Late last year, I got an email from someone who reads my blog. That happens on a reasonably regular basis: people have questions and comments, which they’re not always comfortable posting publicly, or they just want to say hello and have a bit of a chat.
One of the advantages of being a male sex blogger is that I’ve never felt threatened or creeped-out by that sort of attention; the people who contact me are always polite, friendly, engaging and articulate, and I’ve been able to respond to them without any real fear of the consequences.
Occasionally it’s clear that they want to do more than just talk. When that happens I have to decide very quickly whether to let things play out or whether to back off and steer the conversation in another direction.
Amy’s intentions were not difficult to decipher, and the first paragraph of her email was intriguing enough that instinctively I wanted to know more.
“I’m 30, live in North London with my husband, and work in the City. I’ve been following your blog for a few months, after finding it via Girl on the Net. Every time I see you have posted I have a little buzz of excitement. Your writing is very entertaining and at times deeply arousing…perfect for a dreary autumn day. Sometimes when I walk or sit on a bus down Upper Street I find myself playing a little guessing game about who you are and where you might live.”
We exchanged a few messages, and I quickly learnt that Amy’s husband knew nothing of her online activities, and certainly wasn’t aware that she was sending increasingly explicit messages and photos to other men. Four days after her first email we met for a drink in a local pub, and within a couple of hours we were hurrying back to my flat, where we barely made it through the door before ripping each other’s clothes off.
Amy made no attempt to hide either her intentions or the motives behind them. Over the second glass of wine, she told me that she loved her husband very much, and that she was certain they’d spend the rest of their lives together. However, they’d been a couple since university, and over time their sex drives – and sexual interests – had diverged to the point where she was no longer happy with that side of the relationship. He didn’t want an open marriage, so she’d made a conscious decision to spend 12-18 months ‘having adventures’ without him.
“This way I get to experience all the things I know I’d otherwise miss out on, and hopefully end up with a bunch of memories I can still wank over when I’m 90. It would hurt him too much if he found out, but in the long run this will work out best for both of us.”
I was impressed by how clearly and calmly she’d thought things through, even if I didn’t find her solution wholly convincing. Illicit sex is thrilling and addictive, and the idea that she could just stop at a given point felt counter-intuitive – or at least at odds with my own experience.
Back at my place, Amy was everything her words had suggested she might be: enthusiastic, energetic, curious, and a lot of fun. We had terrific sex that night: she fucked with the intensity of someone trying to squeeze every drop of pleasure out of the time available to her, and I allowed myself to be swept along by the sheer joy of making her come again and again. When she left, I spread myself out on the soaked sheets like a starfish, and laughed at just how unexpectedly magnificent life really was.
We met up a few more times after that, with equally spectacular results. Because she wasn’t ashamed of what she was doing, time with Amy felt comfortable both in and out of bed; we could fuck for a couple of hours, then head to the pub for a drink and a chat, with no awkwardness or recriminations. Amy was happy to talk about her marriage, and I enjoyed listening to what she had to say – even as we lay naked in each other’s arms, her wedding ring resting against my skin. It was obvious not only that she loved her husband, but that she genuinely saw this period in her life as finite and precious; as something to secure their future together, rather than jeopardise it. In that sense our time together felt unwaveringly honest.
Not least because for all the warmth and intimacy of our various encounters, Amy was always very clear about the limited role I played in her life. She compartmentalised in a way that I found both familiar and admirable. She didn’t comment on my blog or interact with me on Twitter. We didn’t swap phone numbers. We didn’t make plans. We weren’t friends. We communicated by email, and when she wanted to fuck, she told me.
When the time came to draw a line under things, she told me that too. I emailed Amy one day to suggest a hook-up, and got the following response:
“Remember I told you when we first met that I thought my adventures were going to come to an end soon…well I’m there now. I don’t regret any of it, but it’s time for me to stop and focus on my marriage.
I’ll continue to read your blog with interest and occasionally wet knickers!”
Of all the words she said or wrote to me, the only one I ever resented was ‘occasionally’…
Amy was not the first woman I helped to cheat on a partner, and there’s every chance she won’t be the last.
There was the woman who discovered just before her wedding that her fiancé was still sleeping with his ex-girlfriend, and decided to even the score three days after walking down the aisle.
The woman whose husband hit her when he was drunk, and who took revenge by sucking my cock in the marital bed.
The woman trapped in a loveless marriage, counting down the months and years till her kids were old enough to see their parents separate.
The woman whose relationship was stuck in a rut; and the woman who didn’t yet realise how wonderful hers would be.
The woman in a long-distance relationship, who simply missed the physical intimacy; and the woman with a boyfriend recently returned home after two years abroad, who mourned the sudden loss of her emotional independence.
People cheat in relationships for all sorts of reasons. They always have done. They cheat because they’re angry, or lonely, or jealous, or bored. They cheat because they long to break free, and they cheat because it’s the only thing that will help them to hold on to what they’ve got. They cheat because they’re just plain horny.
Some of them have good reasons – some of them don’t. Some of them are clear with both themselves and others about why they’re doing it – others lack the self-awareness or the courage to recognise and confront whatever impulse drives their actions.
I’ve been all of those people. I’ve blogged before about my own infidelity, with far more honesty than I often gave to the partners on whom I cheated. I’ve learned not to judge ‘adulterers’ like Amy, because if there’s one thing the last 12 years have shown me it’s that our relationships are really fucking complex, and no two are ever the same.
Plenty’s been written about the Ashley Madison cyberattack over the last couple of weeks. Unfaithful spouses make easy targets, and I’ve read a lot of gleefully nasty commentary as a result. ‘They had it coming’ seems to be the prevailing opinion – on social media, at least.
I find it hard to share that viewpoint. Without doubt, there are terrible, dishonest people who use sites like Ashley Madison to betray their partners – but to view every single user in cold, judgemental black-and-white is to ignore the reality that stares us in the face. All of us have either cheated or known someone who has. All of us have lied to a partner at one time or another. Even if it didn’t involve sex, all of us have done something to betray a partner’s trust.
Blanket condemnation achieves nothing. The more we try to paint infidelity with broad, monochrome strokes, the more we reduce our chances of understanding the individual choices that people make. Maybe most of those will still appear bad and selfish, but there will be others that many of us can understand – can even empathise with – if we open ourselves up to that.
When someone decides to cheat, they’re faced with three potential lies. The lie they tell their partner, the lie they tell the person they sleep with, and the lie they tell themselves. Like most things in life it’s far from perfect, but with Ashley Madison – as with Amy – at least only one of those lies gets told.