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have you ever cheated Oh come on, you must have played a card game with your parents when you were nine years old. Perhaps you’ve cheated on a math test by using the bottom part of your glue stick that pops out to tuck away a little reminder of the main functions in trigonometry. Or maybe you got bored after 11 years in a relationship with someone and pulled Matt off IT after one too many mulled wine at the company Christmas party.
It’s funny to think that in the English language, sexual infidelity is referred to by the same word commonly used in games and sports – namely, to behave dishonestly in order to gain an advantage. For example, in French, the word “tricher” has no sexual connotations; the verb for affairs is tromper, ie, to “do wrong” rather than “cheat” someone. Perhaps that gives a better sense of the potential harm inflicted on a loved one by breaking a vow than the idea of somehow bending the laws that everyone else is playing by to obtain something illicit.
Those thoughts are brought to you by this week’s disturbing revelation – hot on the heels of Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine, who has been exposed for allegedly sending out extramarital sexts – that one of a collective of YouTube comedians was having an affair .
I’m afraid so. A Ned Fulmer from the Try Guys YouTube crew (whose Shtick films himself trying different things) was fired from his job by the other Try Guys a few days ago after they were found guilty of having an affair with them a colleague.
After much puritanical outrage on the social media/moral courtrooms, the online comedy group announced it had split from Fulmer. He issued a statement saying, “Family should always have been my priority, but I’ve lost focus.” Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal intoned gravely, “For Try Guys fans, the news came as a shock. Mr. Fulmer was known as “wife” in internet lingo, meaning someone who bases their internet persona on how much they love their wife.”
Losing your job for having an affair seems like a high price to pay, but for what appeared to be millions of residents on the net, it was a fitting punishment for the offense. Here, in the wilderness of Twitter – but also among us! – with a very firm and unyielding view of sexual infidelity. When, after last week’s shocking revelation that a pop star is horny, I had the audacity to suggest that relationships and sex are a slightly more sensitive subject than society allows, a veritable spate of offended personalities pointing the finger wobbled me to the point that I must be incapable of attachment myself. (That’s me, which is why I’m happily single.)
In this distorted worldview, it is possible and advisable to repress and never act on sexual feelings outside of the couple in the service of an unknown greater good. This viewpoint, which labels men like Levine and Fulmer “garbage” because of their behavior, is narrow-minded and unrealistic; It is likely to cause pain to those who advocate it.
To believe it, one has to turn a blind eye to an entire history of literature and art, from Anna Karenina to Brief Encounter via Revolutionary Road and Betrayal. Perhaps these works are telling us that humans are infinitely complex and unpredictable in the way we connect, how we control our brains and our libido?
Stephen Greenblatt, speaking about St. Augustine in The New Yorker in 2017, wrote: “Through prolonged reflection on Adam and Eve, Augustine came to understand that what was crucial in his experience was not the budding of puberty, but its restless, involuntary nature .
“How strange it is, Augustine thought, that we can’t just command this crucial part of the body. We are aroused, and the arousal is within us – it is entirely ours in that sense – and yet it is not in the executive power of our will.”
St. Augustine lived 1,600 years ago but is much more evolved on sexual fallibility than much of what is considered discourse today. These observations should not be taken to mean that the mind has no control over our behavior and that people should indulge the sexual proclivities that their undercarriage commands; It goes without saying that we should try not to harm others. But our bodies are animal, our essence is complex.
Marvin Gaye wrote in the liner notes to Let’s Get It On: “I claim that SEX IS SEX and LOVE IS LOVE. When combined, they work well together when two people think roughly the same way. But they are really two separate needs and should be treated as such.”
Sex and relationships columnist Dan Savage (a gay man, by the way; it should be said that queer people have historically been more casual about the issue of sexual exclusivity) has long suggested that having an affair may be advisable within the bounds of our society , which massively encourages monogamous couples when one partner doesn’t allow sexual runaways and they’re in a dead end bed-wise.
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This seems reasonable. The majority of people in couples don’t have the leeway, or even the idea, to negotiate an open relationship: so what can these people do when they meet someone they’re attracted to? Do they have to cut it down or end their whole relationship to pick up another with this new person? What allowances, if any, may be granted?
The show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend gave one of the most realistic portrayals of this in 2017 as the character Paula, wounded and heartbroken in a largely unfulfilled marriage, takes her husband back after he had an affair and recognizes their needs, their bond and companionship . In that regard, the show certainly reflects a society where couples ignore extramarital affairs rather than break up over them, suggesting that sexual infidelity may not be such a point of no return.
Humans are difficult and fallible (not that sex, rightly considered and within the bounds of consent, can be a failure). A great-aunt and great-uncle of mine who loved each other dearly for decades ended their lives swearing at each other in a nursing home and having to be physically separated. A friend told me that a month after getting engaged she had fallen in love with someone at work; She told me she was terrified to think that she might as well be with this other man and have such a happy life.
Humans are not logical. If you judge others and think that you can or should tame your own desires forever, you may be in for some surprises.