You've probably heard the word used on podcasts, in articles about sex or even alluded to in popular songs, but what is "cuckolding"? Turns out the word originally derives from the cuckoo bird, which has a tendency of laying its eggs in other birds' nests.
When a human is involved in the act of cuckolding, however, the eggs haven't yet been made. Instead, the term alludes to when a man or woman has sex with a partner who is already married to someone else. Sometimes, it's out of wedlock, and the experience is essentially just cheating with a fancy term. Other times, it's a fetish in which some married partners enjoy watching their spouse have sex with other partners.
As the BBC reported in 2009, the female bird's disloyalty to her mate is why we use the term with sometimes negative connotations.
"With that whiff of unfaithfulness, the carefree bird gave us the word 'cuckold,' which came in the Middle Ages to mean a husband with an errant wife," the BBC's Janet Williams wrote. "But there are more subtleties in that rude gesture. The word 'cuckold' also implies that the husband is unaware of his wife's infidelities. And he might only find out on the arrival of a baby — palpably not his. Which takes us back to the cuckoo."
However, it's not necessarily always a bad thing — in fact, sometimes it's what gets spouses off, creating healthy, happy marriages.
"I describe cuckolding as a marriage where the husband derives sexual pleasure from watching his wife have sex with a man who has a larger penis," YourTango contributing writer Dawn Michael wrote. "The couple forms an agreement in their marriage allowing the act of cuckold, which can vary in degree from role play for some couples to a lifestyle of actual cuckolding (the wife engages with sex with other men in front of her husband). This knowledge and tolerance of the wife's activities with other men makes the husband in such relationships a 'wittol,' properly speaking."
Cuckolding proves we truly never know what happens behind closed doors, and that's OK.
As the definition of marriage and the norms it entails continue to change and expand, it's important to remain open-minded about spouses and their relationships, considering it's truly none of your business where they prefer laying their eggs.