COULD infidelity revive stale relationships? A current bestseller: The New Rules – Internet Dating, Playfairs and Erotic Power by Dr. Catherine Hakim has c1aimed just that. According to the author: “Recreational sex outside marriage can be good and healthy.” She argues that a fling between two married people cheating on their spouses, with no strings attached, may actually reinvigorate their marriages and make them less likely to divorce. She believes we need a fresh approach to marriage and adultery and accept the culture of ‘playfair.’ The big question then is: what is the difference between an old-style ‘affair’ and a thrilling ‘playfair’?
It seems the ‘new’ (as defined by Dr. Hakim) aspect of this very old sin is simply that ‘the internet is opening up a whole new culture of affairs between married people’ with the result that physical betrayal simply doesn’t matter so much any more. That ‘sex is no more a moral issue than eating a good meal.’
Ignoring the belief that there is no single aspect of human life which is not subject to moral rules, she went on to stress that no harm is done by these ‘playfairs’. Married people who meet and have sex through web sites enjoy the excitement of an illicit relationship without any of the domestic fallout. She argues that: ‘Why should we not be able to recapture the heady thrills of youth, while protecting a secure home front?’ The theory, simply put is that if you’re having it off with a lover in secret, you’11 stay married.
Critics of Dr. Hakim’s latest offering on liberal sex were outraged. This isn’t the first time she’s courted controversy. “She’s good at flashy titles for fleshy thoughts,” says one of them. “Her last book was called Honey Money: ‘The Power Of Erotic Capital’ – which argued that women need to make the best of their assets to please their men, like so many geisha girls. She defined erotic capital as a combination of ‘beauty, social skills, good dress-sense, physical fitness, liveliness, sex appeal and sexual competence’ and argued that, although this is exploitable by both sexes, women have more scope because men want sex more than women. In other words, women can strut their stuff like hookers.
She continues: “Make no mistake, The New Rules is a one-woman campaign for guilt-free, extra-marital sex – dressed up as a ground- breaking theory. Having interviewed many people to back up her liberated idea of ‘this 21’ – century world of modem adultery’, Dr. Hakim portrays illicit nookie as not just thrilling, but positively beneficial. A bit like a daily vitamin pill.
But what of the deceived spouses? Are they ‘happier’ when they discover secret e-mails or texts from their partner’s lovers? And are the deceivers truly made happy by living, a lie. “As far as I’m concerned,” continues the critic, Dr. Hakim – who contributed to learned journals – gives academia a bad name. So much studying and so little sense! How can anybody so obviously clever be unashamed to display such rank stupidity? How can a so-called ‘internationally recognised expert on women’s employment, childlessness, social and family policy’ put her name to a book which – if people acted on its cheap theories – would do indescribable damage to family life?
According to Dr. Hakim’s views on infidelity: ‘Affairs are about excitement, being alive, seduction, flirtation, love, affection, sexual bliss, lust, caution, eroticism, fantasy, danger, adventure, exploration and the determined refusal to grow old gracefully.’ Irked by this remark, the critic fumes: ‘A woman who has lectured to the young is now telling people not to accept responsibility and commitment, or to realise a flourishing life is about far more than selfish pleasure. She appears to revel in the thought of millions of Peter Pans flying about with their pockets full of condoms, looking for any easy-going Tinkerbell or Wendy who’ll join them for fun and games in Never Never Land. And never mind the consequences.
Dr. Hakim claims that ‘sex has become a major leisure activity of our time … ‘ Has it really? Who says so? Even if she’s right, many of us would argue that the modern obsession which tawdry sex (not love, or even passion) is, is deeply disturbing and reduces human beings to the lowest common denominator. A couple might fancy the notion of an ‘open marriage’ but hate what it does to them in reality. The very word adultery comes from the word ‘adulterate’ – which means to make something poorer by adding an inferior substance. Even though infidelity need not be fatal, it is never harmless … “
So which side of the divide are you readers this lovely Sunday on? Would calling an affair a playfair make it more morally acceptable? Affairs will never go away. We’re all aware of that. But if it is couched in a more glamorous and sophisticated terms, would it be such a bitter pill to swallow?!