CNN’s Love of Cuckolding

Sometimes things come along where you just have to have some fun with them. CNN’s article titled, “Cuckolding can be positive for some couples, study says” is one of those things (it’s here, if you must go read it.). But before I get into it, I want to make clear that I’m pretty sure that there’s no need for concern. Our society may be degenerating rapidly, but I don’t think that this article is contributing in any way. I think it’s just click-bait. On the internet, as brands like CNN devalue to worthlessness, one way of capturing money before the proverbial ship sinks is to post outrageous stuff so that people click in a huff. Energy for outrage is a limited quantity for human beings, so it’s best to spend it on things that matter. Insincere clickbait should just be laughed it. It’s healthier and leaves you with the energy to be angry about more important things. And this article didn’t even try to be plausible. So let’s take a look:

In our current political climate, the term “cuck” — short for “cuckservative” — has become an insult of the so-called alt-right, aimed at men they view as spineless and emasculated. The slur has its roots in the concept of cuckolding, or having an adulterous partner.

So it starts off with a political dig, if a somewhat mild one. But it sets up a group as the people who think negatively of cuckolding, so that there is political division. This is a good way to try to generate outrage in order to bring the clicks in. Also, the term’s roots are not in having an adulterous partner, but in a man whose wife is adulterous. And further the roots come from the cuckoo, who lays its eggs in other birds’ nests and whose babies are raised by those other birds at those other birds’ expense. Obviously there wasn’t much effort put into this article. Actually, I’m really curious how the author of the article knew so little. If he had gone to Merriam-Webster, Wiktionary, or even Urban Dictionary he’d have known it wasn’t a gender-neutral term. (And Wiktionary mentions the Cuckoo bird.)

But according to a recent study by David Ley, Justin Lehmiller and the writer Dan Savage, acting on cuckolding fantasies can be a largely positive experience for many couples, and hardly a sign of weakness.

Yeah, right. So on the pro-infidelity side, we have a recent study by two people, and a sex advice columnist. Noted.

References to cuckolding appear in literature as early as the 13th century, usually in the form of male characters who fear that their child has been sired by another man during an act of infidelity. Today, however, cuckolding has become fetishized into a powerful sexual fantasy for some men, who get aroused by the idea of their romantic partner engaging in sexual activity with someone else.

What is a “powerful sexual fantasy”? How is this distinguished from a “weak sexual fantasy”? Can one harness the power in a powerful sexual fantasy to produce electricity? Now, I do get that the term is meant to refer to a fantasy which captures the imagination of the person doing the fantasizing. I’m not objecting that this is meaningless, I’m only objecting to the grandiose language meant to make it sound like more than it is. Somebody obsessing over a fantasy is not power, it’s obsession. Properly speaking, it’s weakness. Fantasizing, though harmless when indulged in occasionally, is weaker than dealing with reality. Also, “some men” can be properly said of “2 men”. It’s worth bearing in mind.

Women also share this fantasy, but less so than men.

Noted. Also, I’m not sure this even counts as a sexual fantasy given that the person doing the fantasizing isn’t involved. Could a man be described as having a “boxing fantasy” if he wants to watch to other men box? What about boblsed fantasies if he intends to watch the winter olympics?

“This fantasy has been around as long as marriage and sexuality,” said Ley, whose book “Insatiable Wives” addresses cuckolding in heterosexual couples. “But we’re hearing more and more about it these days, and more people are rejecting the social stigma against this fantasy.”

I understand that sometimes it’s inconvenient to use hard numbers, but at the same time, this would be true if 1 man rejected the social stigma in 1437, and two men have rejected it in 2016 and three men have rejected it in 2018. Though I’m really curious what evidence he has that the fantasy of being cuckolded has been around in the earliest days of history. I wasn’t aware of cuneiform tablets and hieroglyphics detailing people’s sexual fantasies.

Indeed, the numbers suggest that cuckolding, or at least thinking about it, is more common than you might imagine.

Since it’s possible that I imagine that literally no one fantasies about this, it would be impossible for it to be less common than I might image. That’s actually how many people I imagine fantasize about this, by the way.

For his forthcoming book, “Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help Improve Your Sex Life,” Lehmiller surveyed thousands of Americans and found that 58% of men and about a third of women had fantasized about cuckolding.

The way this sentence is constructed, it’s saying that 58% of men had fantasized about cuckolding someone else. Being cuckolded is what the article is about, however. I doubt that this ambiguity is an accident.

Though, at the same time, I should note that this sounds vaguely like the Kinsey Reports. There are two relevant things to note with the Kinsey Reports:

  1. They were rife with methodological errors. For example, it seems likely that people who were molested as a child by a same-sex molester would count as having homosexual experience. (Not that they were intentionally counted as such, but that they wouldn’t have been filtered out.)
  2. Kinsey was a sexual pervert who desperately wanted to normalize his deviance. By the end of his life he would do things like tie a string tightly around his testicles and jam a toothbrush up his urethra, bristle side first, in order to obtain sexual gratification.

That similarity does not mean that either #1 or #2 apply to the people behind the current study. On the other hand, I think that the presumption should be against people who are trying to claim that sexual deviance is normal.

“Men are more likely to fantasize about cuckolding, and they do it more often — but there are a number of women who have these fantasies as well, which points to the need for more research focused on women’s cuckolding desires,” Lehmiller said.

I wonder if there are studies which don’t say that there is a need for further research? Scientists do have to eat, after all. Skipping a bit:

Part of what makes cuckolding arousing for heterosexual men is that they tend to view it as a taboo act.

I will backtrack slightly and say that I’m sure that there are some people who get a bit of excitement out of doing something that they know that others would disapprove of. It’s a feeling of power—that they’re able to get away with it. To do it without suffering the disapproval because their actions are secret. They’re veritable masters of the universe! But that’s not really a fantasy about cuckolding, that’s a fantasy about sticking it to the people whose approval they want. It will take any form that’s legal and disapproved of. Today cuckolding, tomorrow using inapplicable racial slurs, the day after telling the woman that she shouldn’t be able to vote, and the day after that pretending that the woman is a minor under the legal age of consent. This is still not going to be a large number of people, but there’s absolutely nothing specific about cuckolding in this.

“In a society or culture that idealizes monogamy, the cuckold fantasy is a current narrative that is available to people to conceptualize their sexual fantasies,” said Ley.

That sentence says nothing behind “cuckolding as a fantasy can exist”. I mean, think about it. “the cuckold fantasy is a current narrative that is available to people” just means that cuckolding as a fantasy can be a fantasy people can have. “to conceptualize their sexual fantasies” is just saying the same thing over again. It’s not like the first part of the sentence left it open whether “the cuckolding fantasy is a current narrative that is available to people” to compute the square root of irrational numbers. The first part is actually wrong, or at the very least overly narrow. Cuckolding would be taboo in any society which has a concept of sexual fidelity, including polygamous ones. Which is to say, it is taboo in literally all human societies which have ever existed on earth. So, in sum, “cuckolding is a fantasy which it is possible to have”. It is logically possible, it must be admitted.

Skipping a bit that says about as much as the above:

And the emotions surrounding seeing your partner with someone else can add to the turn-on, explained Savage. “It’s not cuckolding if there isn’t an element of humiliation, degradation or denial,” he said.

Don’t worry. The humiliation and degradation are guaranteed.

“Our erotic imaginations have the ability to turn shame lemons into delicious kink lemonade.”

People strangle themselves for fun, too. So what?

As a sex therapist, one of the more intriguing findings from this study involves the impact of cuckolding on relationships.

OK, we’re getting to the good part.

“Overall, our research found that for the most part, cuckolding tends to be a positive fantasy and behavior,” said Ley. “It doesn’t appear to be evidence of disturbance, of an unhealthy relationship, or of disregard for one’s partner.”

Hahahahahahahaha. Of course, what’s really meant is “according to some metric we’re using”. You know, like “number of screaming matches per month”. The same technique would allow you to show that murdering your partner doesn’t have an adverse affect on your relationship (as measured by, say, instances of putting itching powder in their underwear drawer) and in fact may have a positive impact (as measured by a reduction in the number of fights reported).

 But there’s an important caveat, added Lehmiller. “We found several personality factors that predict more positive experiences acting on cuckolding fantasies. For those who have a lot of relationship anxiety or abandonment issues, who lack intimacy and communication, and who aren’t careful, detail-oriented planners, acting on a consensual non-monogamy fantasy could very well be a negative experience,” he said.

One of those things is not like the other. Cuckolding is, according to their metrics, only for detail-oriented planners. heck, forget how that’s very different than  having “relationship anxiety” and “abandonment issues”. There just aren’t that many detail-oriented planners in the world. So cuckolding turns out to only be for secure people who aren’t worried about their relationships but are also fussy and obsessed with control about the future. Does anyone fit that description?

“In other words, not everyone who has a cuckolding fantasy should think about acting on it.”

No kidding.

There’s a paragraph which reads like the fine print on a sales pitch, then we get to this:

“For men and couples considering the issue of cuckolding, it’s important there be honesty, integrity, communication, mutuality and shared values,” advised Ley.

And all of these things have to be between two detail-oriented planners who are fine being alone and don’t worry about the relationship breaking up. I suppose that if his advice results in no one qualifying, he can’t be blamed when it doesn’t work.

“I’ve seen men who try to trick their wives into cuckolding them, and this never, ever ends up well.”

I’m shocked! Shocked, I tell you. I can just imagine how this goes. “OK, Debbie, I’m going to turn off the lights and do my best impression of my friend Dan. I’m really good at it, but it’s definitely me, I promise. Why am I doing an impression of him? Oh. Well. Um. Just for fun. I mean, it’s totally normal to convincingly pretend to be someone else. And it’s definitely not a trick, so just let me turn the lights off and enjoy my impression of Dan while we make love. Look, honey. It’s just that I think he has an amazing voice. Oh, and if you happen to touch my face I’m going to be wearing a fake beard just to help me get in character. But it will definitely be me, I promise.”

How could that possibly not work out well?

4 thoughts on “CNN’s Love of Cuckolding

  1. wdomburg

    I think there is more behind the ascendance of a particular paraphilia beyond fetishizing irreverence. In this case I suspect there is something of a reaction to the increasing uncertainty about gender roles and eroding sexual mores.

    In a perverse way, authorizing infidelity may be a way for an insecure partner to establish a feeling of control over a relationship. After all, she can’t cheat on you if you don’t monogamy in the first place. This may be why there is the noted tendency for the men to advocate or even encourage this behavior: “If you love someone, set them free [to bed a strange in a motel room]; if she comes back, she’s yours.”

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      1. wdomburg

        I think that’s a significant part of it. Not only has the expectation of fidelity been diminished, the right to expect or even desire fidelity has been called into question. When sexual congress is reduced to mere pleasure seeking (or as I think you once put it, masturbating with someone else’s body) there is little rational basis for monogamy, particularly with the late emphasis on individual agency.

        A feeling of inevitability creates a strong incentive for rationalization, even fetishization. It could even be thought of as a sort of exposure therapy, playing out the scenario of losing a partner to a more virile mate, but with the tacit understanding that she would return to assuage the anxiety.

        (To be clear, I am not advocating this as healthy behaviour in any way shape of form. You can explore and contemplate the internal logic of paraphilia as you would any disorder without advocating it.)

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  2. Pingback: The Problem With Outrage Quoting – Chris Lansdown

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