Catherine Hakim, the author behind ‘erotic capital’, says infidelity websites are giving marriages a lift. We report
Kate Spicer Published: 12 August 2012
Catherine Hakim is a controversialist. She says prostitutes are role models, most women don’t want to work in career jobs and feminists are an elitist minority whose battles are irrelevant to all but a small group. In her latest book The New Rules: Internet Dating, Playfairs and Erotic Power, she argues in favour of adultery.
In what is probably the first academic guide to what she calls “good infidelity”, Hakim, a social scientist at the Centre for Policy Studies, says a love affair “requires some skill and savoire faire. A successful affair while married is one that makes both parties happier than they would otherwise be, but has no negative consequences for the two families and does not of itself prompt any divorces”.
Hakim analysed the confessions of people who had had affairs via online chat rooms. She concludes that, thanks to the internet, Britons are becoming more continental in their attitudes to marriage and adultery. Past surveys have suggested that about 80% of Britons disapprove of affairs, Hakim says. By contrast, only two in five Italians regard affairs as unacceptable, while a quarter of Spaniards “do not regard sexual fidelity as fundamentally important”.
Now, however, according to Hakim, “the unforgiving Puritan Anglo-Saxon response to affairs . . . with all the misery and trauma that entails”, is changing, as the internet enables women to enjoy what she calls harmless “playfairs” — beneficial “holidays” from a marriage.
The New Rules, to be published next month, is, like several of Hakim’s works, likely to provoke fierce debate on publication.
Last year, in her book Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital, she argued that attractive people had an advantage in life that could be measured in terms of greater earning power. Harness your erotic potential, she suggested, and you could not only land a partner but get ahead at work and in society as a whole. Now she suggests that women should capitalise on their scarcity value in infidelity chatrooms, where willing females are a commodity in short supply. While men pay, it costs nothing for women to sign up to such sites. Extramarital affairs go wrong for women, Hakim says, only when they are really looking for love.
“I have always been baffled by the sour and rigid English view of affairs,” she writes.
Conversations with people who use social networks to cheat — none of whom, for obvious reasons, is willing to be named — suggest that Hakim is on to something.
No-strings fun is what made one divorced man switch from normal dating sites to encounters of the more illicit kind. “John” works in marketing and described infidelity websites as: “Perfect for me. No strings. No hassle. I’ve given up on dating websites. I couldn’t stand the pressure. The women are all frightening, they’re box-ticking nutcases who make you feel like you are being interviewed for the job of husband.”
Women on infidelity websites, John says, are different. “These are frustrated, bored women who want to live life like Sex and the City, go for drinks, have fun, romance and lots of sex.”
Elena, 37, joined a website five years ago “because I was married to a wonderful man, living a picture-perfect bucolic life and was desperately unhappy. I joined the site because I wanted to gauge what I had, get scared of losing it and fall back in love with my husband”.
Things did not go to plan, and shortly after joining: “I met a man and fell deeply, madly and desperately in love. Within a month I filed for divorce and launched into an insanely passionate, life-changing affair. We are still together.”
That’s how infidelity websites are used, according to Sophie, who says extramarital affairs that are set up online are common among her set in the home counties. “They are used literally, as a testbed. Doing it online, if a woman discovers the grass is not actually greener, she is protected from being found out and having her life shattered.”
Emma emails answers from her iPad while “hubby” watches television: “I would recommend this to anyone but I’m not sure many women are brave enough emotionally and you need to be to have a double life. I regret none of it. My marriage has survived because of my lovers. I would never leave my husband.”
As she sees it: “An affair is fun, frolics, dinner, cocktails, expensive hotels and passionate sex. It is not real life.”
See online: Adultery: it’s the grown-up way to love