For most people, the idea of their partner cheating is horrible. A lot of us have been there, and whether the relationship survived the infidelity or not, that initial feeling of betrayal can be tough to overcome.
But for some women, the taboo of somebody else’s partner cheating is a turn on. These women get off on being a so-called temptress, luring men away from their partners. Through hook-up apps and websites, they meet men in serious relationships and invite them to meet for dates and sex, asking them to deceive their partners and keep the rendezvous secret. The fetish is known as homewrecker kink – and, according to those I spoke to, seems to mainly apply to straight women looking for heterosexual men in monogamous relationships.
According to one 2017 study, the number of people who cheat on their partners has steadily decreased over the past ten years and millennials are cheating on their partners less than older generations. This might be partly down to the fact that our definitions of cheating have changed. Open relationships and ethical non-monogamy are on the rise, with one in five Americans saying they’ve been in a non-monogamous relationship. Feeld, an app that’s been called ‘Tinder for threesomes’, has over 200,000 active weekly users, many of them couples who browse the app together. Open relationships aren’t the same thing as cheating for one important reason: cheating involves lying.
I first discovered homewrecker kink when a woman propositioned my partner of seven years through Feeld. She explained to him in a direct message exactly what she was looking for: she wanted guys in committed relationships who would meet her at a hotel for sex. It was vital that their partners didn’t know about the rendezvous, she explained. She also wanted to make videos to send to her husband, who enjoys being a voyeur of her kink.
My partner politely declined and showed me the DMs. My initial response was anger: while it’s never OK to condemn a person’s kink if it’s consensual, there seemed to be something different about this. This kink inherently involves dishonesty and the potential for emotional harm. The women who are being cheated on, by definition, aren’t consenting. But I decided to find out more. Perhaps there’s more to homewrecker kink than meets the eye. It takes two people to cheat. Perhaps I’d been too quick to judge.
On Reddit, posts on the sub r/adultery include comments from dozens of women who are into the fetish. “I love it,” wrote one user. “The sneaking, the excitement, the secret.” But many women also expressed a lot of guilt about what they’re doing. “It really makes me pull back sometimes,” wrote one. Another admitted: “The guilt hits me in waves sometimes.”
I got in touch with Melissa Vitale, the communications director at NSFW, a private members' sex club in New York City. NSFW prides itself on its policy of enthusiastic consent (one of their slogans is “consent is sexy”). I wanted to know what Melissa thought about the kink and if, like me, it made her feel uneasy. “I believe in relationship karma,” Melissa tells me over the phone. “But I will say that I think cheating is always the partner’s fault, not the fault of the so-called ‘other woman’. The person who is in the relationship holds the responsibility, to be honest.”
Melissa has met several women who are into homewrecker kink and, though it’s not something she’d do herself, she understands the motivation. “It’s taboo, it’s forbidden, and so the appeal isn’t so much from the cheating itself, it’s the thrill of possibly getting caught. It’s like a form of rebellion.”
She put me in touch with Amanda, who enjoyed being with cheating men for 18 years, until she decided two years ago that she didn’t want to do it anymore. She now only engages in ethical non-monogamy. I told Amanda about my brush with homewrecker kink. My furious response, she says, was all too familiar.
“Your initial reaction of anger seems standard,” she wrote in an email. “I heard it time and time again, ‘How could you do that to another woman?’ My rationale was always that the person doing the cheating was in the wrong. While I absolutely felt like an accomplice to their cheating, at the end of the day this was between them and their primary partner.”
I wanted to know what the appeal had been for her. Why had Amanda formed relationships again and again with men who were cheating? “The dynamic inherently plays into a fear factor of being caught, or of holding a secret between two lovers. It creates a connection beyond the sex itself.”
I asked around some of my gay, queer and non-binary friends to see if they’d ever heard about homewrecker kink – it seemed like the fetish is particularly associated with heteronormative relationships. This was certainly true for Amanda, who was almost exclusively involved for almost two decades with heterosexual and seemingly monogamous men.
Gigi Engle is a sex coach and educator whose book All the Fucking Mistakes: a Guide to Sex, Love and Life has a lot to say about feminist sex, female pleasure and double standards. I asked her what she thought about homewrecker kink and the women who participate in it. “The whole concept of the ‘other woman’ is born from society’s view that male sexuality can’t be contained, and they can’t help themselves,” she explained in an email. “They absolutely can and we should be holding every person in a relationship accountable for their actions.”
Society still jumps to condemn women when it comes to sex. Sexual shame is heaped onto women far more readily than onto men. I realise now that I was also guilty of this way of thinking when I jumped to judge that woman on Feeld. Unquestioningly piling all the blame on a woman, when the man has equally made a choice, isn’t OK. Though deceiving your partner is never cool, the outdated image of the female temptress needs to be challenged. Maybe homewrecker kink is one way of doing that.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.