Wives Who Have Affairs
"The best sex is always with a new lover. I just had that experience again yesterday. My husband's penis is on the small side. My new love is Puerto Rican and his Penis is big. He went down on me, then when we fucked; I felt like I was losing my virginity all over again. The combination of pain, pleasure, the taboo of a white woman with a Pureto Rican, and the fact that he totally adores me (in part because I'm white) resulted in a powerful explosion. I think I came six times, and he actually came twice."
-a twenty-seven-year-old New Yorker
Long Before Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter, the word adulterous carried negative connotations for Americans. Moreover, society has judged the adulterous wife more harshly than the adulterous husband.
In the spring of 1990, for example, a divorcing Wisconsin couple became a national news item when he had her prosecuted on criminal charges for adultery. In Wisconsin, as in several other states, including New York, criminal adultery laws are still on the books though they are rarely enforced. (When adultery laws have been enforced in the past ten years, those prosecuted have been women, not men.) The husband, who'd had the foresight to conduct his own extramarital affair in neighboring Illinois, Where adultery is not a criminal offense, was championed by a national organization of right-wing women, Concerned Women for America. A spokesperson for Concerned Women, who want to see the existing adultery laws enforced, voiced publicly what many women predictably whisper behind the backs of other women who violate rigid behavioral codes, including, "He only did it once, while she was sleeping around all over town." She, however, won their bitter custody battle, despite pleading guilty to the adultery charge and accepting a period of community service.
The moral is obvious: Hell hath no fury like the wrath of a "virtuous" woman-aimed at another woman less virtuous than she.
Supposedly, women have affairs for emotional reasons, while men's motives for seeking sex outside marriage are more often sexual. But with the guardians of a public morality that is based on the double standard surroundings us, women may be ashamed or intimidated to admit a purely carnal motivation for adultery. Both magazine reader polls and psychological research studies have generally supported the belief that women look for love, attention, romance, not sex. In their extensive 1986 survey, New Woman magazine concluded women have affairs for "emotional kicks," far more often than sexual ones.
The authors of one study of three hundred while middle-class professionals, median age thirty-six, said in The Journal of Sex Therapy that "traditional sex roles that influence the expressions of sexuality and emotionality in premarital and marital relationships also appear to operate in extramarital relationships."
But some women are different. They aren't looking for romantic balm on the wounds of marital neglect. Like the typical husband having an affair, they claim they love their spouses and insist the affair is not a threat to the marriage. Why are they in it? For the sex.
"I am very happy with my husband," says Katherine, thirty-four-year-old journalist, who has been married to her second husband for two years. "But sexual variety is as important to me as it is to some men. Between my husbands and my lovers, I've been living with someone since I was eighteen-but never totally monogamously. I don't tell them when I cheat. Why do they have to know?
"Nor do I ask too many questions of them. When my husband and I were dating I told him my philosophy of marriage: To practice anything other than safe sex outside marriage is truly unfair to one's spouse. To have sex for anything other than the pure fun of it is dangerous. No physical risks. No emotional risks.
"I travel a lot in my work. I have what I call 'flings,' not affairs. If something is of short duration and never to be experienced again, it's fling. They enrich my life with my husband because they keep my sexual energy level high. I want, and need, a lot of sex.
"Two weeks ago I had a fling in Southern California where I was traveling on business. I met the man in the hotel bar, gave him a false name, took him to my room after dinner, and had a wonderful time. He wanted to be tied to the bed, and obliged him. With my husband, I am not like this. But with strange men, I am often called upon to be the aggressive or dominant partner, and I find it intoxicating. I don't do real kink!"
Katherine isn't typical of wives who cheat. She isn't even representative of the married women in my observation from survey who are having, or have had, affairs. Frankly, some have affairs because they are in marriages maintained for the sake of the children or for financial reasons. But, she isn't a lone cowgirl either.
Who Is She?
The statistics vary with sources, but the conclusion is inescapable: Infidelity is no longer the men's club it was in America's recent past. In 1953 Kinsey reported in Sexual Behavior in the Human Female that 6 to 26 percent of the married women he'd studied had had an extramarital affair. From that time through the mid-Seventies most polls reported similar findings. Then suddenly, the numbers changed. By 1980, 54 percent of Cosmopolitan's married readers had strayed. Most experts, from Dr. Joyce Brothers to Masters and Johnson, believe that approximately 50 percent is an accurate figure for both men and women.
Married women comprise 34.2 percent of my survey respondents. Another 32.5 percent are divorced women. Approximately 40 percent of the women in both groups are having or did have extramarital affairs. These women are:
The wives who have affairs fell into two groups: those who felt guilty about their affairs and those who didn't. More than half, 56 percent-women mainly in their twenties or fifties-said they felt guilty. Interestingly, their motives for having an affair were more often emotional than physical. But a sizable number of the wives who have affairs, over 44 percent, did cite motives more sexual than emotional of having affairs, and they reported little or no guilt over their behavior. Women earning higher salaries were more likely to have sex for the sake of sex and to say an affair either enhanced or had no impact on their marriage than was a wife earning less than $ 25,000 a year.
"If a man can do it, why can't a woman?" Katherine asks. "We've learned how to work without being overly emotional, why can't we learn how to fuck the same way ?