Cuckold historically referred to a man with an adulterous wife. It has largely fallen out of use in the USA but remains in greater usage in Great Britain. Elsewhere the term generally refers to a sexual fetish in which sexual gratification is gained from maintenance or observation of sexual relations by a woman with a man or a number of men besides her boyfriend, husband or long-term male sex partner. (See also Cuckquean)
History of the term
Cuckold derives from the cuckoo bird, alluding to the alleged habit of the female bird in changing its mate frequently and authentic practice of laying its eggs in other nests within its community. The association is common in medieval folklore, literature, and iconography. The original old English was “kukewold”. It was borrowed from Old French “cuccault”, which was made up of “cuccu” (old French for the cuckoo bird itself) plus the pejorative suffix – “ault”, indicating the named person was being taken advantage of as by a cuckoo bird.
In medieval literature, the “kukewold” was almost universally scorned instead of the adulterous wife, they were viewed as worthless due to their physical stature and somehow at fault for the adulterous act. The word was chosen in an attempt to connote scorn.
Usage first appears about 1250 in the satirical and polemical poem “The Owl and the Nightingale” (l. 1544). The term was clearly regarded as embarrassingly direct, as evident in John Lydgate‘s “Fall of Princes” (ca. 1440).
The female equivalent cuckquean first appears in English literature in 1562, adding a female suffix to the “cuck”; Wittol, which substitutes “wete” (meaning witting or knowing) for the first part of the word, first appears in 1520 and means a man aware of and reconciled to his wife’s infidelity (in contrast to a cuckold, who by the original definition had been deceived by his wife).
Modern western culture tends to shun infidelity as something abhorrent to discuss, so the very existence of this word appears awkward to many and hence its use in modern days is very limited.
Medieval literature was much more focused on the subject of infidelity and subsequently the term was one of many coined to bring a vocabulary to the culture of the time.
Metaphor and symbolism
In Western traditions, cuckolds have sometimes been described as “wearing the horns of a cuckold” or just “wearing the horns”. This is an allusion to the mating habits of stags, who forfeit their mates when they are defeated by another male. (See the Italian insult cornuto). In French, the term is porter des cornes, which is used by Molière to describe someone whose consort has been unfaithful. Molière‘s L’École des femmes (1662) is the story of a man who mocks cuckolds and becomes one at the end. In Geoffrey Chaucer‘s Canterbury Tales (c.1372-77), the Miller’s Tale is a story that humorously examines the life of a cuckold. In Chinese usage, an altogether different allusion is used, when the cuckold (or wittol) is said to be “戴绿帽子” (wearing the green hat), which derives from the sumptuary laws used in China from the 13th to the 18th century which required the males in households with prostitutes to wrap their heads in a green scarf (or later a hat).
Cultural usage of horn metaphor
In many countries “horns” are a metaphor for suffering the infidelity of a partner, not limited to husbands in modern usage. The gesture of the horned hand can be used to insult the cuckold.
In China, green hats mean that the person is a cuckold. It is considered a cultural faux pas to give green hats to a Chinese person. American businesses should avoid giving green hats to Chinese clients. In the Middle East the term refers mainly to a husband whose wife is unfaithful with his consent. The term ‘Father of Horn ابو قرون ابا قرن’ is also used in some countries in the Persian Gulf area. But the word الدَّيُّوْث is the correct/appropriate and mostly used in the Arab world as it’s linked to the Islamic Sharia.
Cuckoldry as a fetish
A cuckold fetishist is aware of his spouse’s activity, most likely actively encouraging it, and derives sexual pleasure from it. Among fetishists, the pose of reluctance—the victimization of the cuckold—is a major element of the paraphilia. The cuckold is almost always male; the term for a female cuckold is sometimes referred to as a cuckquean but is not as prevalent in popular culture as the male version of the fetish.
In the fetish cuckolding subculture, the female takes on the role of being sexually dominant, while the man takes on a submissive role. The man usually only becomes involved with the woman or her lover when she permits it — sometimes remaining altogether celibate.
This fetish can be completely heterosexual in which the husband does not participate or only participates with his wife, as well as (but more rarely) bi-sexual, in which the husband participates with everyone, or makes contact with the other man’s semen.
The fetish specifics can range wildly, from loving treatment toward the cuckold to complete humiliation and debasement. The husband may also seek other women outside the relationship, as in a swinging lifestyle. However, very commonly a requirement for the fetish is that the cuckold is somehow humiliated, whether this is acted out to be intentional or as some sort of by-product of the situation (e.g., the parties involved are somehow too sexually aroused to stop). Therefore cuckolding usually involves acting out a story or ritual involving humiliating acts, events or circumstances; it is not simply wife-swapping, swinging or sharing a sexual partner.
The wife who enjoys cuckolding her husband is sometimes referred to as a hotwife or frequently cuckoldress if the male is more submissive.
Theories in psychology
Psychology regards cuckold fetishism as a variant of masochism, the cuckold deriving pleasure from being humiliated. In Freudian analysis, cuckold fetishism is the eroticization of the fears of infidelity and of failure in the male competition for procreation and the affection of females]. In his book Masochism and the Self, psychologist Roy Baumeister advanced a Self Theory analysis that cuckolding (and other forms of sexual masochism) among otherwise mentally healthy people was a form of escapism. In this theory, cuckold fetishists are relieving themselves of the stress of the burden of their social role and escaping into a simpler, less-expansive position.
According to these theories, the cuckold fetishist seeks pleasure both from the act of being humiliated, and by giving pleasure to his partner(s). But cuckolding can be summed psychologically as “distributing sexual humiliation to the cuckold”]. If a couple can keep the fantasy in the bedroom, or come to an agreement where actually being cuckolded in reality does not hurt the relationship, they may try it out in reality. However, the primary proponent of the fantasy is almost always the one being humiliated, or the “cuckold”, and he usually convince his partner to participate in the fantasy for him, though other “cuckolds” may prefer their partner to initiate the situation instead. Indeed, the fetish fantasy does not work at all if the cuckold is actually being humiliated against his will.
Humiliation is “the feeling of being put down, made to feel less than one feels oneself to be.” Psychologist Evelin Lindner calls humiliation “the nuclear bomb of the emotions.”, claiming it is an order of magnitude more powerful than any other, causing everything from interpersonal conflicts to international terrorism”. According to psychoanalysis, any feeling can become sexualized if it is somehow favorably associated with sex, especially in childhood. Because humiliation is such a powerful emotion, if an individual sexualizes it, he can in turn obtain intense sexual feelings.
Theories in evolutionary psychology
In his somewhat controversial book Sperm Wars, biologist Robin Baker speculated that the excitement and stimulation of the cuckolding fetish emerges from the biology of sexuality and the effects of sexual arousal on the brain, although it is important to note the word “cuckold” does not actually appear in the book “Sperm Wars”. According to one of his theories, Baker believes that when a man thinks that his female mate may have been sexual with another man, the man is prompted by biological urges to copulate with the female in an effort to “compete” with the other man’s sperm. Baker is also one of the few proponents of the theory of Killer Sperm, the idea that sperm compete not only for first access to the egg but by actually “attacking” other sperm. Although this idea appears frequently in cuckold fetish material, very few biologists share this view.
Baker and his proponents views conflict with the hypothesized foundations for sexual jealousy in evolutionary psychology, which is rooted in the idea that men, specifically, will react jealously to sexual infidelity on the parts of their mates. Infidelity is also the number one cause for divorce.