Infidelity and Feminism: Can Cheating Be A Feminist Choice?


Written by a feminist academic who had the (dis)pleasure of deliberately
being “the other woman” in an ongoing affair, Cheating on the Sisterhood: Infidelity and Feminism explores Lauren
Rosewarne’s personal struggles as a willing participant in an illicit
relationship that resulted in another woman’s devastation, as well as her own. It
is a political look at the motivations that fuel situations of betrayal and the
justifications one provides oneself from the inside.

Since Rosewarne uses her own life as a jumping off point,
the book is tinged with melodrama and a lack of adequate distance for dispassionate
observation, which certainly makes Cheating
on the Sisterhood
a more interesting read. Researchers are often told to
strive for objectivity in their work; however, Rosewarne tossed convention
aside in an attempt to engage the reader in her meanderings on depictions of
infidelity in popular culture, the ways women hurt and compete with other
women, feminist rationalizations that allow for denial of culpability, how the
role of “the other woman” reinforces traditional gender roles, the impact of
consumer culture on relationships, and why infidelity is an exercise in sadism,
masochism, and misogyny.

How did you come to
write this book, personally and professionally?

In 2007, I was presenting at a conference near where the man
I discuss in the book lived. I knew seeing him would be emotionally difficult
(he was still living with his partner at that time) and I knew saying goodbye
to him would be worse, so I travelled to see him with the idea that I would
write about my experiences, that when things were bad, I would have ‘work’ to
fall back on. By nature I am an organizer and I like to—where possible—put in
place infrastructure which minimizes experiences I can predict will provide
horrendously emotional. So I was travelling with books to do preliminary
research and the writing of the book became a strategy (albeit a largely
unsuccessful one!) of distracting me from the emotional torment of being in a
relationship with a man I could never truly be with. I researched and wrote and
edited right through to the end of the relationship.

Professionally the case is much simpler. I am an academic.
Publish or perish is our mantra!

Was it difficult to
divulge personal information that could inculcate negative judgments about your
character or politics?

An assumption I made during the writing of the book—and an
assumption that was only validated, repeatedly, afterwards—was that my
experience was very common. While I expected to experience criticism (which I
received in spades!) the most common response I received from women was that
they had near identical experiences. At books talks and at conferences and
through emails, women have told me about how they felt exactly the same set of
conflicted emotions and faced the same challenges when attempting to manage
their politics.

I’m not ashamed about any of my experiences. I think they’re common experiences
and experiences that are worth talking about. I not only own those experiences,
but I own up to them, and if this gets people talking about topics like sexual
politics and feminism, then I happy to take the negative judgments on the chin.

You write this book
from a markedly third wave feminist perspective and challenge feminisms that
are especially dogmatic, yet you do not always hold third wave feminist
ideology in high esteem. What do you see as useful about a third wave approach
to infidelity?

On a very cursory level, supporting women’s choices on how
to use their bodies has united each of the branches of feminisms. Yet, while
there might be much agreement on reproductive rights, sexual rights are more
complicated. This is demonstrated by second wave critiques of prostitution, for
example. Third wave feminism has clutched onto choice really, really tightly—and
I like this. I want choice in everything. I want the choice to make both good
and bad decisions. But, as evident in my book, choice on its own is not enough.
If we’re going to make our own choices we need to take ownership of those
choices, and we need to understand the consequences. In order for a feminist to
do this with any sense of academic legitimacy, understanding the consequences
of our choices needs to be examined by utilizing all that has been offered by
earlier waves of feminism.

You write that
infidelity is a topic that tends to be cast aside or ignored by the feminist
academy. Why is it necessary to have an explicitly feminist critique of
infidelity?

The ‘personal is political’ catch cry of feminism reminds us
that the goings on in each of our bedrooms makes for important, and ongoing,
political discussion. We need a feminist critique of infidelity, but of all
sexual practices more broadly. I wrote about infidelity because it was
something I was experiencing and was something that hadn’t previously been
examined from a feminist perspective.

What are some of the
most important feminist issues involved in the examination of infidelity?

I think the most important issues a feminist examination of infidelity raises
are the inherent power disparities evident in heterosexual unions and which
ones are exploited in affairs; that the competition between women—notably for
the affections of men—undermines gender equality; and that feminism adds an
additional layer of complication to affairs, which are by their very nature
complicated, often painful, and confusing.

Can you talk about how
feminism is used to justify infidelity?

A third wave feminist take on infidelity focuses on the individual woman and
her rights to sexual pleasure. For this woman, prioritizing her individual
pleasure provides an ability to rationalize her participation in infidelity as
being about the supreme importance of her own sexual pleasure and her shaking
off the shackles of feeling a need to protect the marriage. I am sure there are
cases where feminism has been used to shirk personal responsibility. Personally,
I’ve used feminism as a way to analyze my behavior, and also as a way to rationalize
it.

Despite the title of
your book, you talk about there not being a true sisterhood to betray and that,
as a result, feminist consciousness will not prevent single women from engaging
in sexual relationships with partnered men or cause them to feel guilty about
it. Can you explain why this is the case?

If no macro sisterhood exists, individual women are not
going to feel loyalties to women who they have no other connection to other
than that they both possess vaginas. When I discussed my own guilt in the book,
that guilt stemmed from knowing that infidelity wasn’t a good thing for
feminism. As things progressed I would later feel guilt towards a woman who I
was getting to know (albeit not personally) through being surrounded by her
possessions. In that case, she had an identity, and it’s harder to betray
someone when you begin to know them. I don’t think a concept of ‘sisterhood’ is
going to prevent women from acting in their own best interest when everything
else in society works to remind us that there actually isn’t a sisterhood.

You write that
feminists should condemn infidelity, yet you remain convinced that you made the
right decision to be involved with a married man. How do you reconcile that?

Ideally, of course, it is in the best interest of feminism
for single women not to get involved with married men—but idealism is a very
different thing from reality. While we can, of course, choose whether we act on
our emotions, individuals make decisions for a suite of reasons, not just
politics. In my case, I made a selfish decision that exploited my own
priorities at that time in my life. Evidently my feminism proved lower down on
that list than some other priorities, like being in an intimate relationship.

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  • bj-survivor

    To be clear here, sexual dalliances and loving relationships outside of one’s primary relationship, entered into with full knowledge of all stakeholders is NOT infidelity. Screwing someone else outside of one’s own or the other’s relationship on the down low IS.

    I cheated on a boyfriend once (he never suspected or found out) and I don’t even try to excuse the behavior as something I am somehow entitled to as a feminist. It was wrong through and through. It did make me realize – in hindsight, of course – that I should have dumped his sexually inept ass well before I felt compelled to have a fling with a man who knew what he was doing.

  • anonymous99

    I’m really curious as to why the author could not “be with” her lover? He was married, yes, but WHY didn’t he get a divorce? Anyone know his situation?

  • grayduck

    "I want choice in everything. I want the choice to make both good and bad decisions."

     

    A major problem with allowing adultery is that doing so justifies rape, impairs the ability of the criminal justice system to hold rapists accountable, and enables rape.

     

    Permitting adultery justifies rape because adultery can only be rationalized by claiming that sexual liberty is an absolute right. Demands for "the government to stay out of the bedroom" are irreconcilable with the right of women to be free from rape.

     

    Condoning adultery undermines the capacity of the criminal justice system to punish rapists because the allowance of adultery makes proving rape impossible. Currently, rapists can almost always plausibly claim that the victim consented. The reason they can do so is because men do not need to follow any protocols when entering into a sexual relationship. Because any sexual relationship is tolerated, any sexual relationship may occur. If any sexual relationship may occur, any claim that a sexual act was consensual is plausible.

     

    Authorizing adultery enables rape by destroying families. Without families, women lack the social structures that help keep them insulated from the threat of rapists.

     

    Outlawing adultery would reduce the number of rapes in society.

     

    http://www.abortiondiscussion.com

  • bj-survivor

    If outlawing and punishing adultery served to prevent/make it easier to prosecute rape, then why are there mass rapes in Muslim Guinea, which is one of those countries that punishes adultery with swift death? Also, if your half-baked theory had any merit, then why is it that women who are raped in Islamic African and Middle Eastern nations are usually accused of adultery and then stoned to death? This punishment almost never applies to men, of course (only Saudi Arabia put to death both a man and woman, of the royal house no less, who were caught in the act).

    Every time I think that your assertions and conflations couldn’t possibly get more ridiculous, you prove me wrong. You might want to start, uh, I don’t know, actually taking a look at the world around you before you spout off with some half-baked theory that is clearly refuted by the real world.

  • mandy-van-deven

    The overly simplistic answer is that he was able to have his cake and eat it too, but that completely fails to do the situation justice. Eventually, his partner did leave him, and that wasn’t enough to maintain the relationship between him and Rosewarne.

     

    The truth is that infidelity is an extremely complicated issue that functions on many level and both influences and is influenced by what is going on in the individuals themselves, the relationship, and society. Unfortuantely, this dynamic doesn’t lend itself to pat answers.

  • mandy-van-deven

    For the purposes of this book, and this interview, infidelity is defined by the author as the betrayal of an agreement made by a couple to keep their sexual activities within the relationship. If it is lied about, kept secret, or done over the partner’s objection, then it is infidelity.

     

    Admittedly, there are several definitions that one could apply to this term. This just happens to be the one utilized here. It should also be noted that the relationship configuration Rosewarne concerns herself with is a heterosexual, monogamous coupling where the man cheats with a single woman on an ongoing basis. Obviously this isn’t the only way people are unfaithful; it’s just the only way it is discussed in this book.

  • princess-rot

    For this woman, prioritizing her individual pleasure provides an ability to rationalize her participation in infidelity as being about the supreme importance of her own sexual pleasure and her shaking off the shackles of feeling a need to protect the marriage.

    That’s so glibertarian it’s painful. I don’t care for arguing about whether it’s "feminist" or not to cheat, it’s just about not being a self-centred schmuck. Taking a crappy behaviour traditionally associated with men, performing it and trying to rationalize that its somehow radical to be crap is sad. Dishonesty and entitlement are not virtues. It solves nothing and reinforces that heterosexual hegemony that relationships are, at heart, transactional and based on mutual self-interest.
    I wouldn’t hang around waiting for someone to dump their current partner to be with me, nor would I not first leave my current partner if it wasn’t working and I found someone else. It’s not the sex, or whatever else the cheater gets up to behind the other’s back. It’s the lying and the deception. It is slightly better to be upfront and honest to a partner if you have cheated, but its better not to cheat in the first place, even if the relationship is in the shitter there is no real reason dive in the bowl.

  • liberaldem

    Marriage is a committment between two people to be faithful, emotionally and physically, to each other. To willfully participate in an affair with a married man is not feminist. It’s simply a decision to put one’s own personal desire first.

  • anon100

    Feminism as I understand it is not supposed to be about hurting other people and then justifying it with some feeble political excuse.

    Infidelity is dishonesty. It’s not sexual liberation. It hurts so many people, sending ripples out beyond the two selfish people who decide to have sex (or emotional affairs, or whatever).

    I’m unconvinced by the author’s explanation. I’m not willing to let Rosewarne off the hook for some heavy-duty soul searching that seems warranted.

  • crowepps

    A major problem with allowing adultery is that doing so justifies rape, impairs the ability of the criminal justice system to hold rapists accountable, and enables rape.

    You might be interested in a recent article about how basic training in the military conditions young men to be rapists by consistently devaluing women.

    Lisa Pellerin, who has facilitated sex-offender programs for the New York State Department of Corrections for six years, believes that “everyone has the potential to be a sex offender. It depends on how they have been conditioned. When they are in the military, supporting the brotherhood is the most important thing. Soldiers do what they feel they have to do because they don’t want to be seen as weak or unable to perform.

    “Sexual abuse has always been about power and control. If you are exposed and desensitized to certain sexual behaviors, they become normalized.”

    One of the most basic conditioning strategies military training uses to destabilize a recruit’s inherent disinclination to kill is the inculcation of a dehumanized enemy. Soldiers are taught that “we” are the good guys; “they” are the “others.” “They” are easier to kill because they are not us. They are also easier to despise. “Others” — the nips, the gooks, the hajis — come and go, but ever reliable and constant is “the girl.”

    Even in this new 20 percent female military, misogynist marching rhymes (aka jodies) are still used, and drill instructors still shame recruits with taunts of pussy or sissy, faggot or girl. Patty McCann, who signed up with the Illinois National Guard when she was 17 and deployed to Iraq when she was 20, still feels betrayed when she remembers her drill sergeant yelling, “Does your pussy hurt?” and “Do you need a tampon?”

    A culture that encourages violence and misogyny, says Helen Benedict, attracts a disproportionate number of sexually violent men: half of male recruits enlist to escape abusive families, a history that is often predictive of an abuser.

    http://www.alternet.org/healthwellness/142942/does_military_service_turn_young_men_into_sexual_predators_/?page=entire

    Perhaps instead of fulminating about adultery and fornication, you might redirect your efforts to children being raised in homes where domestic violence is endemic and the use of misogynistic diatribes in training young men, not only in the military but also those directed at young men by their sports coaches. Certainly young athletes also have a higher than normal involvement in rape.

  • crowepps

    Isn’t this just more of the ‘reality show’ craze? Her actions were dishonest and unethical, they hurt other people, she rationalized that her feelings were the most important thing in the situation, and now she’s completed her betrayal of everyone else involved by writing a book about the situation. There wasn’t anything brave about doing so, because she’d rather be infamous than unknown, and I’m sure the money doesn’t hurt either.

  • grayduck

    BJ Survivor on October 27, 2009 – 3:09am: "If outlawing and punishing adultery served to prevent/make it easier to prosecute rape, then why are there mass rapes in Muslim Guinea, which is one of those countries that punishes adultery with swift death?"

     

    For several reasons. First, rapes will, and do, occur everywhere regardless of attempts to suppress it. Second, suppressing adultery is mainly useful for reducing the number of acquintance rapes. The Guinea rapes were very different; they were coordinated stranger rapes that were part of a military campaign. Different strategies are needed to stop rapes like that. Third, those rapes were not about sexual liberty. They were purely violent attacks that happened to use rape to traumatize.

     

    What is your source for the legal status of adultery in Guinea? Where were the husbands of the women who were raped?

     

    http://www.abortiondiscussion.com

  • bj-survivor

    It appears that I am mistaken regarding adultery law in Guinea. It used to be only women were fined or jailed for adultery, not executed, then it was changed to include men, and now Guinea is considering making adultery only a civil matter. I was also mistaken about only Saudi Arab executing both men and women for adultery. The Taliban did/does also.

    Nice goalpost shifting. Please provide evidence to support “suppressing adultery is mainly useful for reducing the number of acquintance rapes” and the assertion that rape is about sexual liberty. You are clearly unclear as to both the definition and motive for rape. Rape is performing sexual acts on someone without that person’s consent. It is ALWAYS a crime of violence, not one of sexual liberty.

    I see that you didn’t even bother to address the fact that in many Muslim countries, women who are raped are accused and punished as adulterers, which completely belies your nonsensical assertion that outlawing adultery both reduces the number of rapes and makes them easier to prosecute. I would say, “nice try,” except that your “logic” is exceedingly shoddy.

  • princess-rot

    Rape culture: where women exist in a permanent state of assumed consent unless stated otherwise, and even then anything she says or does can be taken as implied consent to mitigate that initial refusal.

     

    And I’m simplifying massively. Go and educate yourself on rape culture, GrayDuck, then come back and tell us how your anti-fornication laws are supposed to take us out of the powerless position of being held responsible for sex and everything to do with it.

  • grayduck

    BJ Survivor on October 28, 2009 – 12:26am: "It appears that I am mistaken regarding adultery law in Guinea."

     

    I thought we were talking about the western African nation, not Papua New Guinea. ("Islam in Papua New Guinea accounts for approximately 1,000 to 2,000 or about 0.04%.) What evidence do you possess showing that rapes are more common in Papua New Guinea than in the United States?

     

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guinea

     

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papua_New_Guinea

     

    "It used to be only women were fined or jailed for adultery, not executed, then it was changed to include men…"

     

    I do not see how you concluded that men were ever punished for adultery. That link you provided indicated that men were able to "…have intercourse with whomever he wished-" even if that meant rape, apparently. The policy runs exactly counter to what I am proposing. My proposal is that male rapists be prosecuted and convicted under Minnesota’s adultery law.

     

    "I was also mistaken about only Saudi Arab executing both men and women for adultery. The Taliban did/does also."

     

    Please provide sources so that we may verify your claims. Otherwise, you are just some anonymous person on the web making a meaningless claim.

     

    "Nice goalpost shifting."

     

    Thanks. I take pride in my goalpost shifting. I figure if I do a good job of goalpost shifting, you will want to have sex with me. Then I will insist that we get married first.

     

    "Please provide evidence to support ‘suppressing adultery is mainly useful for reducing the number of acquintance rapes’…"

     

    I am not aware of any direct evidence regarding the effect of adultery law enforcement on acquintance rapes, but I do know that rape conviction rates have fallen along with marriage rates. For example, the rape conviction rate in England and Wales fell from thirty-three percent in 1977 to five percent in 2005.

     

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/31_01_07_rapereport.pdf

     

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6313479.stm

     

    Meanwhile, the proportion of men and women getting married in the United Kingdom has fallen to the lowest level in recorded history. Marriage rates were over three times as high in 1972 as they are now.

     

    http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23465208-details/Marriage+rates+hit+lowest+rate+since+records+began+almost+150+years+ago/article.do

     

    "…and the assertion that rape is about sexual liberty."

     

    My claim that demands for "the government to stay out of the bedroom"
    are irreconcilable with the right of women to be free from rape is a
    statement about the rationalizations that can be used to justify sexual
    criminality and permissiveness toward it, not about the motivations for rape. Efforts to protect women from rape are incompatible with libertarian sexual philosophies.

     

    "I see that you didn’t even bother to address the fact that in many Muslim countries, women who are raped are accused and punished as adulterers, which completely belies your nonsensical assertion that outlawing adultery both reduces the number of rapes and makes them easier to prosecute."

     

    Please provide your sources about rape and adultery policy in Muslim countries.

     

    http://www.abortiondiscussion.com

  • prochoiceferret

    Making fornication illegal, and actually enforcing that, would make for a more interesting discussion if there were more than a raisin’s chance in a ferret convention of that ever happening.

     

    (Next topic: "How restricting the vote to white men would put an end to racism, sexism, and rape!")

  • anonymous99

    Thanks for the response Mandy.  These situations are many times much more complicated than they appear.  I thought perhaps he was stuck in one of the staggering number of loveless marriages out there.  Maybe that’s not the case.  People have needs and desires and sometimes they can’t be held back.  That’s just being human.

  • crowepps

    There is absolutely no such thing as being “stuck in” a marriage. In the USA any person can unilaterally file for a legal separation or no-fault divorce. People who complain they are ‘stuck’ are instead reluctant to take the responsibility of ending the marriage and tend to harbor an ENORMOUS resistance to splitting the property and letting the other partner walk away with their fair share. It’s a lot easier to lie and cheat.

  • anonymous99

    crowepps, in my state, because my wife refuses to work, I would lose nearly everything I worked for my whole adult life plus pay her, likely, a lfetime pension.  Having to support two households I would never recover and never retire.  Because I’m a man I would also lose custody of my children.  Have you ever heard of the ball and chain?  Do you think that’s not real?  I had no idea civil marriage was a welfare system when I signed up.  The marriage/divorce laws that are in place were specifically enacted to make it extrememly difficult to get out.  The people who pushed for and enacted these laws WANTED people STUCK in their marriages.  It worked.  You know African slaves in this country could have gotten out of their bondage.  They just had to pay off their masters and buy their freedom.    Alimony is the modern-day equivalent.  So much for this being a "free" country.  BTW It’s insidious  how "fair share" works in my state.  The more worthless you are the bigger your "fair share" becomes.  The harder you work your "fair share" actually goes down.  Post-marital splitting of assets and alimony has nothing to do with the word "fair".  It’s really just about how much welfare the lower or no-earning spouse needs so the state won’t have to pick up the tab.

  • anonymous99

    liberaldem,  Marriage is no such thing.  Marriage and the supporting structures like community property, alimony, etc. is a state welfare program.  Any two people can have a committed, faithful, loving, and lifetime relationship without a marriage license.  When you sign up at the courthouse for civil marriage you’re just signing up for your states largest welfare program.  That’s it.

  • jayn

    Anon, I’m going to make a rather baseless assumption here (and if I’m wrong, then what I’m about to say doesn’t apply to your situation, but does to others) and guess that your wife does work around the house and takes care of your kids.  She may not be getting paid in a traditional sense, but that’s one way that spouses add value to a marriage.  Women in such situations often find themselves, well, poor after a divorce because of the break in work history, making it difficult to find a job that pays well enough to support themselves +kids (if kids are involved).  Alimony is one way of recognizing that just because one partner isn’t in the workforce, doesn’t mean s/he isn’t providing equal work towards the relationship.

     

    If that doesn’t apply to your situation, then yeah, you’re screwed without reason.

     

    Also, remember that keeping their wives from working is one way abusers keep their spouses from leaving them–this is one reason my MIL stayed with my FIL for as long as she did.  The abusee is then too dependant on the abuser financially to easily leave, especially when kids are involved.  Alimony can help in those situations to make it possible for a woman to leave an unhealthy relationship.

     

    "The harder you work your "fair share" actually goes down"

     

    Not really.  It just means that you’re contributing more materially, so a larger portion of that ‘fair share’ is what you yourself contributed to the relationship financially.

     

    I can understand why you feel the way you do, but I think you’re being overly negative.  I do wish you the best, and I hope that in the future you will be able to find a better solution than what you’re dealing with right now.

  • crowepps

    Surely you couldn’t have accumulated all that much in assets with the only time you had available to work squeezed in around doing all the housework, the laundry, the errands, and raising those kids all by yourself while she stayed in bed all day. You are not stuck, you just don’t want to give her anything. If you love money more than freedom, I don’t have much sympathy.

  • anonymous99

    I don’t want to give her "anything" you say?  My state isn’t even 50/50 crowepps, she would get almost "everything" if we divorced plus, very likely, a lifetime pension.  Also, check your calendar – this is 2009 not 1809 or 1909.  Modern convenience has mostly eliminated housework and you know it.  Or do you still take your laundry down to the river and scrub it against a washboard?  Being a housewife or stay-at-home mom is a privildge, not a job anymore.  Running errands?  You mean shopping right?  That’s a good one.  Raising kids?  You mean getting my daughter to the bus stop?  And picking her up at the bus stop?  Another good one.

  • anonymous99

    Jayn, I never wanted to marry a housewife.  My wife has two advanced degrees (one on me thank you very much) but decided after a couple years she didn’t want to work anymore.  When I protested she threatened to leave me and "take" my daughter away from me.  And of course she can because I’m a man.  My wife’s a fraud.  Just a moocher with two Mrs. degrees.  And I have NO power to do anything about it.  "equal work" in the relationship?  As you may know there is NO work requirement whatsoever to get alimony. None.  Zero.  Alimony is not a recognition of work at all and it never has been.  Alimony is welfare to the spouse who can’t support herself or himself.    "Not really.  It just means that you’re contributing more materially, so a larger portion of that ‘fair share’ is what you yourself contributed to the relationship financially."  YES REALLY!  My state’s asset distribution is based on income difference.  The more I make the more I’m over her nothing and so my share of our assets in divorce goes DOWN.  "I do wish you the best…"  Thank you.

  • crowepps

    You denegrate housework as eliminated, equate all the necessary jobs to ‘shopping’ and believe raising kids is accomplished by meeting bus schedules. You describe your wife in the most contemptuous, nasty terms and sound as though you hate her guts. Frankly, 99, if you held towards me the same disdain that you are demonstrating toward your wife in your posts, I too would probably do everything I could to make your life miserable. Such incredible spite will always elicit spite in return.

  • anonymous99

    Frankly crowepps alimony is a form of slavery.  I did nothing wrong.  I’m an innocent person.  I committed no crimes.  I don’t deserve to have my life stolen from me because I want to get out of my relationship.  The whole idea of state imposition on a person’s relationship is insane after you think about for a while.  Here’s a good article on alimony.  As you can clearly see from this marriage is in fact a welfare program for the lower earning spouse.  Steps are being taken to reduce the incredible burden of alimony but these steps are WAY too soft.  Civil marriage, alimony, and all of marriages constructs should be abolished as soon as possible.  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703399204574505700448957522.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_LEFTTopStories&mg=com-wsj#articleTabs%3Darticle

  • mandy-van-deven

    Is that it is almost never granted in this day and age. Anyone know any stats on the frequency with which women and men are granted alimony? And how that compares to the frequency with which alimony is requested in a divorce?

  • crowepps

    Alimony is a transfer payment, which is deducted on tax forms from the income of the person paying it and declared as income by the person receiving it so it is very closely tracked. It is paid separately from child support, which is NOT transferrable income, but instead is taxed as ‘income’ to the person who is paying it.

    It can be paid to either a man or woman, whichever member of the relationship is seen by the court to be at a disadvantage (for instance, by being disabled or having serious health problems or having been an ‘at-home’ parent out of the job market for a considerable time).

    Alimony is not necessarily forever, but instead what is called ‘rehabilitative alimony’, meaning that it lasts a few years while the person receiving it establishes a new home, finishes their schooling, gets a job, etc. Alimony usually end if the person receiving it remarries.

    The latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show about 9 percent of divorced people receive alimony.
    http://news.ufl.edu/2001/05/21/alimony/

  • anonymous99

    "Alimony usually ends if the person receiving it remarries."  Yes.  This goes back to the very essence of what civil marriage is – a welfare system.  As long as someone else is willing to pick up the tab, the ex is free from his or her bondage.  In reality, most alimony recipients don’t get remarried at least as long as the $ is flowing from the ex.  Just another insidious twist of marriage.  Mandy, alimony is granted on a routine basis whenever there is inequity of income.  At least in my state there is no requirement that a spouse be "disadvantaged" to receive alimony (ask Britney Spears).  My wife has almost 10 years of higher education but she chose not to pursue a career.  Doesn’t matter.  I still have to pay.  Your question Mandy really doesn’t get to the heart of the matter.  It doesn’t matter how many people are paying alimony.  It matters that the people paying are slaves to their exs.  Does it matter how many people are robbed each year?  No.  Each victim matters.  The article crowepps cited is a good one.  It gives one reason for lower incidence of alimony as women’s increasing independence.  This is absolutely true.  (I THOUGHT I married an independent woman.  God what a mistake.)  One very important reason some people don’t ask for alimony is that they were brought up with a work ethic and without a sense of entitlement.  But, again, what is NOT showing up in the stats is the number of people who choose to remain in marriage because the prospect of alimony and loss of their children is too overwelming.  The ball-and-chain effect.  I promise you the number of people, especially men, in this situation is staggering.  The cost of having a housewife (or househusband) in this day and age can be a lifetime committment of taking care of a fully functioning adult.  I could go on and on but I’ll spare crowepps any further reading. Thanks to RHRC for this forum.