From ArticleWorld

Adultery happens when a married person engages in consensual sex with someone other than his or her lawful spouse. Other terms for this word are infidelity, unfaithfulness and cheating.

Other terminology

The sexual partner of the individual who is cheating is often referred to as the co-respondent in divorce proceedings. If this person is a woman, she is often referred to as a mistress. The person who was cheated on is referred to as the cuckold.

When both spouses agree that sexual relationships with others outside of their marriage will be allowed, the relationship is called an open marriage. The relationships outside of this marriage are not treated as adulterous by spouses. If one member in an open marriage decides not to have an outside relationship, she or he is referred to as a wittol, or a contented cuckold.

Punishment and penalty

Adulterers have suffered severe penalties over the course of history (including the death penalty). Adultery is grounds for divorce under fault-based divorce law.

In some places, adulterers were punished by stoning to death. In the original Napoleonic Code, a man could divorce a wife if she cheated, but she could not divorce him unless he kept his concubine in their home.

Adultery is still illegal in Austria, Korea, Switzerland and Taiwan. When the laws in these countries are enforced women are often punished more harshly than men and in some cases even rape victims are considered adulterous.

In the United States, laws vary but are rarely enforced. For example it is punishable in Pennsylvania by two years of prison or 18 months of treatment for insanity. In the U.S. Military, it is court martialable in some instances.

Adultery in literature

Adultery has been part of human nature for as long as the existence of marriage. Thus, it’s natural that the theme should figure prominently into literature. For example:

  • In the Bible, adultery is present in several books. For instance, the story of Abraham.
  • “Othello” and “The Winter’s Tale,” are two plays by Shakespeare in which adultery plays a prominent role.
  • William Wycherley’s “The Country Wife” mocks the morals of English Restoration society.