Unfaithfully Yours

Tales of cheating hearts by Vanessa Grigoriadis, Ross Douthat, Marjorie Williams, and others.
6 stories

As ever, a powerful man's extramarital affair is in the news. Why and how do they cheat? It's a subject that many magazine writers have faithfully taken on.

In 2009, Melanie Berliet joined a dating site for married people and came away sympathetic to the infidelity she encountered. "The three men I met through Ashley Madison were very different, but they all had a common goal. That goal might strike some people as depraved, but I don’t think Thomas, Jackson, and Leonard are bad people," Berliet wrote. "Those who remain faithful to their partners—whether out of religious conviction, prudence, lack of libido, or supernatural willpower—might deserve praise, but their ability to repress their baser instincts does not make them superior in my eyes to people who indulge theirs. I don’t wish to champion adultery, but the notion that strict monogamy is the right path for everyone strikes me as narrow-minded, even holier than thou."

Ross Douthat wondered whether betrayal could be committed with just looking. "The attention paid to the connection between porn and infidelity doesn’t translate into anything like a consensus on what that connection is," Douthat argued. "Polls show that Americans are almost evenly divided on questions like whether porn is bad for relationships, whether it’s an inevitable feature of male existence, and whether it’s demeaning to women. This divide tends to cut along gender lines, inevitably: women are more likely to look at pornography than in the past, but they remain considerably more hostile to porn than men are, and considerably less likely to make use of it."

Marjorie Williams mused on America's most famous adulterer—Bill Clinton "The man in question has been sued for sexual harassment over an episode that allegedly included dropping his trousers to waggle his erect penis at a woman who held a $6.35-an-hour clerical job in the state government over which he presided," she wrote in 1998. "Another woman has charged that when she asked him for a job he invited her into his private office, fondled her breasts, and placed her hand on his crotch. A third woman confided to friends that when she was a 21-year-old intern she began an affair with the man—much older, married, and the head of the organization whose lowliest employee she was. Actually, it was less an affair than a service contract, in which she allegedly dashed into his office, when summoned, to perform oral sex on him. After their liaison was revealed, he denied everything, leaving her to be portrayed as a tramp and a liar. Or, in his own words, 'that woman.'”

And Kay Hymowitz described the aftermath of being publicly exposed as a cheater. "In this bloggy, YouTube, and memoir-flooded era, people describe grazing the sexual buffet with little shame or embarrassment; oral, anal, threesomes, hookups, handcuffs, whips, or whatever else floats your boat," she wrote. "Adultery is one exception to this open-mindedness, especially when it involves powerful men in the public eye. If they cheat on their wives, those men will be facing the pursed lips and wagging fingers of Americans, and particularly women, in high moral dudgeon."

From the Web

Anthony Weiner and the National Adultery Ritual

Jul 2011
From the Web

Is Pornography Adultery?

It may be closer than you think.
Oct 2008
From the Web

The Cheaters’ Club

Curious to know what kind of men use the Internet to find extramarital lovers, journalist Melanie Berliet posed as a wayward wife on the social-networking site Ashley Madison (tagline: “Life is short. Have an affair”). Her encounters with three suitors suggest that marriage and monogamy needn’t always go hand in hand.

Aug 2009
From the Web

Clinton and Women

President Clinton’s sordid entanglements with Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, and now Monica Lewinsky have drawn barely a squeak of protest from the powerful writers, lawyers, activists, politicians, and academics who call themselves feminists. As they struggle with fresh allegations from Kathleen Willey, the author reveals some ugly truths about the women’s movement and the commander in chief.

May 1998
From the Web

Rachel Uchitel Is Not a Madam

And the bottle girls who work at clubs are not prostitutes. As Tiger Woods’s very public escapades through the 21st-century courtesan economy suggest, it’s all much more complicated than that.

Apr 2010
From the Web

The Womanizer’s Wife

Billionairess Anne Sinclair stood by her man when just about everyone else in the world believed the maid. Is it that she knows Dominique Strauss-Kahn? Or that she doesn’t?
Aug 2011