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Secret Life of the Cheating Wife: Power, Pragmatism, and Pleasure in Women's Infidelity

by Alicia M. Walker Lexington Books
Pub Date:
Pbk 204 pages
AU$72.99 NZ$74.77
Product Status: Out of stock. Not available to order.
Using a sample collected from Ashley Madison, this book is the result of a yearlong inquiry into women’s extramarital experiences. Ultimately, these women reject the binary proposition of marriage that assumes that either we work on our marriages and remain monogamous within them, or we break up the relationship and take up other relationships. These women conceive of an alternate solution to a marriage that is not wholly working, where their own needs are ignored, unmet, and not prioritized. Thus, the women in this study are engaging in secret defiance of the expectations of marriage and primary partnerships.


This book gives voice to women’s experiences and perceptions regarding their participation in infidelity, and glimpses into the interworkings of our most intimate relationships, and the ways women negotiate marriages that fall short of their expectations.

Introduction: Why Do We Care if Other People Cheat?

1. Who are these “Bad Girls" Anyway? (And Where Did You Find Them?)

2. A Large Penis is Always Welcome

3. You're not the Boss of Me

4. A Gift You Give Yourself, But Nothing Comes for Free

5. Sometimes You Just Need a Subcontractor

Conclusion: The Things You Learn from Bad Girls: Conclusions and Implications Resulting from this Inquiry on Women and Outside Partnerships


The Secret Life of The Cheating Wife sparks an interesting conversation about the ways in which infidelity operates in the lives of adult American women. I appreciate the novelty of the study design and the accessibility of Walker’s prose . . . Ultimately, this book makes important contributions to the field and would be of interest to those studying heterosexuality, gendered sexuality, and intimacy. - Sexualities: Studies in Culture and Society


In certain marriages, behind smiling family photographs, are everyday women who carry dangerous and delectable secrets. In this revealing new book, they tell their stories. Unwilling to divorce, but frustrated by sexual boredom and the tedium of modern middle class life, their affairs serve as a release valve for an otherwise stultifying reality. Full of contradictions, Walker’s interviewees offer a window onto the ‘cheating wife,’ one that challenges our assumptions about women, power, morality, and monogamy itself. - Lisa Wade, Occidental College


This fascinating and well written book develops a sociology of infidelity, bringing insight into marriage, monogamy, relationships, and internet dating that will be useful for researchers examining relationships, professors teaching classes about the family, sexuality, and gender, and counselors of patients who are involved with infidelity. I was intrigued by the details of how women who cheat think about their actions, form and negotiate the details of their affairs, and the benefits and drawbacks they get from those affairs. The distinct social norms around affairs reveal what we often take for granted in other relationships. Many of my assumptions about affairs were overturned, and it was a fun read too! - Arielle Kuperberg, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro


The Secret Life of the Cheating Wife challenges gendered stereotypes and expectations of what and how women desire. Using compelling data, Walker demonstrates both diversity and commonality among unfaithful women and, in a truly sociological way, makes sense of the complexity of this stigmatized identity. A great read for anyone interested in sexualities in the digital age. - Beth Montemurro, Penn State University, Abington
Alicia Walker is assistant professor of sociology at Missouri State University.