The Language of Infidelity

In gathering research for my thesis I’ve had to read a lot of articles about infidelity. In doing so, I’ve found that the language seems to waiver depending on what decade the paper was written, and where the paper is putting its focus.

Before I write my paper, I have to determine how I want to phrase infidelity. The language you choose for a paper sets the tone for the paper. Do I want to call it infidelity? What about cheating? Stepping out? Adultery? Disloyalty? Being unfaithful? What about extramarital sex? We could always call it an affair, two-timing, back-stabbing. What about fooling around? Playing the game? A fling? Some hanky-panky?

If you weren’t counting, there’s 14 just there. And that doesn’t even account for the various types of infidelity there are. Was it emotional? Sexual? Sexual and emotional? Was it perceived by the adulteress as infidelity or was it genuinely by the script just not right? Is there a difference? What if you’re married? Dating? Engaged? For how long?

These are factors I have to figure out. Do I want to focus on a certain age range? Why? Heterosexual women? Why?

As of now, I’m leaning towards using my own language. So many of these papers were written between 1990-2004. Today we’re seeing more visible shifts in the paradigm. Couples are choosing to get married differently than they used to. Couples are taking on new boundaries in their relationships. Women have more flexibility in their relationships than they did in the 70s. Though we are still struggling for body autonomy in the states, women do have more rights and more support than they used to when it comes to pleasure and asking for what they want – and doing what they want.

Because of all of that I’ve thought about phrasing it unethical non-monogamy. That’s something I’ve used on my blog before, and goes in tandem with the current narrative of ethical non-monogamy. Unethical non-monogamy would be anything that a woman acknowledges she should not be doing with someone else but continues to do it anyways. I phrase it like this, because there seems to be a correlation between women feeling guilty after being UENM, and how much they feel that specific behavior was wrong.

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It’s a mouthful.

If you’ve missed some earlier posts, my general thesis is going to be expressing societal reasons women might experience guilt after infidelity. So far, research focuses primarily on evolutionary psychology perspectives. Women feel guilt because they know they did something wrong in the whole pair bonding system. I’m uninterested in that. I’m interested in why society tells women that we should expect men to cheat but they need to put up with it and stay at home anyways. I’m interested in why society tells women how to pleasure men and put their own satisfaction second. I’m interested in how seeking out something for yourself is done in these back-alley ways and why women don’t just leave their partners.

There has been some research that says guilt acts as a reparative system. You enter back into your relationship after cheating and you say “I feel guilty” and you look it, too. But what if that’s not true? What if the bad feeling is simply because you knew you were being transgressive? Why does that bad feeling reinforce a desire to stay in a relationship that – clearly – the women was struggling with in some way already.

So far my research looks like this: a lot of circles on a piece of paper, a different topic and idea in each circle. I want it to look like this: one giant circle, with lots of sub-plots. I wish I could shake my notes like a Wooly Willy and have all the little pieces go where they’re supposed to. But I suppose that defeats the whole point of writing a paper.

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  1. Many of your terms for extramarital relations carry a value judgement, I.e. “Cheating”, “unethical” etc. it’s fine to make a value judgement in the progression of your work but do you really want to do so up front?

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