothers, nearly three times as many. This is a kind of infidelity, a familial and not only marital infidelity, to expand the meaning a bit, that rejects obligations to the woman, marriage, family, and fatherhood even prior to a child’s birth. And, according to Treas and Giesen, being a Black male is associated with an increased risk of infidelity even within marriage. Given Rushton’s theory, it is safe to assume that Black males are more inclined to sexual irresponsibility and opportunism.
When it comes to infidelity, racial heritage makes a difference and is a likely contributing factor to Tiger Woods’ behavior. But you won’t read about it in the media.
The author is a freelance writer and uses a nom de plume.
Treas, J & Gieden, D. “Sexual infidelity among married and cohabiting Americans,” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62(1), pp. 48-60, 2000, cited at The Kinsey Institute, “Frequently Asked Sexuality Questions to the Kinsey Institute”: http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/resources/FAQ.html#Treas.