If Season 1 of Showtime’s Yellowjackets was any indication, Shauna Sadecki (Melanie Lynskey) isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. From surviving the wilderness as a teenager by any means necessary to committing murder and covering it up, Shauna goes after what she wants — even if it’s morally dubious.
Last season, for instance, Shauna had an extramarital affair with Adam (Peter Gadiot) only to murder him in his apartment because she believed he was blackmailing her, when in reality it was her financially unstable husband Jeff (Warren Kole). In the Season 2 premiere, Shauna and Jeff visit Adam’s art studio to destroy potential evidence.
Here, the couple discovers that Adam painted several intimate portraits of Shauna, which upsets Jeff. But then, in a moment of rare vulnerability, Shauna tells him, “The thought of you with someone else always scared me, but it also turned me on. Someone else’s tongue in your mouth, their smell on you.” She goes on, “I used to think that made me some kind of pervert.”
Jeff asks what she thinks now, and Shauna said, “That I like being the way I am,” which leads them to get hot and heavy in the murdered man’s studio.
Shauna isn’t perverted; in fact, in terms of the connection between jealousy and arousal, this is a fairly common experience, Dr. Jess O’Reilly, ASTROGLIDE’s resident sexologist(Opens in a new tab), tells Mashable. Of course, Shauna is fictional, but desires of cheating and cuckold/queaning are real. We asked the experts where these desires stem from, and how to act them out ethically.
What are cheating or cuckold fetishes?
Some people refer to what Shauna describes as a version of “hot husbanding,” said O’Reilly: arousal from seeing your partner sexually engaged with someone else. We typically see this as “hot wifing,” or when a husband enjoys seeing his spouse with another. The husband is referred to as a “cuckhold” in this instance.
Shauna may also be describing a form of cuckqueaning, says sex therapist Stefani Goerlich(Opens in a new tab), certified sex therapist/clinical sexologist and author. A “cuckquean” is a woman whose husband is cheating on her, but in the BDSM community, that’s expanded to mean a woman who’s aroused from knowing her husband is being unfaithful.
“A lot of fetishes are about experiences that are perceived as off limits or unachievable,” says sex worker and dominatrix Alexa Eason(Opens in a new tab), who’s been engaged in BDSM for over a decade. Our brain releases dopamine(Opens in a new tab), known as the “pleasure chemical,” when we’re presented with something new, exciting, or unusual. “Many fetishes are taboo, and the idea of a novel or exclusive experience contributes to the excitement, thereby creating a dopamine rush,” explains Eason.
And cheating is obviously taboo, especially in our society where monogamous marriage is the ideal. Fantasizing about possibilities — like kissing or sleeping with someone other than your partner — can provide a dopamine rush. “It feels good to be bad,” Eason summized.
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Escort, sex worker, and professional girlfriend Mia Lee(Opens in a new tab) says the taboo of bucking social norms is one of the most common reasons straight women in (previously) monogamous relationships derive pleasure from sleeping with others and sharing that experience with their partners, based on her experiences with clients. Another reason is attention and desirability from men other than their partner.
In Shauna’s case, it’s obvious that the thrill of the taboo pushes her buttons, says Eason. (Remember, Shauna was secretly sleeping with Jeff as a teen before the plane crash, even though he was in a relationship with her best friend, Jackie.) “As a teen she enjoyed the thrill of secrecy,” she says, “and as an adult she continues to seek that dopamine rush.”
Credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME
Beyond taboo and desirability, watching a partner with someone else could be arousing due to power play, O’Reilly adds. “Some folks enjoy the fact that they are partnered with the object of other people’s desires,” she says. “They’ve got the prize, so to speak.” Other factors can be emotional-erotic engagement — the range of feelings from jealousy to joy and everything in between — and compersion, or obtaining pleasure from your partner’s pleasure, O’Reilly continues.
“In the world of [ethical non-monogamy], many folks will talk about compersion,” Goerlich says. “In cuckqueaning, that pleasure is extended into knowing that their husband is being sexually satisfied.” Since, in these scenarios, everyone involved knows that extramarital sex is occurring and experiencing pleasure because of it, it’s not truly a form of cheating. Goerlich would say these agreements are “a form of fetishized ethical non-monogamy.”
How to ethically practice cheating or cuckolding fetish
“As with any fetish, consent and communication are key,” says Lee.
If you’re interested in hot husbanding/wifing (or otherwise exploring how jealousy can be arousing in the bedroom), have an open and respectful conversation with your partner. Discuss boundaries, comfort levels, and sexual safety, Lee advises. For example, will all sex be protected? Will everyone get tested beforehand? Is everyone knowledgable about boundaries and safe words?
Share fantasies and how you feel in your fantasies, O’Reilly says, and also share concerns, hesitations, and insecurities. Talk about monogamy and non-monogamy more generally, as well — what appeals to you about either structure? How will you navigate your relationship arrangement as your desires evolve?
People get off on cuckolding/queaning for various reasons. For some, it’s rooted in a desire for degradation and humiliation play, Goerlich explains. For others, however, it’s about the “pride and ownership” aspect. Different reasons create different headspaces, so communication with your partner is a must so everyone’s on the same page of why they enjoy this fantasy.
“Shauna vocalized her undisclosed lust and thereby was able to cash in on the transcendent experience of truly being accepted by her romantic partner.”
If you play with this fantasy IRL, don’t forget that the other people you sleep with are people, too. Include them in these conversations early and often, and be transparent about what you want from the experience. Afterwards, debrief your encounters to ensure that you all feel cared for and safe.
Opening up about desires isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. “Being vulnerable is one of the hardest things we do in our lives, because the potential for rejection looms heavy,” Eason says. “But being honest about any and all of our desires can also open up the potential for truly transcendent experiences with the people you love most.”
“Shauna vocalized her undisclosed lust and thereby was able to cash in on the transcendent experience of truly being accepted by her romantic partner,” she continues. “As someone who’s passionate about sexual liberation this feels like a heartwarming story line. Murder notwithstanding!”
Yellowjackets Season 2 premieres March 24 on Showtime’s website and app, with new episodes released weekly on Fridays(opens in a new tab). Episodes also air every Sunday on Showtime at 9 p.m. ET, starting March 26.