Peter and Iris Robinson: the public responses to their predicament have been contrasting

Infidel! It's a shout ringing out quite often these days. Not so much on the Pakistan border, or streets of Baghdad, but more so in public marriages. This past month has been riddled with infidelity: Tiger Woods' remarkable string of affairs, the allegation that Warren Beatty slept with over 12,000 women, and now the dramatic revelations about Iris Robinson and her teenage lover. The odd one out is of course Iris, being a woman, and the reaction to her affair gives an interesting insight to how we react to infidelity, in terms of gender.

Thankfully, we seem to have moved on from the Stone Age attitudes towards infidelity (man cheating = man; woman cheating = slut) but there are still remarkable double standards at work. Who's fault is this? We perpetuate gender stereotypes in our own attitudes towards infidelity ? we say women search for 'emotional support' lacking in their relationship leading to infidelity while men's infidelity is seen as mechanical, reactionary and primitive. But our belief in these stereotypes and failure to examine the crumbling foundations of a relationship more deeply leads those very stereotypes to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Infidelity is an extremely distressing, although unfortunately common aspect of relationships. And while publicly men generally get away with it, women who cheat rarely recover in terms of public image (paging Meg Ryan) revealing that the world must think a woman cheating is somehow "worse". A woman can still face the death penalty or fear becoming the victim of an honour killing in some societies for infidelity or adultery.

In pop culture and beyond, male infidelity is part of everyday life; from presidents to one of the most successful rappers in the world, Lil Wayne, who recently fathered two children by two women just weeks apart, from premiership footballers who appear to live in a strange world of group sex, prostitutes and glamour models, to A-list actors who collect models, waitresses and co-stars like Top Trumps, boys going wild is a fact of life. In contrast, such public behaviour by women is almost non-existent, apart from maybe Madonna 20 years ago, Angelina Jolie's on-the-record relaxed attitude towards monogamy, and the fictional character of Samantha in Sex and the City, all of whom seemed to perpetuate the belief that in women, infidelity almost has to be sourced from an inherently masculine trait within.

The Robinson story is indeed sensational. Sleeping with someone 40 years her junior while she and her husband had crafted a vivid picture of decades of strong wedded bliss, frequently supporting each other publicly, even when one was being quite barmy, is just incredible. The revelations now about an affair that was in fact morally, politically and financially "inappropriate" is jaw dropping. It's also slightly amusing. You may have noticed every gay person donning something of a Cheshire cat grin upon hearing the news considering her distaste of their morals doesn't seem to extend to that other commandment: thou shalt keepeth thy pants on when teenagers aboundeth. But as vile as some of Robinson's attitudes are, she will be demonised more and the story will be bigger because it is she who had the affair, not Peter.

Even though Woods has lost a lot of respect, there are jokes aplenty about the number of "Tiger's Babes" emerging during the coverage of his infidelity. It was that sort of high-fiving "here comes another one" attitude that almost excused his behaviour in a world where the "player" demands respect and gets it. No one really questioned why Woods did it. It was just presumed it was, well, because he can.

In contrast, Iris Robinson had to go to pains to detail that she was mentally ill as an excuse for infidelity, claiming she tried to kill herself when she eventually told her husband, so distressed was she at her adultery.

On the verge of tears on news programmes, her husband was described as "a broken man", completely emasculated by the events, having to use his hotline to God to try to work things out. Poor bloke.

Elin Nordegren on the other hand was portrayed as a crazy golf club-wielding nutter upon learning about Woods's philandering. How many affairs does it take to "emasculate" a woman, I wonder?

Also this week you have Warren Beatty and the rather bull manure-ish sounding 12,775 "conquests". The use of the word "conquests" is itself interesting, as if you need an entire crew, sherpas and a 15th-century Spanish king to send you on your way to Newcheatland. But can you imagine if it was revealed that Jolie had bedded 12,000-plus people? She would be labelled a maneater, a nymphomaniac, disturbed.

As for Robinson, the North's first cougar, I mean, lady? Well, ain't karma a bitch?