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Adultery is what adults do with adults other than their spouses (spice?) when they have sex with people they haven't agreed that it is ok to have it with. It is also the subject of a countless number of songs by people who have run out of ideas of what to sing about.

It is also a truism that infants do not have anywhere near as much fun in infancy as adults do in adultery.

But seriously, it's not nice to cheat (although cheating is not required in order to commit adultery); it hurts your spouse.

Implication of deceit[edit]

The term "adultery" is somewhat loaded. There are two possible definitions of adultery:

  1. The traditional definition is "sexual intercourse between a married person and someone who is not that person's spouse". Note that this does not include premarital sex between two unmarried persons.
  2. As people today use the word "adultery", they tend to equate it with the word "cheating" — that is, Person A, who is married to Person B, has sex with person C (who may or may not be married) without the consent of B. While all cheating is adultery, not all extramarital sex is cheating — examples would include "swingers" who regularly have sex with other people, such as in "wife swapping" or a "keys party". While two married couples who swap partners might be technically committing adultery, it can't be argued that they are cheating, since they all know about each other's "affairs" and there is no deception against anyone.

Make sure to figure out which definition a person is using when having an argument about it.

Adultery and the law[edit]

Most ancient societies had laws proscribing adultery, since it can be a major source of division and conflict within communities (not to mention a complication for inheritance laws in dividing the property of a male decedent — sure, a man's kids are supposed to get shares of his property, but what if some of his kids aren't actually his?), and was often punished by the death penalty. The Torah law of the Old Testament is an example of this. Jesus Christ is reported to have saved an adulteress from being stoned to death ("let he who is without sin cast the first stone"), although some extreme conservatives, not being happy with the concept of forgiveness or the anti-death penalty stance of the story, dispute the validity of this incident.[1] Pity they can't show the same skepticism with Bible verses that contradict science, such as the two contradictory creation stories in Genesis.

The definition of adultery used in the Old Testament was narrower than how the term is used today. In the Old Testament, a sexual act was considered adultery only if it involved a married woman having sex with a man who wasn't her husband. A married man having sex with an unmarried woman didn't qualify as adultery. This was because a wife was considered the property of her husband, not the other way around. (King Solomon reportedly had 700 wives and 400 concubines, and the Old Testament treated him as one of the wisest men who ever lived.)

Most modern societies have removed laws against adultery, regarding it as a personal issue rather than a societal one, although it is often grounds for a divorce or marriage annulment. In the U.S., several states have laws against adultery. While an adulterer or adulteress may find this to be quite unreasonable for obvious reasons, cheating on a spouse, to whom a person is wed, is basically the same thing as breaking a contract. Still, these specifics, if even enforced at all, are mostly settled out of court. Adultery is still a criminal offense in some nations, largely Muslim ones with a harsh interpretation of Sharia law, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. These societies use the first definition of adultery above, so any sexual activity by an unmarried couple could be classed as adultery.

In 2002, a Nigerian woman named Amina Lawal Kurami was convicted of adultery when she became pregnant out of wedlock, some time after being divorced from her husband. She was sentenced to death by stoning, but the sentence was later overturned — not because it would be barbaric, but because Sharia law recognises the concept of "extended pregnancy", asserting that a woman's gestation can last up to five years. Thus, the verdict of the appeal was that she could hypothetically have been carrying the child of her estranged husband rather than having committed adultery.[2]

Of non-Islamic nations, some of the United States (Michigan, Maryland, Pennsylvania, as well as the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the criminal law of the United States Armed Forces) still nominally have adultery laws, although prosecutions are rarely made and the statutes (outside the military) are likely unconstitutional.

Christians and adultery[edit]

Adultery is listed as Number Seven in the Big Ten. Jesus mentions it over twenty times in the New Testament. He even talks about "adultery of the mind", whatever that is.

5:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.[3] Some Christians interpret that as meaning that a man can’t even look at his own wife that way.[4]

Jesus mentions homosexuality zero times. Yet, the single greatest threat to fundamentalist marriages is apparently homosexuality, not adultery. Or divorce, for that matter. Or both, right Newt?

Self-proclaimed conservative Christians who have committed adultery[edit]

The Wicked Bible[edit]

Donald Trump's favorite Bible[citation NOT needed]

In 1631, a printing error resulted in a version of the King James Bible to be printed with the commandment "Thou shalt commit adultery", leading it to be dubbed as the "Wicked Bible". The incident resulted in printers Robert Barker and Martin Lucas losing their printing license and being saddled with a heavy fine. Most of the copies were destroyed, but the few that still exist are considered rare collectors' items.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. See Andrew Schlafly's "essay" on the subject here.
  2. See the Wikipedia article on Amina Lawal.
  12. A close reading of the strange Josh Duggar adultery confession
  20. A Vast Right-Wing Hypocrisy - Vanity Fair, Feb 2008
  24. Sanford Odyssey Ends in Tears
  25. Rare ‘Wicked’ bible that encourages adultery discovered in New Zealand, Eva Corlett, The Guardian 2 May 2022