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France is totally down with extramarital affairs.
April 15, 2014 11:46 AM   Subscribe

"The Pew Research Center’s 2013 Global Attitudes survey asked 40,117 respondents in 40 countries what they thought about eight topics often discussed as moral issues: extramarital affairs, gambling, homosexuality, abortion, premarital sex, alcohol consumption, divorce, and the use of contraceptives. For each issue, respondents were asked whether this is morally acceptable, morally unacceptable, or not a moral issue."
posted by brundlefly (71 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
So what does this tell us, other than "cultural norms and mores vary" ?
posted by k5.user at 12:02 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


I wonder how much the attitude towards having extramarital affairs is related to awareness of open marriages/polyamorous relationships? I would have a hard time answering a survey like this, because while I believe cheating is immoral, I don't think open marriages are, but I wouldn't be sure what the survey was asking.
posted by placoderm at 12:03 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


Canada: only 15% find homosexuality unacceptable. I figured it would be low but I am flabbergasted at HOW low that is. A full 50% say it isn't even a moral issue. Woot!
posted by arcticwoman at 12:03 PM on April 15 [6 favorites]


k5.user: "So what does this tell us, other than "cultural norms and mores vary" ?"

Well for one thing, it's safer to be gay outside the Middle East and Asia, with the exceptions of Israel and Japan.
posted by zarq at 12:05 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


I wonder what the results would be like if male infidelity or female infidelity were specified.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:08 PM on April 15 [19 favorites]


Canada: only 15% find homosexuality unacceptable. I figured it would be low but I am flabbergasted at HOW low that is. A full 50% say it isn't even a moral issue. Woot!

"There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation."
posted by srboisvert at 12:11 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


This is some beautiful data presentation! I'm very happy that they took an international look at these issues. Yes, it is easy to quibble about "what if they asked it this way" or "how do they define that" but in the end, this is a huge, worldwide picture. Maybe it's not perfect, but it's at a good spot.

One thing I love is that they didn't just ask if things were morally acceptable or unacceptable, but also weather it was not a moral issue. I myself fall squarely in the "not a moral issue" for almost all of these - I think *restricting* a person's ability to e.g. have premarital sex, or be out, *is* a moral issue. I think that predating on people with gambling problems is a moral issue. But I would answer "not an issue" for most of these. I'm very happy that they included that component as well.
posted by rebent at 12:13 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


Well for one thing, it's safer to be gay outside the Middle East and Asia, with the exceptions of Israel and Japan.

I'm not sure about the accuracy of this statement. "Asia" covers a lot of countries.
posted by ChuckRamone at 12:16 PM on April 15


France is totally down with extramarital affairs.

It seems like France pretty much is down for, you know, whatever...
posted by jferg at 12:16 PM on April 15 [8 favorites]


So what does this tell us, other than "cultural norms and mores vary" ?

It's going to come as a surprise to more than a few people out there that what's considered moral (or not) is not as absolute and agreed-upon as they would like it to be
posted by rtha at 12:17 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


Canada is also more okay with alcohol consumption than France. I'll raise a glass to that!
posted by Kabanos at 12:17 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


k5.user: "So what does this tell us, other than "cultural norms and mores vary" ?"

If it can tell me which countries are most ok with premarital sex and contraception, while most not-ok with cheating, then you've helped me pick my next vacation destination.....
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:19 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


They make mention that they have a gender breakdown, it would have been interesting to see that, especially for things like contraception.
posted by angerbot at 12:20 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


the premarital sex one really makes me wish I'd travelled to Europe when I was younger.
posted by DigDoug at 12:20 PM on April 15


You'd be surprised how many people don't drink alcohol in France. (Well, unless you weren't surprised.)

As for extramarital affairs, yeah, it's firmly in "nobody's business but the couple's" territory here. Though, as the results show, there are still a lot for whom it's unacceptable. I'd liked to have seen it broken down by region in France. The real bulk of actual sleeping around seems to be in Paris... I'd long heard and believed it myself, as in 15 years here I'd never been propositioned. It was anecdotally confirmed recently, as three weeks into my new Paris project, I was being given specific, realistic propositions. That was a head-spinner. They were so damned confident about it, it was jaw-dropping. And I've got several more months to go. Eep.
posted by fraula at 12:22 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


I'm totally inviting France to all of my parties.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:25 PM on April 15 [6 favorites]


As a happily married person, my parties are more about drinking than banging some strange so it's Canada for the win.
posted by three blind mice at 12:28 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


ChuckRamone: " I'm not sure about the accuracy of this statement. "Asia" covers a lot of countries."

Okay, "the Asian countries listed with the exception of Japan" then.
posted by zarq at 12:39 PM on April 15


Okay, "the Asian countries listed with the exception of Japan" then.

Well, in that case you're definitely wrong. According to the Pew, the same group linked in this post, the Philippines is more tolerant of homosexuality than Japan, and South Korea is not far behind Japan.

Link
posted by ChuckRamone at 12:44 PM on April 15


Can someone explain to me the difference between acceptable and "not a moral issue"?
posted by aspo at 12:46 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


I love the graphics - this hands down is the best data presentation format I've seen in ages. I've been playing with selecting regions, countries, issues ... and discovering lots of interesting tidbits.

Like: divorce is more socially acceptable in Jordan, Egypt, and Lebanon than in the US. Or that India has the second highest (albeit still low) number of people who think extramarital affairs are morally acceptable.
posted by kanewai at 12:49 PM on April 15


France is totally down with extramarital affairs.

See, when I saw that and saw that there was a not-insignificant population that said infidelity is okay, I was going through my mental catalog wondering in which country/culture that might be the case. I started thinking maybe it was some sort of tribal-based culture with a very dominant patri- or matrilineal thing going on where the head of the household, male or female, gets to do whatever the hell they want and no one is entitled to question it. Then I though, Oh wait, I bet it's France.

It's totally France.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:51 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


Can someone explain to me the difference between acceptable and "not a moral issue"?

My guess is it's the difference between "That's abhorrent!" and"Huh? Why would you even ask that?"
posted by mudpuppie at 12:52 PM on April 15


See, my brain sees "that's abhorrent" as unacceptable and acceptable as "sure, why the fuck not?"
posted by aspo at 12:54 PM on April 15


jferg: "France is totally down with extramarital affairs.

It seems like France pretty much is down for, you know, whatever...
"

Je ne sais quoi.
posted by symbioid at 12:56 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


I also am not sure what the difference is , and I'd like to hear opinions!
posted by rebent at 12:56 PM on April 15


aspo: "Can someone explain to me the difference between acceptable and "not a moral issue"?"

I interpreted this as a decision tree:

unacceptable: Is it a question of morality? -> yes -> is it acceptable -> no
acceptable: Is it a question of morality? -> yes -> is it acceptable -> yes
not a moral issue: Is it a question of morality? -> no
posted by Hairy Lobster at 1:00 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


My guess is that acceptable is "I'll just have to deal with it", or "Accept It As a Thing". Whereas Not a Moral Issue is "I couldn't care about this less" or "Why Would I Care What Two Consenting Adults Do in Their Own Time?"
posted by Twain Device at 1:00 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


aspo: "Can someone explain to me the difference between acceptable and "not a moral issue"?"

For example on the question of "Wearing white after Labor Day": "not a moral issue" trumps whatever acceptable/unacceptable judgment one may have.
posted by Umami Dearest at 1:16 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


"Can someone explain to me the difference between acceptable and "not a moral issue"?"

I would think when something is morally acceptable is when you believe there is room to make a choice about it, but when it's just not a moral issue is when it's simply a fact of life, or something fun you might do that you don't worry about.

Something that might be morally acceptable but still a moral issue could be deciding whether to euthanize a pet, or tell someone the truth about something that might be distressing/risky for them. You can determine that either choice is acceptable but that the choice itself is still moral. But there's a difference between thinking you are choosing to live a gay lifestyle and that it's a moral choice you're making (or accepting in others), and thinking that it's just who you are and it has no moral impact.
posted by mdn at 1:17 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Generally, African and predominantly Muslim countries tend to find most of these activities morally unacceptable, while in advanced economies, such as those in Western Europe, Japan, and North America, people tend to be more accepting or to not consider these moral issues at all.

That's an interesting bit of editorial bifurcation there.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:18 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


It was interesting to sort by "not a moral issue." France and Canada really don't give a fuck about anything.

It's also interesting that the Czech Republic had the highest percentage saying that homosexuality was acceptable. Probably not a coincidence that a lot of gay porn is filmed there.
posted by desjardins at 1:19 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


As for extramarital affairs, yeah, it's firmly in "nobody's business but the couple's" territory here.

I'm pretty sure there is more then just 'the couple' involved.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 1:32 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


So what does this tell us, other than "cultural norms and mores vary" ?

It tells us how they vary and what the differences are. Sociology - some people find it fascinating and relevant.

Re: not being safe to be gay in "Asia": yes, Asian countries vary of course. Also "non-acceptance" of homosexuality as a concept is not necessarily the same as a place not being safe for gay people. In China, where I lived for several years, many will say they do not accept homosexuality when asked, and yet there are few cases of outright homophobia or physical threats. There's usually a hands-off, live-and-let-live attitude towards these moral issues in China (for better or worse). (of course, that's not to say China is a great place for gay people, especially if they are Chinese, because they are highly pressure to marry someone of the opposite sex. But it's perfectly safe for gay foreigners).
posted by bearette at 1:35 PM on April 15


I should say, "live and let live", as long as the person is not a member of your direct family.
posted by bearette at 1:38 PM on April 15


I'm pretty sure there is more then just 'the couple' involved.

But that's your moral judgment.

When I have an extramarital lunch with someone, for example, it's just the business of the two of us.

(Well, unless it's group lunch, but that's a different story.)
posted by Umami Dearest at 1:47 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


I interpreted this as a decision tree:

unacceptable: Is it a question of morality? -> yes -> is it acceptable -> no
acceptable: Is it a question of morality? -> yes -> is it acceptable -> yes
not a moral issue: Is it a question of morality? -> no


That looks right, but it's incomplete. It needs another branching. Specifically, among those who think something is not a moral issue, how many think it is acceptable and how many think it is not? For example, one might think it is unacceptable to wear a hat indoors while at the same time denying that it is a moral issue.

Even better would be offering branches that address legality. After all, there are lots of people who think that some activities are immoral but nonetheless ought to be legal.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 1:58 PM on April 15


I'm curious whether the people who think extra-marital affairs are OK are assuming that it's OK because the couple is aware affairs happen and it's no big deal, or if they're actually OK with hiding from/lying to one's spouse about sexual affairs.
posted by straight at 2:00 PM on April 15


From some people's perspectives, it is (or at least should be) a bit strange (and not necessarily in a good way) to see a characteristic that some/many experience as an innate characteristic (as in, part of their identity) being essentially 'voted on' by people across the world ....

I know that in many parts of the world (as this survey clearly shows) homosexuality is seen as a behavior(al choice) and not as an innate quality, and so it's not unclear to me why the study included this 'controversial behavior' among the other 'sins' .....

and yet, if homosexuality is innate and not a behavioral choice (as many experience directly and as *some* scientific studies seem to be revealing), then taking a survey of the world's attitudes towards this sub-group of people is almost as absurd as asking what % of the world approves of red-headed people, or albinos, or (use your imagination, it should not be difficult)
posted by longTimeObserver at 2:05 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Jonathan Livengood: "That looks right, but it's incomplete. It needs another branching. Specifically, among those who think something is not a moral issue, how many think it is acceptable and how many think it is not?"

I'm not sure that's really something that's missing here. If it's not an issue of morality then we're talking about personal choices and preferences rather than about something believed to be generally true.
So, yeah, it'd be additional data but not necessarily relevant if the question is about what's believed to be generally true.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:08 PM on April 15


Adultery tends to be a much bigger deal in cultures where it's acceptable to leave your spouse and remarry to your paramour. Like the US. If there is very little chance the cheater will actually leave their family, ie France, people tend to be more "eh.." about it. Who cares if your husband has some fling with that hussy you're the wife and that's not going to change

At least that's been my experience.
posted by fshgrl at 2:23 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


Well, unless it's group lunch

Polydinery is mainstream in most places, I'd think.
posted by weston at 2:35 PM on April 15


aspo: "Can someone explain to me the difference between acceptable and "not a moral issue"?"

Whether to drink apple or orange juice is a matter of personal preference, not a moral issue.

For some people, if you asked, "Is homosexuality morally okay?" would be like, "That's not a moral issue, people just ARE." Other people who feel similarly would say, "Yes, of course it's morally okay! What a silly question!" They mean more or less the same thing in practicality, especially when answering a survey of this nature, but if you really drilled down you might find that they had some different underlying/base beliefs. Like maybe the "homosexuality is morally okay" people place a heavy emphasis on civil rights but the "not a moral question" people just think it's dumb to outlaw with human nature.

Alcoholism is probably a good example ... people used to talk about drunkenness as a moral issue; a lot more people are now likely to say, "That's not even a moral issue, addiction is a MEDICAL issue, which happens to have some moral dimensions, but talking about whether alcoholism is moral or immoral behavior is missing the point."

On these particular questions I'd lump in "not a moral issue" with "acceptable." Those people probably think it's a matter of convenience, medical decisions, personal preference, human nature, or contract, and believe it's legitimate for people to make those decisions on any of those bases.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:40 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


If it's not an issue of morality then we're talking about personal choices and preferences rather than about something believed to be generally true.

I don't think that's right. For example, I think that there ought to be a law prohibiting CEOs from earning more than 20 times as much money as their lowest-paid employee. Plausibly, what a CEO earns is not a moral category, though. So, I might plausibly say that while a CEO earning 100 times as much as her lowest paid subordinate is not a moral issue, it is still unacceptable -- and should be illegal. (I actually tend to think that CEO pay is a moral issue, but I think one could reasonably take the contrary position.)

As a heuristic, the inference from "X is not a moral issue" to "X is acceptable" or "X should be legally permissible" is probably fine. But as a general rule of inference, I don't think it works. And I would have liked to have seen how the breakdown went with some better questions. Honestly, I would be way more interested in a simple dichotomous "Should be legal / Should not be legal" for each of the topics they listed.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 2:46 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


As I was going to Saint Ives
I met a man with seven wives
Of course, the seven wives weren't his,
But here in France, that's how it is.
-- Mad Magazine, sometime in the 1980s

More seriously, I'd be curious about how this would play out if the question were broken down as "men having affairs" vs. "women having affairs;" wrongly or rightly, my sense is that there's a sexist strain to parts of French society in which the first would be acceptable, but not the second.
posted by kewb at 2:50 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


Adultery tends to be a much bigger deal in cultures where it's acceptable to leave your spouse and remarry to your paramour. Like the US. If there is very little chance the cheater will actually leave their family, ie France, people tend to be more "eh.." about it. Who cares if your husband has some fling with that hussy you're the wife and that's not going to change

This same survey finds that only 5% of French respondents think getting a divorce is morally unacceptable, but I think your basic point still holds if the actual divorce rate isn't that high in France. After some googling, it looks to me like the marriage and divorce rates are both lower in France than the United States. However, I don't have a good understanding of what percentage of marriages in France end in divorce, which is what I think would be the interesting number.
posted by Area Man at 2:56 PM on April 15


Well, in that case you're definitely wrong. According to the Pew, the same group linked in this post, the Philippines is more tolerant of homosexuality than Japan, and South Korea is not far behind Japan.

Neither a 26%(on the topic of this post) or 15% (on that other survey) gap between Japan and Korea is insignificant and it is something noticeable on the ground to be sure.

What's also concerning is that in this survey the Philippines are recorded with 65% responding that homosexuality is morally unacceptable, but in the other survey 73% say society should accept homosexuality. Those are wildly different results to similar questions and no other country seems to have reacted with such a swing. I'd question the data collection there.
posted by Winnemac at 3:02 PM on April 15


As for extramarital affairs, yeah, it's firmly in "nobody's business but the couple's" territory here.

I'm pretty sure there is more then just 'the couple' involved.


H.L Mencken wrote that adultery is the application of democracy to love.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:04 PM on April 15


*Won't somebody think of the children?*
posted by Cranberry at 3:06 PM on April 15


it makes me so happy to see that only 6% find homosexuality unacceptable in Spain. Who could have thought that in 2005 when the same-sex marriage law was passed. It goes to show that great politics is the act of leading forward.
posted by valdesm at 3:41 PM on April 15


They also have an abnormal attachment to Jerry Lewis and Mickey Rourke. You do the math.
posted by jonmc at 3:46 PM on April 15


It's going to come as a surprise to more than a few people out there that what's considered moral (or not) is not as absolute and agreed-upon as they would like it to be

This is the epistemology of "teach the controversy."
posted by jpe at 3:47 PM on April 15


Gambling is most unacceptable in Pakistan? Sure, now.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:59 PM on April 15


It's also interesting that the Czech Republic had the highest percentage saying that homosexuality was acceptable. Probably not a coincidence that a lot of gay porn is filmed there.

Lots of non-gay porn is filmed there, too!

I found that especially interesting in light of how many Czechs said that gambling was unacceptable. 65%! Basically the same as having an extramarital affair (66%).

I'm not complaining, I just find it interesting.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:40 PM on April 15


So, because it seemed like more fun than doing real work, I did a little k-means cluster analysis of the survey data; there's a pretty basic split between generally restrictive countries and generally permissive countries, but I thought that a six cluster arrangement was pretty interesting (three generally restrictive and three generally permissive clusters). By "restrictive", I mean countries that generally thought the behaviours were morally unacceptable, with "permissive" being the opposite. The six clusters:
  • Strongly restrictive cluster, where all behaviours were generally unacceptable, containing most of the African countries as well as the Muslim Asian countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan).
  • A moderately restrictive cluster, where all behaviours were unacceptable, but not as strongly as in the first cluster; containing a mix of poorer Latin American countries (El Salvador and Bolivia), Asian countries (India and Philippines) and Senegal and South Africa.
  • A selectively restrictive cluster, of countries that were as restrictive as the strongly restrictive ones on many topics, but much more permissive on abortion, contraception and particularly divorce; this contains the Muslim Middle East (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Turkey).
  • A strongly permissive cluster, where few people found any of the behaviours unacceptable (relatively speaking; affairs are still generally frowned upon); containing most of Europe, as well as Canada, Australia and Japan.
  • A moderately permissive cluster, somewhat less permissive across the board particularly w.r.t. homosexuality and abortion; containing a mix of mostly "emerging market" countries, China and Korea, Russia and Poland, Greece and Israel, Mexico and the US.
  • A selectively permissive cluster, of countries that are generally moderately permissive, but strongly permissive on homosexuality and premarital sex and more restrictive on abortion; Latin America (Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and Chile).
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 5:08 PM on April 15 [14 favorites]


I'm pretty sure there is more then just 'the couple' involved.

But that's your moral judgment.


An extramarital affair, by definition, involves more than two people, regardless of whether you think extramarital affairs are morally acceptable.
posted by Etrigan at 5:11 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Did anyone else read that as the Pew Pew Institute?

Clearly I've been on the internet too long.
posted by dreamling at 5:22 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Neither a 26%(on the topic of this post) or 15% (on that other survey) gap between Japan and Korea is insignificant and it is something noticeable on the ground to be sure.

What's also concerning is that in this survey the Philippines are recorded with 65% responding that homosexuality is morally unacceptable, but in the other survey 73% say society should accept homosexuality. Those are wildly different results to similar questions and no other country seems to have reacted with such a swing. I'd question the data collection there.


Well, it's also confounded by the fact that he was guessing the relative safety level of being gay in certain countries based on these surveys. Are you more likely to be attacked for being gay in the Philippines than in Japan, or vice versa, because a survey found a higher percentage of people in that country think homosexuality is morally acceptable?

There is something problematic about how they're collecting data if there's such a big difference between "morally acceptable" and "tolerated." I mean, how many people could there be who find homosexuality morally unacceptable but tolerate it?
posted by ChuckRamone at 6:10 PM on April 15


no other country seems to have reacted with such a swing

I'm pretty sure swinging wasn't on the survey.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:29 PM on April 15


I think your basic point still holds if the actual divorce rate isn't that high in France. After some googling, it looks to me like the marriage and divorce rates are both lower in France than the United States. However, I don't have a good understanding of what percentage of marriages in France end in divorce, which is what I think would be the interesting number.

No I think it's the perception people have that cheating leads to divorce, which would mean they were children of divorce or grew up where it was common enough that they internalized cheating = Dad abandons Mom and we become poor and he has a new family, not cheating = some fighting and parents staying together, no-harm, no-foul from the kids perspective. So you'd have to look at adult children of divorce, which means their parents divorced in the 50s-90s. France was pretty Catholic till recently, I bet you far, far fewer adult children of divorce due to cheating exist. Maybe in 40 years there won't be a difference.
posted by fshgrl at 9:33 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Umami Dearest: "When I have an extramarital lunch with someone, for example, it's just the business of the two of us."

Assuming you are extramarital lunching without the consent of your spouse.

I think the extramarital question should have distinguished between consensual and non-consensual affairs.
posted by tybeet at 5:43 AM on April 16


Tybeet, do you think that the respondents to the survey thought about it at that level? I think that a survey question asking "Is there such a thing as a consensual extra-marital affair?" would return results even more one-sided than the question in question. You know they exist, and I know they exist, but I very much doubt that the random selection of 40,117 people surveyed would think they existed.

And even if that question was asked, then there's still more hairs to split: "Well, what about the people who don't classify something consensual as an 'affair'?" Now we need to ask another question, and then another question, and then another question...

So, I think the results as stated are pretty good and that the survey was pretty good.
posted by rebent at 5:50 AM on April 16


I think a more interesting next question would be to ask "Do you think it's immoral" like they did in the survey, and then ask "Have you ever engaged in it?" A culture thinking something is immoral, but I'd love to see how much real control of behavior those morals have.
posted by rebent at 5:52 AM on April 16


rebent: " I think that a survey question asking "Is there such a thing as a consensual extra-marital affair?" would return results even more one-sided than the question in question."

The question wouldn't be whether "there is such a thing" as a consensual extramarital affair, but whether a consensual extramarital affair is morally acceptable/morally unacceptable/not a moral issue.
posted by tybeet at 6:01 AM on April 16


This is pretty sensitive to issues of language. I have never heard of anyone referring to an "affair" as being consensual in this way - one hears about "arrangements", open marriages, polyamory, things like that, but whenever I have heard the word "affair", it was always in reference to something done on the sly.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:32 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


I have never heard of anyone referring to an "affair" as being consensual in this way - one hears about "arrangements", open marriages, polyamory, things like that, but whenever I have heard the word "affair", it was always in reference to something done on the sly.

Same here. For that reason, I'd be confused by a survey question asking about the morality of "consensual" affairs.
posted by Area Man at 6:56 AM on April 16


Sticherbeast: "This is pretty sensitive to issues of language. I have never heard of anyone referring to an "affair" as being consensual in this way."

To me, "affair" means sex/romance with someone other than the primary partner (in this case, the spouse). But I agree, there is a definite Western cultural association between "having an affair" and "cheating".

To get around that, I would ask something along the lines of...

"Do you personally believe that it is morally acceptable, morally unacceptable, or not a moral issue when a married couple agrees to engage in extramarital sex [/romance]?"

I would find answers to this an interesting supplement to the original question, because experience (and graduate research) tells me that many people perceive non-monogamies to be immoral even when they are explicitly stated to be consensual.

I would expect a smaller proportion of respondents to de-moralize non-monogamies in cultures that are more "sexually liberated" relative to those that are not, yet similar proportions might de-moralize extramarital affairs that are non-consensual.
posted by tybeet at 5:54 PM on April 16


To me, "affair" means sex/romance with someone other than the primary partner (in this case, the spouse). But I agree, there is a definite Western cultural association between "having an affair" and "cheating".

Yes, especially when tailoring questions for a survey, it is crucial to respect what certain phrases denote and connote in actual language usage, as opposed to conflating those meanings with personal definitions from an idiolect. "Consensual affair" is a meaningless phrase to most anglophones - I'm not sure how you'd translate it into different languages, either. (Conversely, other languages may already have a preexisting idiom which English lacks.)

I agree that it would be interesting to ask people from various cultures about situations in which member(s) of a married couple have sex with somebody outside of that marriage, but with the consent of their spouse. I would also be interested in seeing those questions framed variously as "what do you generally think about this as a state of affairs", or as hypotheticals in which there are situational, "mitigating" factors at play, e.g. the husband travels a lot. I also wonder about how much of a difference we'd see when the individual having non-monogamous sex is a woman or a man, or if the permission is explicit or a tacit "understanding".
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:44 PM on April 16


I'm sorry, that came off as pissier than I had at all intended it. I agree that it would be fascinating to explore the perceived morality of this kind of behavior, I just think it's also an issue especially sensitive to phrasing.

Either way, to clarify on another issue, I'd be especially interested in the divide on general rules versus situational exceptions. As with many taboos, there are many paradoxical attitudes about non-monogamy.

I'm also reminded of a study I saw which claimed that WEIRD men tended to more frequently explain their moral reasoning through the application of general rules ("it was wrong for him to do that because xyz is wrong"), whereas WEIRD women tended to more frequently explain their moral reasoning through through more situational explanations involving others' relations or feelings ("it was wrong for him to do that because it wasn't fair and it hurt the other person"). It would be interesting to see if that theory holds up, or how it would differ across cultures.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:09 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


How do you define WEIRD? What a ...weird... adjective to throw into a comment about language.
posted by desjardins at 8:34 AM on April 17


Sorry, I should have linked to an explanation. WEIRD refers to "Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic" people. Point being, if you do a study on WEIRD people, your results won't necessarily apply to people who aren't, well, WEIRD.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:46 AM on April 17


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