Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume 13, January 23, 2010


Book Review

Insatiable Wives:
Women Who Stray and the Men Who Love Them

By David J. Ley
2009, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Landham, MD
291 pages, hard cover

Click on cover to buy this book from Amazon.com


Reviewed and enjoyed by David Hall, PhD

"Hotwife" is not yet an everyday household term, even though many a young husband thinks his wife is hot enough for him. The surprise is to find that there is a whole world on the Internet where the term is used in a very specific way. David Ley stumbled across the term during research on couples when two couples talked about how the husband helped and encouraged his wife to have many lovers. This is more than swinging, where couples share sex in social settings with other couples on a more or less equal basis. "This sexual practice, a form of sexual nonmonogamy, is distinguished from swinging and polyamory in that the husband rarely seeks sexual contact outside the marriage except for participation in group sex with his wife and other men, while the wife is permitted and often encouraged to pursue unrestrained sexual encounters with other men." (Dust Jacket)

Dr. Ley is a clinical psychologist in Albuquerque. New Mexico is not exactly a bastion of sexual openness, yet the Internet opened him up to a world where women; strong, healthy, powerful women, were having a lot ( I mean a LOT) of sex with men while their often monogamous husbands helped organize their affairs or otherwise supported them in fulfulling their sexual desires. As a therapist, he knew the therapuedic community saw this kind of behavior as a sign of marital difficulties. As a researcher, he let his curiosity take him for an interesting ride. In this lengthy book, he explores the history, science and research available on this type of relationship.

In Chapter 1, "Birds and Horns", he reviews some avian and historical behavior and introduces the term "cuckold", usually a man who raises children who are not his genetic offspring. There is a wealth of historical material on men who were ridiculed, shamed and punished for the unfaithfulness of their wives. While the women were also punished, often with death, the cuckold husband usually didn't come out of it very well. Shakespeare was particularly hard on them; "Hang him, poor cockoldly knave!" from The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Between most chapters, the author has inserted an "Interlude", the results of an interview with a couple or individual who had responded to his request for research subjects. These nine interviews are a moving and truly human view of this lifestyle and both its positive and negative impacts on the lives involved. These are individuals who have come to grips with their sexual natures and found in each other the necessary partner to get their needs met. Alfred Kinsey made it clear that the range of sexual behavior and desire was truly wide, and our society makes it clear that what we do "should" be constrained into a narrow set of behaviors. The reader is introduced to people who ignore society's constraints and fulfill their sexual needs in ways that work for them. "..these couples choose to share the wife's sexuality with others, in a way that strengthens the bonds between husband and wife, and sometimes, between them and other men." (p.xv) Just reading these Interludes would make the book a worthwhile purchase alone.

From Michael and Janice:

"Most relationships start to die when a couple makes an agreement to ignore each other's issues. The life in a marriage comes from calling each other, from growing," agreed Janice. "And the minute you bring a third or fourth party into the mix, there's no hiding any more. You're out there. I've never met anyone I respect and love more than I do Michael. So, it's not about seeking something that's missing, in a way. It's about adding fun and enjoyment. It keeps our sex more alive, because it's not the same, it's broken up, variety in between. I think that's one of the reasons why sex is just off the charts for us." (p113)

I do not want to give the idea that all these people had an easy life, arriving at the point in their life where they can be fully their sexual selves. Some wrestle with the many issues of life.

Cindy's story exemplifies the struggles inherent in this lifestyle, where a wife confronts at once all of the many expectations and burdens placed upon women, that they must be sexy, but not too sexy, must be monogamous, must be a good mother, must be moral, and must always "have their act together." (p141)

Chapter titles include Monogamy and Marriage; Women, Wives, and Female Sexuality; Alternatives to Monogamy; Insatiable Wives throuth History; This Is No Easy Ride; and more that indicate Ley has done a wide range of research on this topic. Ley writes well, covers the topic extensively, and is an understanding interviewer. He has endnotes at the back of the book for each chapter, but I wish he had given references for more of his research claims. He also has an extensive Bibliography.

This is a comprehensive view of the overall subject of nonmonogamous sex, but focusing on highly sexual women. As such it should be read by therapists and sex educators for the knowledge it contains, and by researchers and that growing group of nonmonogamous people who need to know they are not all that unusual.

Return to Front Page