going on? For
more than a year this country was caught up--willingly
or not--in vitriolic debate about sex, lies, adultery,
and audiotape. Adultery has always been considered
as much a public as a private matter, and it has always
involved a double standard that springs from patriarchal
assumptions about marriage, women's place, and the
need for assured paternity. In the past, courts have
debated whether a married man could be charged with
the big "A" at all (especially if the woman was his
slave or servant). Even today, a woman accused of
it is still subject to summary divorce in some cultures,
stoning to death in others, or murder by her husband
as a justifiable crime of "passion" or "honor." No
wonder so many women see a certain irony in the maelstrom
about the president and the intern. Clinton may be
the first man in history who got in more trouble than
But adultery or just plain cheating also has a personal
side: it provokes powerful reactions from people regardless
of whether they're married or single, straight, gay,
or bi. When people talk about adultery they often
use words like "honesty," "freedom," "trust," "betrayal."
Some will tell you that the freedom to explore is
central to their relationship; others, that monogamy
is the solid foundation on which their life is built.
Either way, adultery affects one of the most intimate
relationships we will ever have in our lives.
both the public and private aspects of this loaded
issue in mind, Ms. asked a number of provocative thinkers
to share their opinions with us. We hope that after
reading this, you will too. Honesty could be the only
good outcome of that saga in Washington.