Imagine that you're in, say, a decently happy relationship, and things are going fine. You're starting to get more comfortable together in the sack, so you venture to ask your significant other if they have any sexual fantasies they want to explore. You're imagining some handcuffs, maybe, or some doctor-nurse role-play.
And then he says: "I want to watch you have sex with another man."
That's what happened to Stacey.
Her (now ex) husband wanted to arrange sexual encounters for her—and initially, she was game to give it a try. Permission to play around, to cheat, to have her cake (a committed relationship with one man) and eat it too (plus hot sex with others)? Sure, why not.
Sometimes he'd view the action on Skype while away on business trips, and other times he would just send Stacey on her way, asking her to come back with a good story.
This practice is called "cuckolding," and Stacey's ex is far from the only guy who likes it. The term is actually meant to be an insult—technically "cuckold" means "the husband of an adultress." But for some men, it's a complex, erotic kind of humiliation.
Why? Some of them crave submission. Some men get off on having a wife or girlfriend that other men desire. Some are closeted and want to explore male sexuality. Others get excitement from seeing their wives or girlfriends fulfilled in new ways.
For some men, it's a complex, erotic kind of humiliation.
The fetish is almost always the man's, not the woman's, says Dr. David J. Ley, author of Insatiable Wives: Women Who Stray and the Men Who Love Them. But that doesn't mean cuckolding is all about him. "For couples who make this work, the woman also finds excitement, fulfillment, and stimulation from the sexual exploration of the taboo," Dr. Ley says.
Hell, it worked for Stacey: "Pleasing him pleasured me," she explains. "That and being the center of attention." In fact, she says it was the sexiest and most confident she's ever felt.
"Many happy cuckolds are also voyeurs, and their wives or girlfriends might be exhibitionists," says Dr. Susan Block, author of The Bonobo Way: The Evolution of Peace through Pleasure. A potentially perfect match.
Of course any strange fetish is open to psychological interpretation—analyze spanking a partner for being a bad boy, Dr. Freud—but with cuckolding, there may be an actual biological imperative at play. "When a man believes his wife has been with other men, the man's biological passion is increased as he tries to physiologically compete with that other man's sperm," Dr. Ley explains. "The man gets erect sooner, pumps harder during sex, ejaculates harder, and his ejaculate contains more sperm. He gets erect again after sex sooner and wants to have more sex than they'd had previously." Block calls this phenomenon "sperm wars."
Cuckolding couples are, interestingly, excellent communicators—Dr. Ley says couples who make their arrangement work may be some of the most communicative people he's ever seen. But how hard is it to separate extracurricular sex from couple sex? Do you talk about who you're going to invite into your bedroom at the same time you discuss the cable bill?
"When a man believes his wife has been with other men, the man's biological passion is increased as he tries to physiologically compete with that other man's sperm."
Eventually, Stacey got burned out. The dominance and submission seeped into every aspect of her marriage, ultimately leading to its demise. "What began as fulfilling a fantasy quickly became an issue of control and resentment," she says.
Dr. Ley isn't surprised. "For most, it remains an occasional fantasy or kinky sexual activity they indulge from time to time," he says. "But I've seen men who get incredibly self-absorbed and demanding over this fantasy. That's not a healthy dynamic—it's a selfish form of narcissism and sexual self-interest."
For Stacey, the change happened practically overnight: "In the beginning, you think it's cool to be making your own rules, but one day I woke up full of resentment, anger, and sadness," she says. "I wasn't honest that part of me didn't like what we were doing, and he wasn't honest when he said he was okay if I wanted to stop."
Since then, she's moved on to more...monogamous pursuits. But there's something to be said for trying something new. "If a couple wants to consider exploring cuckolding, they should start slowly and carefully, with fantasy, role-play, or watching porn together," Dr. Ley advises. "See what jealousy, fear, loss, and anger triggers get tickled. Learn what pieces in this fantasy work and which ones are too challenging."
Oh, and don't forget a condom.
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