Cheating in Erotica

by | January 23, 2014 | General | 11 comments

by Lucy Felthouse

Each and every month, I’m highly aware of following Lisabet Sarai’s posts – they never fail to be awesome. This month, though, Lisabet has directly inspired my post – thank you, Lisabet!

Lisabet’s post covered writing commando, or being free and writing whatever you want. Read the article, she explains it much better than me 🙂

There was a particular sentence, though, that gave me the idea for this post, and I’m sure Lisabet won’t mind me borrowing it:

The inclusion of F/F and M/M in a book that is mostly M/F will evoke criticism from many romance readers, who seem to want a sort of genre purity.

Firstly, I agree with her comment and have found it to be true. But it led me to a slightly different way of thinking about the “genre purity” Lisabet mentions. There are many, many types of erotica and erotic romance, so many I can’t list them all as we’d be here for weeks. Some of it reflects real life, some of it is much more seated in fantasy. But, the thing to remember is, for the most part, it’s just fiction.

So why do readers dislike cheating in erotica and erotic romance? It happens in real life, it happens in television programmes, films, and it happens in other genres of book. But only in erotica and erotic romance does it get such a battering – readers really seem to dislike it, even though it’s made up and the characters aren’t real people – nobody’s actually getting hurt. I’m not bashing anyone. Far from it, I’m asking a genuine question – how come, for the most part, erotica and erotic romance readers are incredibly open-minded and they’ll read about anything from threesome and orgies, to BDSM, to anal sex, even water sports, blood play, and pseudo-incest but cheating is off-limits?

Please educate this poor confused writer 🙂


Lucy Felthouse is a very busy woman! She writes erotica and
erotic romance in a variety of subgenres and pairings, and has over 100
publications to her name, with many more in the pipeline. These include several
editions of Best Bondage Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica 2013 and Best Erotic
Romance 2014. Another string to her bow is editing, and she has edited and
co-edited a number of anthologies, and also edits for a small publishing house.
She owns Erotica For All, and is book
editor for Cliterati. Find out more at Join
her on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to her
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Lucy Felthouse


  1. sybil rush

    I don't understand it at all. Most people have fantasized about having sex with someone else while in a relationship, haven't they? I'd expect cheating would be a common theme of erotica.

  2. Lisabet Sarai

    Hi, Lucy,

    Do erotica readers also hate infidelity? I haven't noticed that. You're certainly right about romance readers, though. I had a guest on my blog a few days ago who has a series of novels based on her own struggles with fidelity. The comments from some readers were almost cruel.

  3. Annabeth Leong

    I am a person who has trouble reading cheating stories, so I'll explain why, though I don't know if it's for the same reason as others. For me, it comes back to why I started reading erotica and erotic romance: to masturbate. When I am masturbating, there are certain emotions that turn me off definitively no matter how hot everything else is. (Just as, if something feels a certain kind of weird during sex, there is absolutely no way I will come no matter what is going on). For me to have an orgasm, I have to overcome years of sexual guilt. When I'm reading to be aroused, cheating is a terrible distraction from the good feelings because the moral discomfort of it gets my guilt going. It also reminds me of times I have cheated. I can see that one might expect people to get revved up by the naughtiness of cheating, but in real life, when I cheated, as soon as I came, I would wish I could go home immediately, and all the guilty feelings would crash down on me. Reading erotica or erotic romance that includes cheating replicates those feelings for me. It's hard to come because I know that will happen, but if I do, then I get more bad feelings crashing down. Basically, it's a total buzzkill. Reading other genres that include cheating is different because I'm not aiming for arousal. Then I can lean back and enjoy the emotional exploration. These days, I read erotica and erotic romance for reasons beyond masturbation, so I do read cheating stories sometimes in that context. But the roots of my interest haven't gone away. I should note that I'm not averse to all negative emotions in erotica. For example, I get very turned on by humiliation. I imagine these are very personal preferences.

  4. The Moose

    Oh dear! "…who seem to want a sort of genre purity." I am shock-ed. Shocked do you hear? "Purity." I think it was Emerson who said rather famously that some comparison was like "…love, in the mouth of a whore." "Genre purity" smacks (pun if you like it) of orthodoxy/fundamentalism. There are always many people ready if rather unable to tell me what I should or should not read, see or write. They want labelling?? The wheel has turned yet once again. And if you fail in your label, what punishment? A slap on the wrist with a wet noodle? If the current MM FF MF etc is anything more than a marketing tool we are wasting valuable arousal time.

    Oh my. Take the plunge. These days it will hardly cost you a penny or mil or whatever.

    Adult readers of smut want/need labeling for their convenience or what?

    Too much ado about nothing.

    • Kathleen Bradean

      Infidelity does turn off readers, and they're very vocal about it. Sure, we can write what we want to. And we do. But if we want to sell those stories, we have to be aware of what readers absolutely won't tolerate.

      The only writer I've seen get away with a story about infidelity and not get raked over the coals was the incredibly talented Teresa Lamai. Her story was all shades of dark, with a woman trying to push away her loving husband through cheating out of guilt.

  5. Laurie P

    How many people in the real world understand or condone infidelity in relationships, their own or others? So I'm not surprised that reader don't want it in their stories either. As a reader, I don't like it and have a hard time forgiving the character who does it in a book. And doesn't it go back to the belief that "If you love me, then I should be enough for you"? That the character is "giving" something that belongs to their love interest away when it has no meaning?

  6. Lucy Felthouse

    Wow, thanks so much for your comments, everyone! I'm so sorry I haven't replied up until now, I'm having major computer issues.

    Your insights are incredibly informative and interesting – thanks so much for stopping by!

  7. Lynn

    I've had trouble selling my cheating story; it's gotten more rejections than anything else, even though it deals with the difficulty of being bisexual and having a "traditional" relationship. Which is an ACTUAL PROBLEM…

  8. Angie Sargenti

    Oh, boy. I'd better not try to publish "She's No Angel" then, even though in the end it turns out she never cheated. Now I'm wondering if people would get that far.

  9. Skye Warren

    Cheating is a personal trigger of mine. I can't like or respect someone who cheats, regardless of the fact that it does happen in life. And while we don't *have* to like a character to read them, I do actually think we need to respect them. There needs to be some reason why I'm interested in reading this person. Maybe it's a fabulous, insightful voice or whatever.

    So by writing someone nontraditional, you're raising the bar for yourself. I'm not saying don't do it! I mean, I wouldn't, but I have my own risky areas of interest 🙂 They're a bit like shooting the moon. You can go for it but if the execution isn't perfect, the entire book fails.

  10. Emerald

    Just came across this post, Lucy, and I'm not sure if you're still checking the comments on it, but I would like to add one just in case. 🙂

    It appears I’ll be the major voice of (very respectful!) dissent here, on a number of levels. I personally find the collective societal judgement about “cheating” misplaced. The degrees of nuance in relationships related to infidelity are as present as they are in other relationships, and to me, the bottom line is, we don’t know other people’s situations or circumstances. The tendency to judge anyone who acts outside of fidelity (under all circumstances—was it a one-night stand driven by lust? an ongoing relationship based on mutual attraction? a desperate acting out in a relationship from which one doesn’t know how to extricate oneself?) strikes me as surprising for this reason. I don’t know other people’s circumstances, and it doesn’t feel appropriate to me to judge how they handle themselves in their relationships with that being the case. I personally see a lot of opportunity for nuance in people’s interactions and relationships, and to me, being in professed monogamous relationship doesn’t eradicate that.

    I will insert here the caveat that I appreciate and offer space for some people’s experiencing the subject of infidelity as a personal trigger for a variety of reasons. (I personally perceive experiencing triggers as different from wielding judgement.)

    In fiction, of course, the reader has more of an opportunity to indeed know the circumstances of characters’ lives and their motivations. If a reader is not convinced by or does not feel empathy with the characters’ motivations or decisions, I can understand how that could feel alienating or distancing. (This can happen in general with characters’ decisions and motivations, of course.) Given the perspective I outlined above, exploring infidelity in fiction seems as potentially rich to me as most other realms of interaction and motivation.

    The last thing I’ll say here, though, is that if one is specifically talking about being sexually aroused, then infidelity being a “squick” factor or turn-off makes complete sense to me in that these tend to simply exist in us and do not need explanation—they just are. So in that sense, of course I can see how infidelity could serve as a squick the same way, for example, spanking or needle play or certain words could for some people.

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