Is it morally wrong to be promiscuous?

What if it is not infidelity that destroys our relationships, but misunderstood loyalty?

This is what Michèle Binswanger asks in her book To cheat on.

In the end, the judge needs several hours to read out his 160-page conclusion. It lists the numerous evidences of the moral depravity of the accused: Margaret Campbell, née Whigham and later Duchess of Argyll, as the judge has shown, lived her promiscuity openly, often in the form of "disgusting sexual practices". Several Polaroid photos of Campbells giving a blow job to a stranger serve as evidence. The fact that the stranger is not Campbell's husband, but one of her numerous lovers, proves once again in the eyes of the judge the sexual perversions of the accused. The trial of the adulteress and nymphomaniac Margaret Campbell ends with a guilty verdict - Campbell's reputation among British high society is ruined.

The story of this 1963 trial, in which Margaret Campbell was dragged to court by her estranged husband for infidelity, is told by Swiss journalist Michèle Binswanger in her new book To cheat on. A manual for women. The title is reminiscent of one of the typical sex guides, but behind it hides an often very differentiated and exciting investigation of the topic of cheating from a female point of view. Right at the start, Binswanger throws up a lot of questions: “Is it not infidelity that breaks marriages, but the unrealistic expectations that sex should only take place within the marriage? And doesn't this problem particularly affect women because their sexuality develops differently from that of men? Because they often need years before they even develop pleasure in their sexuality? ". And further: "Why do we think it is more normal to rush from one monogamous short-term relationship to the next than to accept extramarital sexual contacts?"

All sluts except mom

Yes why? For women, as Binswanger makes clear, the starting conditions are still different than for men. Since the 1960s, since the scandal involving the supposedly dissolute Countess, a lot has happened: the hippies propagated free love, sex is now okay outside of marriage and terms like 'polyamory' can of course be found in the media. But as a woman, self-confidently and, yes, selfishly, exercising one's own sexuality without shame is still a kind of taboo. Promiscuous women are quickly seen as 'sluts' or 'sluts', while men with frequently changing sexual partners are seen as 'great stallions' or 'studs'.

Studies have now shown that women do not - as has been assumed for centuries - have a lower sex drive than men: they often just live it out differently. Binswanger notes: “Men say it is difficult to be faithful. Women too. But women are more willing to deny their instincts because they often don't know it very well. ”But of course there are women who are ready for fling, whose entire relationship model is based on it. Binswanger introduces some of them, including modern women who talk about their experiences of infidelity, and historical women like Margaret Campbell or Anna Mahler-Werfel. Scattered in between are the results of studies on female sexuality, reflections on loyalty, morals and jealousy as well as some practical rules "which cheaters should adhere to in any case".

And the alternative?

All of this reads very entertaining and brisk, Michèle Binswanger is reflected in many places and avoids a general conclusion. However, she cannot avoid a few generalizing statements. It is true that in the foreword she makes it clear: “If this book contains general statements about the Men and the Women in general are hit with great caution and with the awareness of these individual differences. ”In principle, this could have worked well, as Binswanger - as she does - alternates between individual fates and assessments by experts and studies. But the mix doesn't quite fit: the stories of cheaters sometimes seem a bit random and are not suitable for illustrating and supplementing general statements (“Women don't just sleep with men”). It is also a shame that, as the book title promises, it is a lot about cheating, but little about actual alternative relationship models, where sexuality is also lived quite openly outside of the relationship - the focus on the “adulteress”, which suggests, particularly contributes to this becomes that cheating is primarily something that happens to married people.

Overall, however, the book provides plenty of food for thought and, above all, takes its topic seriously. It encourages you to ask yourself some - possibly uncomfortable - questions about your own relationship to loyalty, jealousy and sexual needs. Michèle Binswanger ponders: “Perhaps we should simply acknowledge that sexuality is also a kind of home and has a right to be lived. That we find ourselves in our individual needs and do not have to live according to roles intended for us. It doesn't make relationships any easier. But if you assume that every relationship is a work of art, it is at least worth trying. "

Michèle Binswanger: To cheat on. A manual for women, Ullstein Verlag, published on August 11, 2017