Consensual non-monogamy (CNM) has been in the headlines a lot lately. It includes thinkg like:
Down to Cuck: What You Need to Know About Cuckolding
If you watch porn or have spent time on Twitter or dating apps, you've probably heard of cuckolding. But do you know what it actually is? Here's everything you need to know.
What is Cuckolding?
Cuckolding (also known as troilism) is a fetish and form of consensual non-monogamy, in which one person (cuckold or cuck, for short) gets turned on by their partner having sex with another person (sometimes referred to as a bull, although some object to the term as dehumanizing).
Think of the dynamic like an open relationship where only one person has sexual privileges. It can also entail an element of submission or even humiliation for the person whose partner is having sex with others. Think, someone with a bigger penis or who can perform "better" in bed. Sometimes the cuck (the person who enjoys watching, hearing about, or fantasizing about their partner have sex with someone else) is present in the room to watch but can partake via photos, messages, or hearing the juicy details when they get home.
It should be noted that although the narrative around cuckolding tends to skew toward cishet normative experiences (traditional stereotypes cast the cuck and bull as males, although females can be cucks, and are referred to as "cuckqueens"), chastity also plays a role in many transfemme relationships. (Chastity doesn't lead to cuckolding, but many people who enjoy cuckolding dynamics do practice chastity.) A bull is a person outside of the relationship having sex with the cuck's partner. Cuckolding can be enjoyed by couples of any roles, gender, or sexual orientation.Read: What is a Cuckquean? Myth or Reality?
Why Do People like Cuckolding?
In consensual non-monogamy, there's a term, "compersion." It basically means we want mutual respect from all parties involved and for one another to be happy, whether we're fucking each other or not. At its core, it is the opposite of jealousy. (And yes, it is entirely possible to feel compersion and jealousy at the same time.)
It's Considered Taboo
In a society that considers adultery a sin, straying from the cishet fairytale of living in monogamous bliss until "death do us part" can be scandalous. Same for having a dynamic that solely focuses on a female's sexual pleasure. So, cuckolding can be a turn-on for couples, whether it's a fantasy or plays out in real life. And then there's the element of watching or being watched that is super-hot for some people.
Many people enjoy the submissive aspect of cuckolding. Some cucks get off on helping their partner find another partner. They may even get aroused in the humiliation that another person can pleasure their partner better.
How Common is Cucking?
Believe it or not, cuckolding fantasies are actually much more common than you'd think. In his book, Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help Improve Your Sex Life, Kinsey Institute researcher and social psychologist Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D., surveyed thousands of Americans and discovered that 58% of men and around a third of women had thought about cuckolding.
Bert, a 55-year-old from Brisbane, Australia, was a cuckold over the last five years. First in a relationship, then in marriage. "It's a kink I engineered into our relationship, with my wife's support," he shares.
He'd always had a fantasy about watching his partner fucking another man, and while he was self-aware enough to know that the fantasy was rooted in formative experiences of being cheated on, the fantasy itself was only ever about being allowed to be a voyeur. "Fear of being cheated on, and the thickly connected fear of being sexually inadequate (it's very chicken or egg), have always been the dark side of my erotic life," says Bert.
But then Bert met the woman who became his second wife. She was somewhat younger than him and far more open-minded than any of his previous partners. "In the early stages of the relationship, she was still dating other people and was happy to share details of her sexual exploits with me," Bert shared.
It was a dynamic that worked for both of them. When they decided to get married, they saw no reason to discontinue the fun. And it was at that point that, online, Bert discovered the cuckolding fetish, and was immediately drawn to the power dynamic of it.
"Being a willing cuckold, allowing jealousy to fuel eroticism rather than diminish it, having my (self-alleged) inadequacy materially acknowledged by wearing the chastity cock-cage, and emotionally acknowledged by my partner's non-judgmental encouragement and active enjoyment of my submission — these are massive energy charges to me, and were game-changers for us as a couple," he says.
How to Get Started
If you're thinking about dipping your toe into the pool for a cuckolding dynamic, it's vital to address hopes, fears, and expectations – in advance. From disclosing STIs and discussing birth control to being clear on boundaries, more communication means less room for fallout.First and foremost, you need to make sure the primary relationship is stable. This is one of the most fundamental, and often ignored, rules in CNM. "CNM strains relationships, adds additional layers of complexity, and requires a tremendous amount of trust," says Xanet Pailet, Sex and Intimacy Coach and author of Living An Orgasmic Life: Heal Yourself and Awaken Your Pleasure.
Bert and his wife had some good casual fun with cuckolding at first, then things turned quite serious as they embarked on a polyamorous triad with another man. "For a time, they were my keyholders," he said. The triad has since collapsed, and Bert's wife and the other man are now together.
Where to find a third
Websites and app connections are where Alex, 50, of California finds partners. He didn't specifically seek out a match/couple that was looking for a cuck dynamic. "In meeting couples, there has been a close connection between cuckolding and hotwifing. The dynamics are very different but have similarities." It is also as important for Alex to get along with partners as people as for him to be physically attracted to and have sexual chemistry with people.
How to talk to your partner
Talking about sex – in any capacity – can be nerve-wracking. (That's probably why it's a top-talked-about topic in online relationship forums.) But for any relationship to succeed, it requires clear and open communication. But as Bert notes, it depends on your partner.
"If they're open-minded enough already to be honest about occasionally wanting a bit of variety in bed, then telling them they can absolutely have that ought to be enough to start a conversation at least," he says. "It's 2022. There should be no question that women must have absolute sovereignty over their bodies and free choice with whom they choose to share their bodies. Coupledom of any kind does not and must never equal ownership."
Instead, he says, cuckolding is just a kink that can be, among other things, a helpful way to facilitate that necessary freedom within a committed couple.
Consent is key
Consent and respect are essential in any sexual dynamic – group or otherwise. Be sure to stick to pre-determined boundaries (both physical and emotional) to avoid post-cuckolding regret.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Bert subscribes to a no secrets policy. No secrets. Ever. Radically open communication about sex and emotions. "If feelings develop between your partner and her bull, THAT MUST BE ACKNOWLEDGED AND DISCUSSED," he says. "Because, strange as this may sound, while cuckolding can ONLY work in a truly loving relationship, love can also burn it all down."
Alex adds that the cuck needs to understand that they won't have complete control and assume that their partner will not do things to "endanger" their primary relationship. As for the person with sexual privileges, they need to reassure their cuck when needed and establish their own identity and desire for the parts of the relationship that they specifically want.
Don't skip the STI talk
Have the conversation before nudity happens. Face-to-face is probably best, but you can also discuss safer sex via text or phone. According to The World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1 million new STIs are contracted daily. That means in the U.S., 110 million people –about one-third of the population – have an STI at any given time. That said, STIs are incredibly common and usually pretty harmless. So it's wise to know your status.
Speak up if something feels off
Check-in with each other periodically, listen, and be receptive to feedback. Whether jealous feelings bubble up or you decide you don't want to watch your partner get fucked IRL, these may not be deal-breakers, but recognizing difficult emotions may help everyone have a more pleasurable experience.
It's OK to stop at anytime
If you need to slow down, stop, or take a time-out, that's OK too. Safewords are generally reserved for BDSM and rougher sex but can also be a helpful tool in cuckolding play.
Talk about it afterward
Post-sexual play, I like to connect with my primary partner, discuss what did or didn't work, and get a gauge on whether or not we want to do it again. Swapping post-sex highlights can be hot AF.Read: The Importance of Aftercare
Cuckolding isn't for everyone. I've had experiences that have ranged from meh to mind-blowing. Sometimes, the fantasy can be arousing enough without signing on for a whole in-person experience. That's OK. Before you have sex — any sex — it's essential to feel safe, comfortable, and happy. There's a fine line between being GGG (Good, Giving, and Game, an abbreviation created by Dan Savage) and doing something solely to please a partner. You should never engage in cuckolding from a place of guilt or coercion.
Ryn Pfeuffer is a versatile print and digital writer specializing in sex, lifestyle, and relationship topics. Over the past two decades, her work has appeared in more than 100 media outlets including Marie Claire, Playboy, Refinery29, The Globe and Mail, The Washington Post, WIRED, and Thrillist.
She adopted a pseudonym and was AVN’s (Adult Video Network) first female porn reviewer – while penning children’s books at the same time. More recently, she is the author of 101 Ways to Rock Online Dating (2019). She lives in Seattle with her rescue dog, Mimi. You can find her on Twitter @rynpfeuffer or IG @ryn_says