I’ve never dated a man whose faithfulness I couldn’t vouch for. But, more importantly, it has never bothered me what my boyfriends might get up to behind my back. I asked my first boyfriend, M, to cheat if he wanted to, if sex with me wasn’t great. Actually, it wasn’t at first – poor him! We were age mates but he was about eight years ahead in sexual experience. It was hard enough being a learner; it was worse feeling like I had to play catch-up to his level in the quickest possible time. (Tick-tock!) So, he had my permission to do as he pleased behind me. As long as we kept the relationship going; emotionally, I still needed him, and I know he loved me.
He turned down the bonanza, the idiot. Said he wouldn’t do it unless it was a threesome. I shrugged: his choice, his loss.
Now, years of watching people hurt and feel betrayed over being “cheated on” has left me with more questions than conclusions. These questions are based on an understanding of Love and Sex, and although the two are best together, this is not always the case. In English: two people can love without sex or “too much” of it (as in the case of my parents who I doubt still rip each other’s clothes off every chance they get); and two people can have regular sex without caring about each other (as in No Strings Attached fun).
My dictionary says cheating is when you secretly have sex with someone who’s not your partner.
So, imagine I find out the boyfriend has been getting some outside. I’m not quite sure how I’m supposed to react to this besides doing a quick mental check to ascertain that all the times we had sex we were safe. What next now? Should I kill myself? Cry? Did someone die? Exactly what am I supposed to be mad about – that he had amazing fun with (perhaps) a total stranger, without me? That sounds like envy: You went out and got laid while I sat here, eating doughnuts and getting fat! I could go out there and have my own pick of guys, you know, without him. Then we’re even. Would that make me feel better? I suspect the answer to that question is yes; many have, after all, cheated out of revenge.
Does “cheating” hurt because it does hurt, or because we’ve been conditioned to think so? Are human beings supposed to be fiercely territorial in romantic situations? Or is sexual monogamy a mere lifestyle choice, like celibacy and blood pacts between lovers – in other words, it’s cool but not default mode?
Should Love give us ownership and control over another person’s body?
Is “cheating” really a thing, or is it one of those pretty human inventions like the smart phone, marriage, and homophobia? Why does the thought that someone we love may be having sex with another person keep us up at night?
The Ovahimba and Ovazemba peoples of Namibia do this wife-swapping thing where friends can sleep with each other’s wives, NSA: nobody abandons her home and elopes with another woman’s husband. Just have sex and come back. Ok, maybe these poorly civilised tribes are not the best examples in this conversation, considering that there is ongoing debate about the rights of women in this cultural practice, but doesn’t this somehow show that sex can be just that – sex, meaningless? Isn’t it the case that where a person’s body is, isn’t always where their heart is? (Riding Tolu’s dick but you’re screaming “Jeffrey, oh, Jeffrey!” and Tolu stops to ask, “Who’s Jeffrey?”)
When we are attracted to someone, don’t we try to determine if we truly dig them for who they are, or if we are just looking to get laid?
One common reason people give for feeling hurt when their partner “cheats” is that it makes them feel inadequate, like they are not enough. But what does “enough” really mean? Who defines “enough”? And who is, ever, enough? I may be handsome, witty, great in bed, a loyal companion and my boyfriend may count himself lucky to have me (He’d better!). But, then, I don’t have cakes and the boyfriend sees a guy with cakes and indulges (maybe twice, thrice, nine times), and weeks later, I learn of it. Should it automatically call to question everything we share? If yes, doesn’t it mean I’ve watered down the essence of our relationship, made it a mere tryst or some form of long-term escort service?
What about porn stars who have boyfriends, and yet are on-set every other week with their body parts stuffed in or wrapped around other actors? Yeah, it’s a job, but it’s still sex with someone that’s not their partner.
Sex can – and should – bond a couple, agreed. But beyond sex, there should be some-Thing that keeps two people together; and it seems to me that if it takes sex to question that Thing, then maybe you don’t have a relationship. Perhaps you’re just fuck buddies? I don’t know sha.
I’m categorical on one thing, though: “Cheating”, assuming it’s even a thing, is not the worst that can happen to a relationship.
When we automatically link sex with a grave feeling like betrayal, doesn’t that devalue that beautiful wholesome thing called Love and elevate that horny superficial thing called Sex? Aren’t there people married to spouses they do not love? Yes, the fidelity may be there, but the most important ingredient – care for each other – is missing. Which means they are long overdue for a break-up. Aren’t there couples who, for reasons of age or illness etc, don’t have that much sex going on in their relationship, but are still in love?
Sometimes I see drastic reactions to “cheating” and think: What I’d be more worried about are the implications of the sex, not the sex per se. Implications such as: Does he still find me attractive? (If yes, great. If no, then it means I’m being pity-fucked, and who likes that?) Is he in love with somebody else? (If no, great; if yes, I guess our work in each other’s life just got done.) Was he in love with me in the first place? How much of my health is at risk? (Basic medical concern here) Etcetera, etcetera. These, to me, seem to be the weightier issues than just, He slept with Tunde, therefore I’m packing my bags, cry-cry-cry, slam the door in his face…
Written by Absalom