Adultery, the New Civil Right?

marrThe Ashley Madison hack has not only spurred a national debate on data privacy but the state of marriage in general.  

Left wing pundits wasted little time in rehashing the same defense of adultery that they used to defend homosexual behavior.   It’s a victimless act well within the bounds of morality. If two (or more) people consent…yada, yada, yada. It’s a private matter that must remain beyond the scrutiny of others.

And of course they have to take their daily shot at conservatives, Christians and morality in general by pushing the idea it is only puritanical beliefs that stigmatize the “innocent lifestyles” of certain people by dehumanizing those who engage in otherwise “harmless” intimate relationships in pursuit of love and happiness.

Glenn Greenwald in The Puritanical Glee over Ashley Madison Hack writes that: “Busybodies sitting in judgment of and righteously condemning the private, sexual acts of other adults remains one of the most self-satisfying and entertaining — and thus most popular — public spectacles. It simultaneously uplifts the moral judges (I am superior to that which I condemn), distracts them from their own behaviors (I am focused on those other people’s sins, and thus not my own), and titillated (to condemn this, I simply must immerse myself in the tawdry details of their sexual acts).”

Max Reed wrote that: “Long-term marriage is a complicated dynamic, and people invent all sorts of ways to manage that complicated, long-term dynamic—and, yes, cheating is one of the ways people manage that dynamic. It’s not ideal… but sometimes cheating is the least worst option. …There are a lot of people out there who have good cause to cheat. …”

Thankfully, the liberal argument for the morality of adultery has not convinced the majority of Americans. In a 2013 Gallup poll, 91% of respondents believed that married men and women having an affair was morally wrong. In another study a larger proportion of married individuals who admitted to cheating believed that their actions were immoral.

Chief among the left’s argument in favor of the ‘anything goes’ society is the concept of “harm.” From the left’s perspective, if the murder of your unborn child is a victimless act, then of course we must accept that cheating on your spouse is a mere trifle. After all, why should something as silly as a marriage vow hinder a person’s sexual autonomy? If you’re stupid enough to take the bonds of matrimony seriously, don’t you deserve to be cheated on?

The left looks on the perspective of “harm” to the betrayed spouse as a misplaced sense of marital commitment which is ultimately based on provincial religious attitudes. True harm, according to the left is the emotion distress caused by curtailing sexual freedom which is based on immutable human needs. In other words, if a married person has sexual needs that cannot be fulfilled by their spouse, those needs take priority over marriage vows. Or to put the point succinctly: sexual needs are real but marriage vows are based on religion, which is not real.   So if the betrayed spouse feels bad, it is their own fault for naively buying into this whole concept of marital commitment.

According to psychologists, the betrayed spouse is traumatized by the discovery of infidelity because it shatters basic assumptions about the security we expect in committed relationships…. In intimate relationships, there is a truth bias, so people tend to take their partner’s word as truth unless there is a prior history of lying and deception. After the betrayal, the traumatized spouse questions everything they trusted and depended on. They say that they no longer know who they are married to or what their marriage stands for. The most severely traumatized are generally the ones who had the greatest trust and were the most unsuspecting. And, that trauma continues until safety is once again established.

In the real world, family instability, often the result of adultery, correlates with numerous social ills, such as drug use and depression among adolescents, dropping out of school and future unemployment. Do these harms outweigh the purported benefits of cheating?   Even under a purely utilitarian conception of sexual morality, it would seem the “harm” from such social problems in more significant than the “harm” that may come to a person who has to remain faithful to his vows.

Experts say children who learn about parental infidelity react similarly to children whose parents divorce, except the emotional responses to cheating are deeper and can have greater, longer-lasting impacts. “ Infidelity violates everything they know about their parents as people,” according to Don-David Lusterman, a marriage and family clinical psychologist and author. ” Their parents have told them to be good, tell the truth…and suddenly they discover that their parent is doing something way out of the promises they know that their mom and dad have made to each other.”

“With all these messages we’re giving to our children, our future society will be different,” said Ana Nogales, clinical psychologist and author of Parents Who Cheat: How Children and Adults are Affected When Their Parents Are Unfaithful. “What is important is to create awareness that cheating in the marriage or a serious relationship is not just something about the two people, but it may affect, at some point, the whole family. So when people think ‘This doesn’t involve my children. It has nothing to do with my children,’ they’re lying to themselves. When this is known, the children are seriously affected.”

“A parent is supposed to be the person a child can trust more than anyone else,” she said. “When one parent betrays another, it’s a supreme breach of trust. Most of the children felt that they were betrayed by the parent, too. “

Given all these “harms” is it not safe to say that infidelity is indubitably immoral? The fact that these considerations are so often overshadowed by an obsessive dogmatic concern for “sexual freedom” is proof of the one-dimensionality and inherent hypocrisy of liberal sexual ethics. If liberalism can be so out of touch and misguided when it comes to a moral issue like adultery, what does that say about liberalism’s treatment of other points of sexual morality?

Source: Ashley Madison and the Problem of Liberal Sexual Ethics, by Daniel Haqiqatjou

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