Candaulis/Wikipedia
Source: Candaulis/Wikipedia

Since pretty much the dawn of recorded history, men whose wives cheated on them have been ridiculed, demeaned, and made to feel weak, inferior, even contemptible. In our language such “sissy men” have been stigmatized as cuckolds—or cuckolded. Why, then, have stories, images, and videos of so-called “cuckold sex” become increasingly popular . . . and I mean, really popular?

For instance, in neuroscientists Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam’s A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the Internet Tells Us About Sexual Relationships (2012), the authors tell us that in their exhaustive Web explorations they discovered that, regarding heterosexual interest on English language search engines, cuckold porn was second only to the category Youth as the most looked-up topic. And in his provocative article “Cuckolded: Why Do So Many Men Fantasize About Their Wives Cheating on Them?” (playboy.com, 07/31/15), the social psychologist Justin Lehmiller also alludes to trends revealing the surge of interest in cuckold scenarios, pointing out that even a cursory search on Amazon will turn up hundreds of books on such erotica and that the Internet, too, resoundingly echoes this “huge demand” for graphic depictions of such sex. In particular, Xtube and PornHub are singled out as responding to this ever-growing desire in men to “play out” in their heads this prevalent (but typically private) fantasy.

The writer I’ll be citing the most, however, is David J. Ley, a fellow blogger for Psychology Today and the author of Insatiable Wives: Women Who Stray and the Men Who Love Them (2012). Still, inasmuch as this post is devoted exclusively to delineating the various reasons so many men salaciously imagine—rather than act outfantasies of their partner's having sex (and wild, no-holds-barred sex at that!) with other men, I’ll limit myself to referring to his PT post “Why Would You Do That? (Watch Your Wife with another Man)” (07/08/10).

As so many other authors, Ley agrees that wife-sharing fantasies are quite common. In fact, in some respects, they’re so prevalent as to be almost normative. Which should be a great comfort to multitudes of men who in message boards all over the Internet repeatedly ask whether these secret desires mean that they’re deviant—that there’s something essentially wrong with them. Confused or embarrassed by such proclivities, they frequently wish they weren’t so turned on by the idea of being cuckolded. Routinely, however, when sex therapists respond to these worrisome anxieties, they hasten to assure them that, no, rarely are such fantasies anything to be disturbed about—while at the same time proposing any number of explanations as to what, innocently, may be driving their unorthodox imaginings.

One last caveat here. Although I’ll be taking my cue from David Ley in elucidating the various motivating factors in a man’s fantasizing his wife—or, though far less often, his girlfriend—as engaging in sex with another man, I won’t also be considering, as does Ley, those instances where the imagined scenario actually takes place. My sole concern here is examining what motivates these illicit fantasies. And I hardly need add here that in virtually every case, these imaginings are watched, read about, or pictorially viewed during the act of solo sex (i.e., masturbation).

Nonetheless, I might note that many experts writing on the subject of cuckold sex have observed that its reality (including its many variations—not just “watching in” or joining a threesome, but group and orgy sex centering on one’s partner as well) generally doesn’t begin to live up to the fantasy. Too many other emotions (i.e., other than pure lust) are likely to interfere with its enticement—like embarrassment, jealousy, fear, shame, anger, and resentment. After all, contrived fantasies are perfectly orchestrated, or tailor-made, to optimally arouse one’s libido. Real-life threesomes—really, what I’d call three- (not two-) dimensional sex, where unwelcome sights, smells, and unanticipated emotional complexities intrude—have a way of compromising what, in one’s imagination, was so thrilling. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but if it’s to be attempted its associated risks definitely need to be evaluated beforehand.

Anyhow, let’s look at the various explanations that can help us better understand the dynamics of this popular (though “unauthorized”) sexual fantasy. It’s not yet so common as to be commonplace . . . but it does seem to be moving in that direction.

My Wife Is a Hottie!

Ley hypothesizes that men currently live in a “pornified culture,” so that their sexual appetites can hardly help but be influenced by the lustful “realities” they encounter on the Web. As a result of repeated exposure to the seductive exaggerations of Internet sex, why wouldn’t their erotic fantasies begin to include images of their wife’s being ecstatically “done” by some powerful, oversexed stud (with whom they conveniently identify!)?

It only makes (erotic) sense that if we’re now subject to a porn-centric culture, many men—especially young men, whose sex drive is so intense that they have difficulty distinguishing between real love and ravenous lust—would be exceptionally turned on by fantasizing their partner as an enticingly provocative porn star, unrestrainedly exhibiting the wildest excitement in expressing her rawest, most provocative sexuality. And with a super-stud aggressively thrusting his oversized penis into whatever orifice she has to offer him.

After all, what would be so abnormal about a man’s being markedly turned on by picturing his partner as really, really hot and being feverishly lusted after by other virile males (possibly even more virile than himself)? Unquestionably, there’s a great deal of ego involvement here. For the idea of sharing his highly desirable, “temptress” wife (often made much more alluring through his imaginings than might actually be the case) enables him to puff up with pride that, finally, he’s the one that retains ultimate “ownership” of her. Chauvinistic as it may be, what could possibly boost a man’s testosterone level and excitement more than indulging in such a narcissistically exhilarating fantasy?

Wild Ducks Getting Wild/YouTube
Source: Wild Ducks Getting Wild/YouTube

Whether or not there’s anything admirable about all this is another matter. But since, on one level, we’re all animals, such a fantasy is definitely comprehensible. It’s sort of a coarse erotic equivalent to a mother’s “showing off” her newborn to others, while absolutely beaming with pride that this adorable baby is hers.

Consider, too, that once a romantic relationship has been domesticated, much of its original luster may have become tarnished. So if, through fantasy, a man succeeds in imagining his wife as a passionate, two-dimensional sex object, such a manner of “un-domesticating” her can restore some of the “shimmering lust” now possibly missing for him.

My Wife Is Her Own Person—and I’m Proud of Her Liberated Sexuality!

Ley makes the point that in interviewing a multitude of men for his book on straying women, he was surprised to learn “how many of these couples embraced very powerful feminist principles, and how many of these husbands described the joy they felt at their wife’s increased independence, confidence and assertiveness.” For such men, granting their wife the freedom to express with other males their liberated sexuality was a considerable turn-on.

It’s fascinating that (whether in fantasy or reality) a man’s focusing on his wife’s "illicit" sexual fulfillment can help him, however vicariously, experience substantial fulfillment himself. That is, it can be intensely erotic to identify with one’s partner’s unabashedly shedding her inhibitions, abandoning herself to her senses, and unleashing an unbridled, convention-defying lust.

It Turns Me On to See My Wife Turned On—and the More, the Better!

Closely tied to a man’s gratification in imagining his wife’s asserting full, unmitigated license to “let loose” her most daring eroticism with another male is his thrill in fantasizing her ooh’ing and ah’ing at the libidinous thrill of it all. Many men freely admit that in their lovemaking, getting their wives aroused through extended foreplay is every bit as exciting as their getting aroused themselves. And this may be a lot more descriptive of men in their 30s, 40s, and beyond than in those whose "hormonal itch" is so strong that they feel compelled to complete the act as soon as possible.

A man’s vicariously being turned on by vividly picturing the inordinate pleasure his partner is experiencing by displaying her own most primitive sexual impulses and being forcefully "taken" by another male might be understood as a kind of “surrogate sexing.” Additionally, the graphic portrayal of such unrestrained sensuality reflects a man’s most animalistic instincts. This is a fantasy depicting an id unchained, liberated from the ever-moderating, ever self-censoring, super-ego—which, by definition, is obliged to rein it in.

So when an otherwise well-controlled heterosexual male dares to visually create his wife’s violating her marital vows, and possibly his even encouraging her to do so, he’s playing a vital role in what we might call a “double transgression” of society’s norms. Voluntarily fantasizing himself as a cuckold, yet fully in charge of his cuckoldry, his “forbidden fantasies” may be particularly gratifying. For they break free of all boundaries, to reach what we might call the “thrilling, pure bliss of id.”

What Could Be More Arousing Than What Society Frowns Upon—or Is Taboo?!

Elaborating on the above, here we’re focusing on the magnetic appeal of the outrageous. Since, traditionally, a cuckold is someone to be looked down upon, or made fun of, why would a man’s imagining his wife’s cheating on him—or his actually offering her to another male—be anything that could sexually excite him? But once again, we need to consider that anyone “composing” such a fantasy (however scandalous or shocking) is nonetheless exerting a kind of mastery over it—consciously choosing to dramatize a scenario that, in his mind’s eye, is tantalizing. (And in this respect, see my post on why many women deliberately choose to turn themselves on through conjuring up titillatingly tailored scenes of being raped.)

It’s essential to grasp that what might be humiliating about imagining one’s wife having sex with another male is, in its idealized formulation, transformed into something not humiliating at all but engrossingly erotic. Not to say that there isn’t a certain masochism in all this. And many writers have linked cuckold fantasies to this well-known aberration. Still, such fantasies can, however paradoxically, be empowering for the fantasizer—even as they comprise a culturally shameful theme. This is not the place to psychoanalyze why conjuring up something physically or emotionally painful or degrading could for some males be a tremendous turn-on. But suffice it to say that, given a man’s genetics, upbringing, and overall experiential background, such imaginings can in fact offer him sexual gratification—and release.

It’s also worth noting that sadomasochistic imaginings can enable some men to identify, almost simultaneously, with being both dominated and dominant. Totally in charge of their fantasy, even the masochistic elements of their make-believe are brought under control. However deviant or pathological it might seem, it affirms something core to their sexual sense of self.

If I Picture My Wife With Another Guy, I Can Act Out My [Suppressed] Bisexual Impulses

Menage a trois by Jl. Cernadas/Flickr
Source: Menage a trois by Jl. Cernadas/Flickr

Writing about his sexually oriented interviews with men, Ley claims that more than half admitted that their bisexuality played a role in their desire for their wife to have sex with another male. As I’ve already stated, this post is not about those men who turn their fantasies into reality but about the fantasies themselves. So what needs to be looked at here is whether such imagined scenarios end up focusing on two men pleasuring the woman, or whether it comprises a “bait and switch” maneuver in which the fantasizer perceives himself as the principal sex object—or whether he’s viewing himself, proactively, as turning on the other male. For whatever about the fantasy is most arousing for him is what defines its sexual meaning and motive. Is he turned on by the woman’s heightened sensual pleasure . . . or, frankly, his own?

I Can Best Cope with My Fears of Being Cuckolded by “Preparing” for It.

The hypothesis of cuckold fantasies as deriving principally from a man’s fear of same—formally introduced into the literature by Dan Savage—has not, up till now, been convincingly supported by research. So though I’m including it as one possible explanation for the phenomenon, it doesn’t warrant much elaboration here. Doubtless, however, the notion of managing one’s anxieties about being sexually betrayed through eroticizing them is an interesting concept. And, in rare cases, I’ve no doubt it's relevant to explore.

F**k the *B**ch!

Thankfully, the most distasteful of threesome imaginings is, according to the studies I’ve inspected, not among the most popular. But, as Ley puts it, “Sadly, I saw some couples where the husband’s encouragement of the [wife’s having] sex with other men was about [degrading her].” Obviously, to the degree that a man can sexually “get off” by picturing his partner not as strong or liberated in her sexual expression but as merely some sort of cheap whore, such a debasing attitude must be seen as abhorrent. Nonetheless, just as a man’s vengeful fantasies of his wife’s being raped suggests his sexualizing angry, violent feelings toward her, so can his conjuring up images of her “giving” herself away to others reduce her to nothing more than a slut.

Although I was tempted to leave out this final explanation—for there’s no questioning its repugnance—I decided that, for the sake of comprehensiveness, I needed briefly to include it. Still, most of the motivating factors for these common male fantasies may be viewed as celebrating a woman’s sexuality (and probably a man’s own as well!). They may not be particularly laudable, but they do warrant being seen as normal. Besides, in and of themselves, they don’t really harm the partner—though men should take care not to share such imaginings if doing so might arouse their mate’s fears and insecurities.

On the other hand, wives who are confident—and maybe even proud—of their sexuality may be turned on by having such “taboo” fantasies shared with them. So, finally, taking the opportunity to make a woman privy to such imaginings becomes a matter of judgment . . . and scrupulous discretion.

NOTE 1: Three earlier posts of mine complementary to this one are “You Can’t Much Help What Turns You On,” “Fear-Inspired Sex: A Woman's Ultimate Defense--or Weapon?”, The Secret, Taboo Aspects of Male Sexual Desire," and “Don’t Call Them ‘Rape Fantasies.’”

NOTE 2: If you found this post of interest and think others you know might also, please consider forwarding its link to them.

NOTE 3: If you’d like to check out other posts I’ve done for Psychology Today—not just on human sexuality but on a broad range of topic—click here.

© 2016 Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

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