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15 Colum. J. Gender & L. 274 (2006)
New Politics of Adultery, The

handle is hein.journals/coljgl15 and id is 276 raw text is: THE NEW POLITICS OF ADULTERY
BRENDA COSSMAN*
Adultery is nothing new. Nor are social sanctions against it. But
there is something new in the contemporary cultural politics of adultery,
which begins with an ever-expanding definition of infidelity. Once
restricted to natural heterosexual intercourse, infidelity now extends to a
variety of sexual practices.' Indeed, these days, infidelity can occur without
sexual contact at all. Computer sex, telephone sex, and email flirtations are
all included within the ambit of adulterous relationships that violate the
marital relationship. As the definition of infidelity expands, so do its
practitioners. In several recent exposes of the new infidelity, women have
increasingly been shown to be equal opportunity cheaters. This expansion
of infidelity and infidels has produced a new crisis of adultery; a virtual
adultery epidemic has swept the nation.
Crises, in turn, require intervention. The epidemic has produced a
new emphasis on both prevention and treatment. The first line of protection
against adultery is a prevention strategy, based on identifying and
minimizing risks. This approach involves a politics of self-discipline, of
individuals recognizing and taking responsibility for managing the risks to
their relationships.2
* Professor of Law, University of Toronto. Thanks to BJ Wray for her research
assistance.
1 See, e.g., Bonura v. Bonura, 505 So. 2d 143, 145 (La. Ct. App. 1987) (holding
that a woman who had not had intercourse had committed adultery); S.B. v. S.J.B., 609 A.2d.
124, 126 (N.J. Super. Ct. Ch. Div. 1992) (holding that lesbian sex constituted adultery). See
also Karen Peterson, Infidelity Reaches Beyond Having Sex, USA Today, Aug. 1, 2003, at
8D, available at http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2003-01-08-workplace-usat x.htm,
in which infidelity expert Shirley Glass states that affairs do not have to include sex.
2 Intimacy theorists suggest that, as family life and intimacy come to be associated
with more risk and fragility, more care needs to be placed on promoting responsibility within
these relationships. See generally ANTHONY GIDDENS, THE TRANSFORMATION OF INTIMACY
(1992). This increasing emphasis on responsibility is part of a more general shift in
governance towards self-discipline and governance of oneself. See, e.g., MITCHELL M. DEAN,
GOVERNMENTALITY: POWER AND RULE IN MODERN SOCIErY (1999); Michel Foucault,
Technologies of the Self, in TECHNOLOGIES OF THE SELF: A SEMINAR WITH MICHEL FOUCAULT
16-49 (Luther H. Martin et al. eds., 1988); Michel Foucault, Governmentality, in THE
FOUCAULT EFFECT: STUDIES IN GOVERNMENTALITY 87-104 (Graham Burchell et al. eds.,
199 1); ALAN HUNT, GOVERNING MORALS: A SOCIAL HISTORY OF MORAL REGULATION (1999);
NIKOLAS ROSE, INVENTING OUR SELVES: PSYCHOLOGY, POWER AND PERSONHOOD (1996). As
Rose argues,

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