Alton Abramowitz, president of the Chicago-based American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, said he's seen an increase in the number of divorce cases sparked by cheating wives.
"We always had a few cases with women, but they were much more discreet about it," he said. "In the past 10 years or so, though, there's been an uptick in those cases coming through our office."
More women may feel free to cheat because the economic consequences aren't as dire as they were when more women stayed at home, said Pepper Schwartz, a University of Washington sociologist who writes "The Naked Truth" column for AARP, the largest group representing the elderly in the U.S.
"They can afford the potential consequences of an affair, with higher incomes and more job prospects," she said in an email. "They have more economic independence and may meet a better class of mate."
The ease of online affairs and the prevalence of computer use among younger women may be responsible for a large share of the increase, Schwartz said.
"Think Ashley Madison," she wrote, referring to the online affair-matchmaking service.
The website has grown since its 2002 creation to serve 3.5 million active users speaking nine languages in 26 countries, said Noel Biderman, the chief executive officer of Toronto-based Avid Life Media Inc., which operates Ashley Madison.
"There's been a cultural shift," Biderman said, "and female infidelity is very linked to cultural change."
The website's usage patterns by age highlight the shifts, he said. The ratio of males to females is greatest among users older than 65, with 14 men for every woman. The ratio is 4-to-1 among users in their 50s, 3-to-1 for spouses in their 40s, and evenly divided among people using Ashley Madison in their 30s.