Five Years ago, Dr. David Ley, a clinical psychologist in practice in Albuquerque, New Mexico, wrote the first serious examination of the growing sexual lifestyle known as ‘cuckolding.’ Because of it’s unique historical and modern take, it’s become the most quoted source on the topic. Megan Hussey recently caught up with Dr. Ley for the following insightful interview.
It may come as no surprise that the fantasy of having a wild affair with a hot, gorgeous young man is a popular one for many women; and as can be proven by the cult success of films that range from the ever romantic “Bridges of Madison County” to the ever erotic “Unfaithful,” “Thief of Hearts” and “Two Moon Junction,” many a lady dreams of succumbing to and losing herself in the throes of a wicked dalliance.
It also seems that more and more women are acting out this fantasy; indeed, the Huffington Post recently revealed that—according to a report from Bloomberg Businessweek—“the most recent data from the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey show that women have had more affairs in the past two decades then in previous years. The percentage of men who admitted to infidelity ‘held constant at 21 percent,’ while ‘the percentage of wives having affairs rose almost 40 percent … to 14.7 percent in 2010’.”
So just what do husbands think about the ever increasing trend of wives stepping out and getting it on with hawt, available ‘other men?’ Well luckily, some dudes don’t seem to mind it when their ladies cheat – thus accounting for the overwhelming success of the book Insatiable Wives: Women who Stray and the Men Who Love Them by Dr. David Ley, Ph.D.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the publication of Insatiable Wives, which explores the growing popularity of the ‘cuckold’ or ‘hotwife’ lifestyle. Ley, a clinical psychologist who specializes in sexual issues, put two years of research into the writing of this book, interviewing couples from across the country about this subject. He won a 2009 Silver Medalin the Foreword Magazine Book of the Year contest for his efforts; along with a whole new understanding of unfaithful wives and the men who love them.
Tell us briefly about your book?
It is an examination of the history of cuckoldry and permissive female sexual infidelity, along with the research that explains some of this phenomenon. In the book, I talk about women through history who have been sexually liberated, with their husband’s encouragement. The book began after I encountered some couples who live a hotwife lifestyle, and discovered that there has been nothing published about this phenomenon, even though there are lots of people pursuing it currently as well as many stories of it in history and literature. I wrote the book in part because so many of my fellow counselors and therapists believe that couples who are not monogamous are automatically unhealthy in some way, a belief that I did not find to be true.
So hotwifing/cuckoldry is not a new phenomenon?
David: I think a lot of people believe it is new, though I found evidence that this lifestyle has truly been around as long as human sexuality has. In my book, I talk about examples of this lifestyle in the Bible, in many non-Western cultures, and throughout Western history. What is new today is that the Internet has allowed more men and women who might be interested in this lifestyle to learn that they are not alone in these desires. In the past, people suppressed their desires for fear of social rejection and stigma. Finding that there are others out there who share these desires has led more husbands to be brave enough to express their desires to their wives, and more wives to be willing and able to explore their sexuality outside their marriage. The resource of the Internet has also offered them more venues through which to pursue fulfillment of their desires and fantasies.
How do we end up with this kink?
David: I think there is a lot of biology at play here, in different ways. Our brain chemistry changes over the course of a relationship. When we first start a sexual relationship, we are driven by our neurochemicals to have lots and lots of sex, and think about our partner all day long. After a few months though, those chemicals subside, and our sexuality changes somewhat, becoming more nurturing and bit less passionate. But, when we start a relationship with other people, those early exciting neurochemicals roar back at full strength. When the wife goes off with another man, she then brings that chemical excitement back to herself, her husband, and her primary relationship.
How would you say men into this lifestyle are able to control the jealousy emotion in their minds that so many men would never be able to do? Why do you think some men get so excited about seeing their wife or girlfriend with another guy?
I think another form of biology is involved here, that of sperm competition. Sperm competition is a theory of evolutionary sexuality based on the theory that male sexual biology responds to the risk of cuckoldry with increased sexual energy and by ejaculating more sperm and behave more aggressively, in order to combat the sperm of another man. A case in point – the overwhelming male fantasy is for a threesome with two females, but surprisingly, research shows that the overwhelming image present in pornography is a single woman with multiple males. Why? Because when a man watches pornography with multiple men and a single woman, his ejaculate contains more sperm, he ejaculates harder and longer and is more disposed to become erect again and ejaculate again. Hotwife and cuckold couples have unconsciously found ways to use that biological mechanism in order to trigger enormous sexual excitement in their primary relationship, as the husband’s sexual chemistry is kicked into overdrive by his wife’s sexual explorations with another man. At the same time, the wife is often more orgasmic with a man other than her husband, as her body reacts with physiological excitement to being with another man.
Do you think women have this lifestyle within them or are they driven to it and adapt to it by the freedom their partners give them?
Female sexual capacity is infinitely greater than male sexuality. A woman can have as many as fifty orgasms in an hour; a man is limited to at most three or four. But society has condemned and constrained female sexuality for millennia, and it is only in cultures where women had economic power that women could resist those constraints upon their sexuality. In our society, it has been the rare woman who innately embraces the full capacity of her sexuality, and explores it outside social dictates regarding monogamy, and being “proper.” Most, but not all, of these couples start on the path of hotwifing at the husband’s initiation. But, as the wives explore the sexual and personal freedoms in it, many of them enjoy the ability to reject the social pressures upon their sexuality that they have experienced throughout their lives, and embrace the opportunity to pursue unrestrained sexual explorations with other men.
I saw a lot of men who desired to find ways to turn their wives into hotwives. But women are under intense social pressures from an early age, telling them to be “nice,” to suppress their sexuality, and to avoid ever being a “slut.” This history of pressure is difficult for most women or couples to overcome. Also, while many women enjoy casual sex, few women truly embrace the exploration of casual sex, even with the support and encouragement of their husband – the social conditioning is just too strong. And, for some women, even sexually liberated women, this lifestyle just doesn’t fit their desires for intimacy.
In the five years since its original publication, your book “Insatiable Wives: Women who Stray and the Men Who Love Them” is still in the top 75,000 on Amazon.Com and has garnered a four-and-a-half star rating at the site; in addition, the book is often quoted and cited in articles that concern the topic of modern relationships. How do you perceive the impact that your book has had on the perception of women’s sexuality in our culture?
I’m humbled to even have the question asked in such a way. I wrote the book for a variety of personal reasons – I was personally depressed, dealing with managed care and healthcare bureaucracy, and needed a healthy, self-directed project; I encountered couples living this lifestyle, and had my own assumptions challenged; I’d always wanted to publish a book; I found the investigation of this lifestyle to be a fascinating, educational endeavor that taught me a great deal about sexuality, and the wide range of healthy relationships and sexual behaviors.
The idea that the book had a cultural impact is delightful. My book remains the only real scholarly exploration of this issue, though there is increasing attention to it. It’s now recognized that “cuckold/wife” porn is the second most popular porn on the Internet, second only to teen porn. I know my spam mail is filled with emails about lonely housewives (I hope no one blames me for that!) I’m aware of a couple of researchers who are now starting to investigate this phenomenon, in a few different ways, and using my book as a starting point. But, I like to think that my book had the largest impact on people who read it, and said, “Hey, I’m not alone” in their thoughts or desires related to this lifestyle. Further, I’d hope that my writing and exploration helped them to not only feel “not alone,” but that their desires were not diseased or unhealthy, but perfectly understandable and explainable. If I achieved that, in any small way, I feel my goal was reached. Society does so much shaming of people for sexual desires that are quite common, but that we pretend are rare. I’m seeing that change, as more books like mine come out, and more aspects of the media start to explore these taboo topics.
Along the same lines, do you believe that your book has impacted women’s sexuality itself? Has it given them permission to explore their fantasies and the boundaries of their relationships? Do you think that women are more inclined to cuck these days, and/or more inclined to talk about it?
By and large, I believe that the cuckolding lifestyle remains something primarily driven by male desires and interests, in that it is largely men who initiate it as fantasy, it’s primarily men who feed its popularity on line. I have now encountered a few women who were interested in this, from their own sexual desires, so perhaps this is changing, as these “cuckoldresses” begin to more openly assert their desires.I think that this ultimately connects to a larger shift in women’s ability to identify and seek their own sexual desires. During the early years of the feminist revolution, women who identified a desire for sex with men, much less many men, would have been seen as feeding into male desires for the perfect wife: the “hostess in the living room, slut in the bedroom.” But now, the growth in acceptable female sexual range and recognition of the depth and breadth of female sexual desire makes this an empowered option for women.
After being concealed and whispered about for so long, it seems that women’s sexuality is finally in the spotlight. Written erotica is more popular than ever; we’re going to the movies to see Magic Mike, watching the show Gigolos on TV and reading Scandalous Women online. Overall, do you think it’s important for people to discuss women’s sexuality and bring it out into the open–and how do you think your book has played a role in this?
Absolutely, even the silly popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey shows that we are accepting and acknowledging a far greater range of female sexual behaviors. Look, some women desire power and control in sex, and some women want to be taken. Many want both of these things, at different times with different men. Centuries ago, most women had very little control of their sexual lives.
Just a few decades ago, it wasn’t acceptable for “sexually-liberated women” to express a desire to be sexually submissive to a man. But, modern female liberation truly allows women the ability to choose for themselves what they want sexually. Where sites like Scandalous Women, and books like mine, really feed this cultural shift is through educating women about these sexual options available to them, and through helping men to recognize how incredibly sexy a woman can be, when she is actively and thoughtfully pursuing her own sexual desires.
There’s another fascinating cultural dialogue happening much more these days, around monogamy. Movies and television shows are exploring whether sexual fidelity is actually a critical part of a healthy relationship. Recent films like Friends With Benefits, Fling, Hall Pass, etc., are all inviting viewers to ask themselves whether sexual fidelity really is mandatory or necessary. Now, all these films usually end up with the moral Hollywood message that monogamy really is best and necessary. But, the question is now being raised, more and more, and viewers get to leave those theaters, or pause the Netflix, and talk with their partner about those issues. They get to ask whether the “movie” of their relationship really has to end that same way. The gay marriage revolution has also begun raising this issue, or will soon. 70% of male homosexual relationships are not sexually monogamous. The definition and expectations are all now up for debate, up for dialogue, and up for people to begin making their own decisions. It’s all very exciting to be a part of.
What kind of reader response have you received since the release of “Insatiable Wives,” from wives, husbands and couples? Do you plan a follow up?
I have some favorite reviews. Perhaps it’s silly, but I’m almost brought to tears by the one by the woman who says, in a positive way, that my book made her proud to be a woman, and that she was surprised that it was written by a man. That my words could have such an impact on a person’s life truly makes me glad for all the long hours of work. Makes it all worth it.
Another favorite response was by a guy who basically said “Ley took a salacious topic, and made it boring.” I love that. Weird, right? My goal was to approach this in a responsible, thoughtful and grounded way. I once picked up a book called “Erotic Lifestyles.” I was hoping it was a thoughtful exploration of different sexual lives. Instead, it was thinly veiled erotica. Erotica is fine, but it doesn’t move the conversation forward. If someone views my book as boring, that’s great, because it means I made this into a serious conversation. In a serious conversation based on facts and research, the questions raised by this lifestyle can’t simply be dismissed by calling it perverse, and labeling these women as sluts, and their men as cuckold weaklings.
What other books and projects do you have on the horizon?
Well, for the last couple of years, I’ve been embroiled in a protracted battle with the sex addiction industry. I actually wrote that book as a follow-up to Insatiable Wives, basically exploring and depathologizing high libido males. That book, and subsequent related publications, have catapulted me into a national dialogue about whether sex and porn really are as dangerous and damaging as media morality suggest. My goals in this are the same as with Insatiable Wives, in my attempt to stop the stigmatizing and moral panics over “different” sex. I think the labels of sex addict, nymphomaniac, porn addict, hypersexual and on and on, are shaming and damning. They are just like being called a perv in middle school.
My goal is to empower people to responsibly define healthy sexuality for themselves, knowledgably and thoughtfully, and to give them the tools and language to discuss this with the people in their lives. I’m currently at work on a new book, tentatively titled “A Gentleman’s Guide to Responsible Porn Use.” It will probably be an e-book. I’ve loved publishing my books, but I think that the debate is happening in different spheres now, on Youtube, and social media. I want to reach people there with my ideas.