Cuckolding is essentially a form of consensual non-monogamy, where one partner watches their lover having sex with another person. Often, cuckolding involves the observing partner (known as the cuckold) being present in the room while they watch, but they could also observe by being sent messages or photos of what is happening.
Cuckolding differs from other forms of consensual non-monogamy (CNM) as it’s all focused on watching what’s happening. Other kinds of CNM include polyamory, where someone has multiple romantic partners, but cuckolding is usually purely sexual rather than romantic. Another kind of CNM is swinging, where couples swap sexual partners, but when it comes to cuckolding, the person observing usually doesn’t physically participate in any sexual activity.
The word “cuckold” is derived from the cuckoo bird, which lays its eggs in other birds’ nests, meaning that the birds go on to raise chicks that aren’t their own. “Cuckold” was first used in medieval times to describe the husband of an unfaithful wife who, unaware of his wife’s infidelity, would raise children that clearly weren’t his own, like with cuckoo birds.
The modern-day usage of the word “cuckolding” as a fetish differs from its origins, as the cuckold is aware of and is consenting to their partner sleeping with another person.
While the origins of the term describe cuckolding as a husband watching his wife with another man, cuckolding can be done any way you want, whether it’s a female partner watching their male partner with another woman or another man, or whether everybody involved is male or female or of any other gender.
There are various reasons why people might enjoy cuckolding as a fetish or a form of consensual non-monogamy. Some people introduce cuckolding as a way of combatting boredom or repetition in a relationship, and find that sexual variety actually strengthens their relationship with their partner, especially as they’re able to learn more about what their partner enjoys. For others, the jealousy they feel from watching their partner with another person adds an exciting element to their relationship and can add a new dimension to their sex life.
Cuckolding is a great way of strengthening communication in a relationship, as it requires honesty from both partners about what they enjoy, what they don’t and what their boundaries are if they do feel jealous or uncomfortable. Couples who have tried cuckolding often report that it strengthens the bond between them, as they’re able to trust each other and talk openly about their desires.
Cuckolding can also be considered a subset of BDSM. “An aspect of BDSM can be humiliation, and the thought of [the cuckold] feeling or being humiliated could also be exciting. Our brains have the ability to turn something degrading into something powerfully erotic,” says Aoife. Sexologist Dr. Jill McDevitt adds, “the arousal that comes from relinquishing power and being humiliated (which is a form of masochism)” can be part of what makes cuckolding enjoyable.
As well as the cuckold, the partner who is sleeping with somebody else can enjoy cuckolding because it means they get to experience sexual variety with somebody else, and they can show their partner first-hand what they like.