Sex Q&A: Is Cheating Ever Justified?

When it’s More Than Just a Roll in the Hay

Joanie from Wake Forest, North Carolina asks:

What do you think of the Petraus situation? Society is condemning him for adultery, but he also condemned others for affairs. Do you think sex outside of marriage is ever justified? I’m so confused about that.

Liam’s Response:

Greetings, Joanie, and thanks for such a thoughtful inquiry. The resignation of General Petraeus from his position as director of the Central Intelligence Agency due to an affair was certainly quite the scandal. Since our society has about the same attention span as my aging terrier, the entire episode seems to have been pretty much forgotten. But taking time to consider it now does bring up some very interesting questions. In order to understand my own, rather pragmatic, view on the matter, you will have to try to shut out the moral bleating of the masses and tune into the essence of critical thought.

Society condemns individuals for pretty much everything, while committing the most heinous offenses imaginable as a whole. That has almost always been the case where humans come together in groups. If you Google the Petraeus affair, you come up with that universal, indignant chant “cheater, cheater, bad, bad man…” It sounds like a lot of preteen playground nonsense. A quick, unbiased look into General Petraeus’ background reveals an honorable soldier and capable leader—a man who led his troops through blood baths into victory. He is a person worthy of respect. In regard to the moral question of his marriage, I personally don’t give a rat’s ass what he did or didn’t do, and neither should you. However, when it comes to a person who is the director of one of the world’s most powerful intelligence networks making heinous errors in judgment—errors which could potentially put the national security of the United States at risk—that’s another matter.

Indulging in this affair, General Petraeus committed an act that was not only inappropriate in terms of protocol, but also a text book example of what not to do when you are in a sensitive leadership position regarding international espionage. And he should have known better. They teach this stuff in spy class 101. Some may argue that his lover was just some reporter, and not a foreign spy, but how the heck do we know for sure what she is or isn’t?

Sex has always been a useful tool in the hands of agencies involved with espionage and intelligence. Pleasure is a potent motivator and any good operative knows how to use it. There is even a technical term for this type of intelligence operation. It’s called the Honey Trap, and pretty much every government has used it in various ways for time out of mind, from femme fatale European beauties bedding Western male agents for information, to homosexual blackmail schemes, to the use of Romeo agents by the East Germans—trained male spies who were sent to West Germany to meet, court and marry women who worked in sensitive positions with government leaders. And damn if it didn’t work.

In the 1950s there was an East German agent known as Felix, who met and courted a Bonn woman named Norma, who just happened to work at the Chancellor’s office with a whole lot of high ranking government officials. They were married, Felix got the answers out of Norma he was looking for and then he disappeared. In the intelligence community, sex is rarely just sex and when the director of the CIA is having an affair with a journalist, it’s more than just a roll in the hay. It’s something that could very easily put us all at risk.

In the end, it’s not for me to say if adultery is right or wrong. Just like it’s not the place of any priest or politician to tell anyone what their bedroom business should be. But I would like to speak on the strange issue of loyalty, which is something that seems to be in mighty short supply these days. I think people get confused when I speak of scientific evidence in regard to issues of monogamy and sex. Make no mistake, people do manage to remain loyal to their partners, from time to time, for various reasons. It might not be natural for humans to be sexually monogamous, but that doesn’t mean that loyalty has to be sacrificed to that simple truth. A sign of character or loyalty is not quite as dead as some might assume. But at the core of it is compassion, understanding, tolerance and yes, forgiveness. The problem is, it doesn’t come easy, and we live in a world where we think everything should. Anyway, those are my thoughts on the matter. Thanks for asking.


Do you have a question for Liam? Ask Liam your question now.

8 thoughts on “Sex Q&A: Is Cheating Ever Justified?

  1. ann

    Nice write-up ……… my thought for tomorrows to come ……. it takes deep love to be honest enough and deep love to be compassionate enough to eliminate the word “cheater” from a couple’s lexicon

  2. Vivian

    What an incredibly thought “full” response. I keep thinking about Mark Sanford. They say the women voters are saying, he broke his vow. But I have to say, he is now engaged to the woman he called his soulmate (and was ridiculed for) and he isn’t offering a mea culpa. There is something honest here, and I can live with honesty, especially if it isn’t convenient or self-serving.


  3. athena

    Hi Liam,

    You surely are a peacock among the brown sparrows. I have learned so much from your insights and articles. You remind me of my dearly departed father. You always get to the bone of the matter with a heart, and that is a rare quality. You are able to blend AIR with WATER i.e. critical thinking with emotional compassion. I applaud you for that. Thank you for your candid article. Kudos my friend:)

  4. suzi johnson

    Brilliantly written, right on point with the particular situation. My question is: If monogamy was never supposed to “be”, then why are our expectations geared in that direction?

  5. Aida Bon

    Liam my Dear, The first thing I do every sunday is read your column and wonder if you will ever answer my question: When are your columns going to be published. You have the title already: “SEX Q & A in the 21st century by Liam”
    What a beautiful sentence today: You will have to try to shut out the moral BLEATING of the masses………….Will they stop bleating in this century? I doubt it. Religion is bleating 2000 years!
    Love, with patience. Aida (The Netherlands) Maybe you should write an article about the subject POLYAMORY

  6. marc from the uk

    Hello Liam and Joanie. What a great question, and more so what a great great answer. last night I attended a 60 year presentation to an honourable member of my order, the Royal Atedilluvian order of Buffaloes, we are a charitable order whose beliefs are, justice, truth and philanthropy. yes we practice our lodges in secret, however we are also human. the brother in question had three sponsors who had known him for some considerable time, he is 81 now, now pardon me if I am wrong, but I feel society is different now, he is a man who achieved such glowing references to his life and charitable work and character, I was in awe of this brother whom I am able to call a friend. The key here is MORAL FIBRE and CHARACTER, in the audience of hundreds who travelled across our Country , England to witness and partake in our ceremony, where what looked like to some, just old people!? NO, I saw people who were once young, some handsome, some beautiful, who have lived through wars, illnesses, tragedies, to name but a few, however they were brought up on beliefs, religions, and familiy values which is sadly lacking in our society. The imply truth is, Petraus was simply drunk with power, and the lady in question was attracted to that, this has played out in society for as long as we can remember and will continue to do so, we are simply programmed to be attracted to,or attracting for a sexual partner, and society today alows for looser standards and all to willing to forgive and forget quickly, as we say in the UK, todays newspapers are tomorrows chip papers ( We used to eat our fish and cips out of newspapers until some muppets at health and safety banned it! ) The moral of this article I write is that people are no longer as principled and honourable as they used to be, we live in an almost hypocritical world, and they do ot make grand parents and parents like they used too !! we are more wordly wise and educated than education itself.People do not fear religion or the bible like they used too. Liam mentioned East Germany, I was brought up there, my parents were in military intelligence, even n the UK as a child I was taught to be wary of stangers, briefed what to say or not to say from birth and to report anything unusual, as child it was exciting, and yes honey trappers were used, and people were still caught out, why? becouse they are human. Petraus is no different, he has fundamental human needs, and risk is one of them!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *