References to cuckolding are all over the internet, so we asked sex experts to explain it.


Traditionally, a cuckold was a man who was oblivious to his wife's adultery. But today, it means something quite different. Basically, cuckolding is a sexual activity: Somebody (the cuck) gets turned on by their partner (the cuckoldress) having sex with another person (the bull). The contemporary cuckold isn't necessarily a cisgender or heterosexual male, and is completely on board with their partner's affairs.

"Cuckolding is a kink or fetish that is unique to every couple," Shelby Sells, certified sex and life coach and resident sex expert at WOO More Play, tells Health. Here are different ways to enjoy this type of sex play, plus other crucial facts about cuckholding.

Cuckolding: the basics

From a psychological standpoint, cuckholding usually emphasizes degradation or humiliation of the partner who is being cuckolded—and again, any gender identity is applicable here. Humiliation (stemming from the ridicule a person is likely to feel when their partner cheats on them) plays a central role in the power-play dynamic of the situation, and it's this aspect that makes this particular kink a little more taboo than some others, Sells says.

Like many sexual fetishes, there are varying degrees of cuckolding. You don't need to go as far as watching your partner have sex with another person—you might get pleasure from listening to your partner talk about having sex with someone else (either real or imagined). Hearing the details of your partner's fantasies about sex with other people, or about their previous sexual encounters, can be a good way to dip your toe into cuckolding if you're not sure how deep you want to go.

If you want to take it further, you could start with watching your partner flirt with somebody else in a bar, or send racy messages to somebody online. Watching your partner have sex with someone else is what most people associate with cuckolding, but it really is a scale and you can choose how far you want to go. You might simply watch from a distance, or you might tell the bull what to do to your partner. Or you might decide to join in—hello, threesome.

Why do some people enjoy it?

For all sorts of reasons. Cuckolding can be a safe space for some to release deep sexual desires and lead to a more playful, powerful, and emotionally intimate sexual relationship.

"Some people enjoy being sexually humiliated, which can be affiliated with domination/submission play," Sells says. "Cuckolding requires a certain level of trust and communication between partners, which can deepen and strengthen intimacy in a relationship. Plus, cuckolding engages in fantasy play, which can make sex a much more intense and pleasurable experience."

The cuckoldress usually assumes the sexually dominant role, as the one who has sex with other people, while the cuck remains sexually loyal. But remember, the rules aren't set in stone. Couples can mix things up as they like, and sometimes partners switch the cuck/cuckoldress roles. Dominance may also appeal to the bull, who might be given permission to take over the cuck's role in the sexual partnership—with no strings attached.

In some cases, cuckolding may also inject life into a stale sexual relationship. "Monogamy creates sexual boredom for many couples," SKYN sex and intimacy expert and licensed clinical social worker Chris Donaghue, PhD, tells Health. "Cuckolding is one of the many diverse ways for couples to explore their sexuality and to keep sex fun and novel."

What are the downsides—and how can you avoid them?

Any kink that's centered around a power play can be dangerous, Sells says, potentially pushing people past their sexual and psychological limits. "People might think they're up for the intense fantasy, only to discover the reality of the situation isn't for them," Sells explains.

At each step, communication is crucial, Donaghue advises. Couples should make sure that all parties involved are interested in opening up, and that a lot of communication is had—before and after," he says. "Because cuckolding can bring up a lot of new feelings for beginners, couples wanting to get into it should make sure their relationship isn't rooted in jealousy or toxic monogamy."

Sells recommends setting boundaries and safe words. "Make sure everyone involved is on the same page and knows their role in the sex act," she says. "If someone isn't comfortable or wants to stop, respect that immediately. Cuckolding isn't for everyone, but for those that are into it, it can be a very rewarding and pleasurable experience."

Is cuckolding the same as hotwifing?

No, but people often use the terms "cuckoldress" and "hotwife" interchangeably. Hotwifing is a little more basic, and more about the sexual act itself than about power or control. A "hotwife"—and again, it can refer to somebody of any gender identity, not just a cisgender heterosexual woman—shares their sexual adventures with their partner, who gets pleasure from hearing about them. "Essentially, hotwifing is cuckolding without the humiliation," Sells says.

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