J recently read David Ley's Insatiable Wives: The Women Who Stray and the Men Who Love Them. Because J is often busy with school and still wants to blog, we found a compromise: he read the book and I will recap our conversations about it! :-) You can consider this post co-written by the two of us.
First, let's get some concepts on the table. These are concepts that we are articulating; others may have different ideas about them.
When we talk about a "hot wife" we are referring to a woman in a partnered couple who has sexual encounters (sex is the primary focus of the encounter) with other men. The husband/primary male partner is highly turned on by his wife's/female partner's sexual escapades, and derives pleasure and arousal from her exercising her sexual autonomy and from the image/thought/knowledge of another man having sex with her.
When we refer to a "cuckold" we are referring to a man that enjoys the dominance/submission power relationship between himself and his female partner. Often, the cuckold likes to be belittled, humiliated, or otherwise made to feel powerless. The female partner has sexual relationships with other men as a means to capitalize on this power dynamic. The male partner often derives pleasure and satisfaction from the power dynamic between himself and his partner.
Thus, from what we know, "cuckolding" is more about the power exchange and relationship (as in other kinds of BDSM relationships) while "hot wifing" often lacks this element. Many mainstream articles conflate these two ideas. A man may derive intense sexual satisfaction from his partner having independent sexual escapades, but be completely horrified to be humiliated. However, another may only enjoy such escapades if he is also humiliated, forced to "clean up" the woman after her sexual encounter, etc.
Ley's Insatiable Wives discusses many topics related to nonmonogamy while it centers around vignettes of (heterosexual) couples who enjoy hot wifing as part of their relationship. Most couples he interviews have full open relationships, but only a few of the men actually take advantage of their ability to be with other partners. For most couples, the majority of the focus for their open relationship is on the woman's sexual adventures.
The most interesting points for J (and thus for us to talk about) included:
-His introduction includes his reasoning for writing the book. Many people think that men turned on by hot wifing are mentally unhealthy and that many relationships like this are unhealthy or unsustainable. Because Ley is a clinical psychologist, he wanted to research for himself whether these ideas are true; he saw it as imperative that he be able to understand the motivations and ideas around hot wifing as he would likely interact as some point with a patient who had experience with hot wifing or cuckolding. He found for himself that most couples he talked to did indeed positively capitalize on the hot wife fantasy and were in healthy relationships.
-He sees the hot wife fantasy as potentially an adaptation to being with one person long-term. The fantasy capitalizes on the "other," creating at once separateness and intense desire within the primary relationship (think of Perel's Mating in Captivity).
-Many couples found that they had to hide their hot wife lifestyles from both the swinger and poly communities because of misunderstandings and judgements from both communities. I am continually amazed at how the nonmonogamous community has so man subcultures within it, and how each subculture has tendencies to throw others under the mainstream bus. Some couples found that swinger friends took issue with the seemingly non-egalitarianism of their relationships, while some couples found that poly friends took issue with the focus on casual, recreational sex (versus intimate sex revolving around love).
-J found Ley to be surprisingly sex negative at times, as it seemed he had particular ideas in his mind about which things were "okay" and which things "crossed a line" with regards to sexual behaviors, agreements, and boundaries.
-While some of the couples Ley discusses have full open relationships, many of them are open more in theory. For some couples, it was difficult for the woman to manage the man having other partners (because of jealousy, insecurities, etc), so the man eventually stopped trying to have other partners. For some other couples, it was never okay for the man to have other partners. And for some other couples, the man decided that it was simply too much work to try to meet other women (again, the inequity in vanilla dating at play). So for many of the couples Ley interviewed, the man is monogamous while the woman is nonmonogamous (although some of the couples still engaged in coupled sexual activities with other couples). For all of the couples, this has worked out because the hot wife fantasy is so thrilling and has sustained the primary relationship and satisfied both partners. However, the inequity of many of the featured relationship structures was fascinating to both of us.
-J did not like how Ley's book meandered into topics of nonmonogamy because he did not seem to be particularly qualified to be writing on those. He researched hot wifing and cuckolding, and thus had material and knowledge to discuss those topics. Other issues, such as the swing culture in general, should have been left out.
-Ley gave many examples of individuals and couples who have faced persecution from employers, family, and society for indulging their hot wife fantasies. These examples gave us pause in thinking about our own relationship and practices, and how those will mesh with our desired future careers.
-We both loved his concluding paragraph. It resonated for us as it seems to relate to open relationships in general. I absolutely love the metaphor of walking over hot coals: