If this was the inopportune week you chose for a digital detox, you might have missed the cheating allegations that have come out against Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine. Instagram model Sumner Stroh took to her TikTok three days ago to share screenshots of her DMs with the musician, in which he bizarrely asks Stroh for permission to name his third child—yes, the same child his wife of eight years is currently pregnant with—after her. According to Stroh, this message came months after the pair had wrapped up what she referred to as a “year-long affair”. Levine has since rebuffed her allegations, denying that a physical affair took place—but admitting that “he stepped over the line”. Whatever that may mean.
The usual gamut of reproachful reaction videos and memes roasting both Levine and Stroh have emerged. The latter is being chastised for trying to court sympathy while shirking responsibility for the alleged affair. The former—well, that requires no explanation.
Lesser talked about is the third very important party directly affected by the incident. Model and Victoria’s Secret Angel Behati Prinsloo, who has been married to Levine since 2014 and shares two children with the musician, has yet to release an official statement since the story broke. She has hence been a smaller part of the resultant online discourse—beyond the strongly-worded (and condescending) comments demanding that she leave her husband that are swarming her Instagram profile.
“Is it easier to excuse cheating when the victim is less attractive, famous or successful—at least in comparison to a Victoria’s Secret Angel?”
And yet, one predictable take that has already been beaten to death is a variation of the same question that rears its head any time a famous woman (most recently, Emily Ratajkowski) is in the headlines for having suffered infidelity—“How could someone cheat on a Victoria’s Secret Angel?”
To answer that, I would ask a series of follow up questions. Is there a prerequisite for faithfulness in a monogamous relationship? As a woman, do you have to be at the pinnacle of what Eurocentric societal standards classify as “beautiful” to expect that your partner won’t step out on you by sending risqué messages to strangers on Instagram?
The ludicrousness of the statement stems from its subtle but unquestionable implication that the more physically attractive a woman is, the less fathomable it is that her partner would betray her trust. Does it not also follow, then, that it is easier to excuse cheating when the victim is less attractive, famous or successful—at least in comparison to a Victoria’s Secret Angel? What happens when a woman who once perfectly met her partner’s physical standards undergoes a change to her appearance for reasons like—say—pregnancy?
I have no doubt that anyone asking questions like the one I’m lambasting does not consciously intend to burden women with the responsibility of preventing their partners from cheating. But the insinuation behind the question stands: that faithfulness in a relationship has to be earned, sometimes by striving to be as attractive as a supermodel.
“A monogamous relationship ultimately boils down to choice. By suggesting that men can’t help but cheat, we take away their agency—and responsibility—to make the right ones”
Even more dangerous is the implication a notion like this holds for the men involved. The underbelly of the question is this—“If we can’t expect a man to stay faithful to a woman as attractive as Behati Prinsloo, how can we believe that men will ever remain committed in monogamous relationships?”
This doomsday mentality is, to say the least, unfavourable to the way we view male morality in our culture. Yes, some men cheat, as do some women. Conversely, many men stay faithful and devoted to their families in lifelong relationships. Sometimes, that involves fighting biological impulses that people of all genders are met with—like brushing off a brief spark of attraction to a co-worker instead of harbouring hopes to cultivate a connection. That’s what a monogamous relationship ultimately boils down to: choice. By suggesting that men can’t help but cheat, we take away their agency—and responsibility—to make the right ones.
Ultimately, you don’t need me to tell you that being cheated on hurts. Ostensibly, the last thing one might want in wake of a crisis like that is for their personal life to be torn apart by strangers on TikTok—21.6 million strangers, to be precise, as per the current view count on Stroh’s videos—and for your relationship to be thrown under a microscope for every armchair marriage counsellor to analyse.
Unfortunately, this is part of the deal if you are a supermodel married to a pop musician. Likely the least enviable side effect of celebrity status, it is hard to imagine something more viscerally painful. Being evaluated on a superficial, arbitrary scale of attractiveness to determine the level of outrage that should follow, however, could only make things worse. Prinsloo certainly deserves better—whether she is an unimaginably beautiful Victoria’s Secret Angel, or not.