The Irony of Adultery in a Promiscuous Society

The revelation that General David Petraeus had sex with a woman who is not his wife is shocking, right?

Or maybe not?

The fact you’d find people in both camps (shocked or not shocked) is indeed the telltale sign that we are a society that has an identity crisis when it comes to sexual fidelity.

On one hand, we are entrenched with messages that celebrate diminished or non-existent sexual boundaries.

Look no further than advertising, entertainment, and a fair amount of actual behavior and we are repeatedly reminded that the friends-with-benefits culture is “progress.”

We’ve liberated ourselves from the “constraining” and “conservative” days of sex being reserved for the exclusivity of marriage, the proponents would say.

Yet… and this is a very revealing yet… we still innately consider adultery a deep betrayal.

Obviously, those who hold in high regard the covenant of marriage consider infidelity a horrendous travesty.

But even the vast majority of the people who sing the praises of a sexually progressive society would never themselves willingly admit to having an affair or publicly declare it a “good choice” for all involved.

See the identity crisis?

Would any of us approach a bride or groom on their wedding day and say, “Wouldn’t it be exciting if your spouse… you know, the one you love and are about to marry… wouldn’t it be great if that person some day went off and had sex with another person?”

It’s a ludicrous scenario isn’t it?

No one would dare ask someone such a question on their wedding day because obviously, we already know the answer.

To frame all this in light of current events, what would David Petraeus say to his son and daughter regarding the “value” of infidelity?  I don’t know if his children are married, but if they are, would their dad tell them to “embrace” any opportunity to compromise their vow of sexual and emotional faithfulness?

I don’t know David Petraeus, but my educated guess is no, he would not dole out such advice — to his children or anyone for that matter.

Even Noel Biderman, the founder of, an on-line service that facilitates extra-marital affairs, recognizes that the platform he has created is wildly successful because a key component is the secrecy involved.

His members want a place where they can hide behind a facade that allows them easy access to sex — without the painful consequences that would happen if their affairs were revealed to their spouses.

I wonder how many of his members are married COUPLES whereby both the husband and the wife eagerly and openly reveal to each other their enthusiasm for joining the site.

Probably not too many, right? (Interestingly, even Noel Biderman — the very man who is making a boatload of money from the site he created — and his own wife readily admit they would be devastated if the other one became a member of the site.)

WHY would they be devastated? Why will we not find married couples on their site, where the husband and wife are openly admitting to hooking up with other people?

Because sexual infidelity is not activity of which anyone is delightfully proud.

It’s not a dream we envision for our children as they get married.

It’s not an admirable milestone we want our friends to experience.

It’s not activity for which we say a “word of thanks” as we gather around the dinner table.

The irony of adultery in a promiscuous society is that no matter how sexually “liberated” our society becomes, we will never reach a point where infidelity is seen as honorable behavior.

It’s a good irony, mind you.

While some would say we are increasingly moving toward a more sexually free society that eventually will openly celebrate infidelity, I rest in the fact that such a destination is absolutely impossible.

We cannot separate marital covenant and sexual fidelity. They were designed by God to go together.

It should not surprise us that the Lord uses the word “adulterous” to describe the Israelites when they have turned from him.  We “get” the severity of that word… we understand it in the deepest crevices of our soul.

May we keep our eyes fixed on the Lord, who is abundant in grace and forgiveness for the adulterer who repents of his or her sins… abundant in healing and compassion for the betrayed spouse… and abundant in wisdom and strength for people dedicated to marital faithfulness, sexual and otherwise.

David Petraeus’ and Paula Broadwell’s sexual indiscretions are tragic for them, their spouses, their families and countless others affected.

Shocked or not shocked by the scandal, we can’t help but be a people that grasps the deep significance of sexual intimacy in marriage, right?

For more great reading, check out this incredibly insightful and needed post on Avoiding the High Cost of An Affair.

Copyright 2012, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.

4 thoughts on “The Irony of Adultery in a Promiscuous Society

  1. workinprogress says:

    The irony has always baffled me. I can’t add to what you’ve already said. I did look at my husband when the news was all over the story and said, “What is everyone so up in arms about? Isn’t sexual freedom supposed to be what our society is about these days?” said with sarcasm of course. But you’re right… deep down, everyone still knows right from wrong.

  2. Bri says:

    Shouldn’t we as a culture realize that this idea of freedom and promiscuity is what is causing people not to be ABLE to stay faithful? Everyone has been taught to give in to every sexual whim or fancy and they have no tools to turn it off when they enter a committed relationship. Their fidelity becomes a trap. They don’t feel free anymore because they can’t just fool around with their friends. And then when they break those vows , they don’t feel free anyway. They feel guilt and shame. Promiscuity is ruining people. And it’s sad. And it seems irreversible.

  3. Rosver says:

    I also had wondered at that too. There are many conflicting things in the society now when pertaining to sex.

    The society incourages promiscuity by encouraging ‘safe sex,’ that having sex with those handsome girls and boys are good, labels movies and tv shows that encourages promiscuity and adultery and even rape as something that everyone should do, and even desire to send out free condoms and such… yet they are surprised and almost intollerant of teen pregnancy, STD like HIV and the victims, rape,sexual asualt, adultery, phedopilia, etc. Aren’t these the very things they risk, even encourage to happen from the very beggining?

    The people are wanting the impossible. They want to party a lot yet expect the place to remain clean without lifting a finger. Stupid, I know, but hey, they think that believing it would make it so.

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