In fiction, a "cuckold' is a a man whose Love Interest has sex with someone else, either to his dismay or without his knowledge. The overall theme is an Adult Fear of being the loser in a Cock Fight. This can be portrayed for drama, for fetish, or even for laughs, but its core relies on the "Bull" (the woman's lover) being triumphant in some way, or every way, to the detriment of the cuckold. The deeper the shame, victimization, or deception of the cuckold, the stronger the trope. This is typically highlighted in three ways: the despair of the cuckold, the triumph of the Bull, or the corruption of the woman. Or all three.
When portrayed as fetish, focus is typically placed on the sex and sensual aspects. When portrayed for drama, it' a painful situation that NO ONE would want, and the sensual and prurient elements are downplayed for emotional angst. Sometimes the cuckold will be both aroused and hurt by the experience, which only fuels his torment. For this reason, female "Bulls" are uncommon, but not unheard of. Some stories involve the nonconsensual rape of the woman, with her hating the experience every bit that her man did. However, the momentary conquest of someone else's woman is more than sufficient to qualify as a "triumph". Sometimes the cuckold initiates it (for example, pimping out his love for money or letting her take a lover with his blessing). The execution varies, as the trope is a sliding scale, with anywhere from very few, or nearly all, of the aforementioned elements included.
Needless to say, this is an extremely polarizing trope, but one that demands we emphasize that Tropes Are Not Bad.
WARNING: By virtue of our site's Content Policy, DO NOT add porn examples, and maintain No Lewdness, No Prudishness for all entries.
See also: Cuckold Horns.
May involve Forced to Watch, Wife Swap, Sexual Extortion, Villainous Crush, Law of Inverse Fertility, Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe, Romancing the Widow (bonus points if the husband isn't actually dead, or comes Back from the Dead), Chocolate Baby, Go Seduce My Archnemesis, and Did Not Get the Girl.
See our Analysis Page for more information (detailed below in the YKTTW).
The literal definition of a "cuckold" is a man whose wife has sex with other men. And that's it.
In everyday use, it is almost always considered a perjorative reference to men whose wives have extramarital affairs without his consent, but it is not unheard of for it to be used for men who willingly allow their wives to sleep with other people.
However, in fetish circles, "Cuckolding" is not limited to cheating, need not involve an actual married couple, and (believe it or not) need not be negative. The actual application of the fetish varies from situation to situation, but it typically involves a man who has strong romantic feelings for a woman, but her finding greater sexual and/or romantic satisfaction with someone else.
When portrayed as fetish, focus on the sensual acts are played up, but this variation is very Love It or Hate It, as almost everyone outside of the niche audience shows utter comtempt for it. For male opponents, the idea that a woman they love could betray them is extremely painful. For female opponents, the idea that they are just someone's "property", to either be pimped out, or conquered, is disgusting. Harsher interpretations often accuse any man who fails to satisfy his woman, or fails to protect her fidelity, to be no real man, and any woman who dares have her body used by anyone except her husband to be a filthy, debase whore, even if she was forced.
The Distaff Counterpart to a Cuckold is called a "Cuckquean". However, due to gender stereotypes, cuckqueaning is not nearly as invested a trope as cuckolding.
For one thing, there's the male > female sense of "ownership" that fuels the trope. Further, in many circles, men were almost expected to have mistresses, but women were punished harshly for straying. Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe is yet another factor—many cuckold stories involve a man raising a child that isn't his without ever knowing his wife had an affair. That's not possible with a cuckquean without either some real clever plotting, or delving into Speculative Fiction.
Some theories have touted the fear of Cuckoldry as the Bigger Bad that controls every single form of misogyny. Women can carry and give birth to their children, and men can't, thus before the Daddy DNA Test was invented (which means, for more than 99.9% of humankind's existence) the only way to be certain of paternity was to avoid cuckoldry at all costs. This is why cuckoldry is seen as the ultimate insult for a man and the ultimate triumph for his nemesis. And thus, women are reduced to objects valued solely for their domesticity, virginity and purity. Many societies saw this as a fair trade-off: the woman's certainty over the maternity of her children is a privilege and power she holds over men, so men are "entitled" to other forms of power to compensate.
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Anime & Manga
Nozoki Ana: A very huge, hurtful example that many readers were predicting for ages. Not only was Yuri Kotobuki, the girl in this situation, cheating on weekends, but she decided she'd rather have sex with her rich boyfriend instead of spend Saturday with her other boyfriend, the lead male Kido. On Kido's own birthday.
Alluded to in Air Gear, with Hako referring to Ringo as "NTR # 1" and accusing her of cockblocking either her or Kururu, as they both squabble to become Ikki's link turner. Ikki chooses Ringo anyway.
In the DC UniverseMultiverse, the Crime Syndicate are mirror duplicates of the Justice League, right down to Evil Twins of Superman (Ultraman), Batman (Owlman), and Wonder Woman (Superwoman). In this reality, Superwoman is in a very explicit affair with Owlman. Ultraman is very aware he's being cuckolded; he just can't do anything about it because of Owlman's blackmail material on him.
This actually occurs to the canon Superman, too. No, really. In the New 52 universe, Superman (as Clark Kent) visits Lois Lane's apartment and finds her very obviously post-coitus with her new boyfriend. A shocked and humiliated Clark can't do anything but walk away, and as he leaves, his Super Hearing picks up Lois telling her boyfriend that she has no feelings for Clark whatsoever, and the two start to resume their love-making.
In one Post Crisis storyarc written by Joe Kelly, Lois spends a lot of nights away from home, telling Clark "not to wait up" as she leaves out in a sultry outfit, usually gone until morning. A cliffhanger later shows her being very cozy and romantic with Lex Luthor...until it's later revealed that this was actually The Parasite, in Lois's form. Much Brain Bleach was passed afterward.
This was the initial fate of the protagonist of Wanted, which is what prompts him to become a misanthrope and turn to a life of crime.
In Spawn, the eponymous character is a mercenary named Al Simmons that comes Back from the Dead after a Deal with the Devil to find out that his wife has remarried his best friend, had two children with him, and is much happier with him than she ever was with Al.
Indecent Proposal is all about this trope. A couple desperate for money agree for the wife to have sex with a billionaire, and the experience tears the two of them apart. She winds up temporary living, and having a sexual relationship with, the billionaire, and he is portrayed as an overall better man than her husband in most ways.
The beginning of Wanted has the protagonist Wesley in a relationship with a girlfriend who is blatantly cheating on him with his best friend, and him being powerless to do anything about it.
Jim Carrey's character in Me, Myself & Irene is an Extreme Doormat that the opening makes explicitly clear has a wife having sex with and bearing children from a black man. He raises their children himself and she eventually leaves him for her lover, but this has a somewhat positive note in that the boys (obviously black), all grow up to unconditionally love him, and consider him their real father.
In 8 Mile, the protagonist Jimmy Smith (Eminem) walks in on his Love Interest (portrayed by the late Brittany Murphy), having sex with Wink, one of his friends. After a Cock Fight that Jimmy wins, Wink makes a Face-Heel Turn and joins a gang that later beat up Jimmy. During the rap battle at the finale, the fact that he was cuckolded is used to attempt to humiliate Jimmy. Jimmy comes out on top, anyway.
As noted above, A Clockwork Orange plays this trope heavy on the drama with a disturbing rape scene.
Live Action TV
In Go On, the Extreme Doormat Danny was serving in Afganistan and so missed his wife giving birth—and also missed the conception. After he came back his wife made him accept her Bull living with them while they continue their affair. He finally files for divorce towards the end of the first season.
In an episode of MASH there's a threat of an air raid so the nurses are sent away. It turns out it's just a "propaganda bomb," with leaflets dropped including "Harry Truman is sleeping with your wife."
In other episodes it's played more dramatically (if hypocritically) as Henry, Trapper and some of the other married personnel worry that their wife is cheating on them, even as they carry on dalliances at the 4077th.
The Breaking Benjamin song "Last to Know" is about a man whose girlfriend left him for a former friend of his (whom the song is sung to). The song makes it clear that the affair had been going on for a long time before he found out, but he was clueless about it until she actually left.
The Irish ballad "Seven Drunken Nights" is sung from the perspective of a man whose wife is cheating on him.
Is it OK to directly edit here? If it isn't I apologise and will delete.Thank you The Dubliners' version of Seven Drunken Nights only covers the first five and apologises for the remaining two being too hot to perform in public. In a more permissive age and country, Northern English folk singer/comedian Mike Harding resets the song in Rochdale, Lancashire, and provides the two missing verses.
Jairo, "Para verte feliz" ("To see you happy"). It's sung from the POV of a guy who knows his beautiful girlfriend's old flame is coming to town and chooses to rather have them almost tongue-kissing in front of him rather than confronting and then losing her, since he's that much of a Love Martyr towards her.
The Rhianna song "Unfaithful" is written from the perspective of a woman that's cheating, and feels guilty about it. She specifically sings about how the affair is hurting him because he knows she's happy with her lover.
In Buddy Holly's "Midnight Shift" Annie is dressing up in tight clothes and going out late at night. The implication is either that she's partying or she's prostituting herself.
Blues, Country, Bluegrass, and Western music have a lot of songs with this subject matter. Kenny Rogers, for example, has used it often in his career.
Ancient Bloodlines speaks of a vampiric Babylonian priestess' lesbian lover being taken from her forcibly by the En emperor. Turns out the lover eventually fell for her abductor in typical NTR fashion. Unlike other cuckold stories, the priestess got her revenge on them by creating the Iltani and edimmu.
In Molière's The School For Wives Arnolphe, who is engaging in Wife Husbandry in order to keep from becoming a cuckold, is advised by a friend that cuckoldry can be lived with as long as you avoid the two extreme responses (raging against the heavens or bragging about it).
In Grand Theft Auto IV, Niko Bellic discovers his cousin Roman's girlfriend has been sleeping with a small-time gangster in exchange for protecting Roman. Roman is clearly upset by the revelation, but he relents in order to avoid making his situation worse. Niko, however, is horrified by his cousin's failure to act and flat out kills the gangster for what he did.
In Dragon Ball Abridged, Yamcha (the typical Butt Monkey of the group) is dumped by Bulma and becomes distressed when Vegeta (the man indirectly responsible for his murder, and who bullies and flexes his muscle against Yamcha constantly) starts a sexual relationship with her, where she becomes pregnant by him. In a Bad Future timeline, he is Driven to Suicide when he finds out.
In Sailor Nothing, Seiki is forced to watch while his Yamiko rapes Himei.
This is a central plot point of Doug Walker's movie, Dragonbored. The protagonist creates a barbarian character in a thinly-veiled Skyrim spoof that gets brought into the real world and begins to live his life better than the videogame-obsessed protagonist. This includes being a better companion to his girlfriend, Amanda. Highlights include flat out telling her to her face that he considers women to be property (to which she responds "I Can Change Him"), sweet talking her into fetching beers for a party (while o she's naked from the waist down), and changing her from a staunch feminist into someone who likes being won over by a more dominant man.
In Futurama: Benders Big Score, Hermes temporarily loses his body and has his head put in a jar. During this time, his wife Labarbara leaves him (along with their son) and goes back to her ex-husband, Barbados Slim, who is superior to Hermes in just about every possible way, including being Hunkier, more athletic, and a better sexual partner. However, Labarbara later leaves Barbados again when Hermes helps save the world, and later episodes reveal that this situation is actually reversed for Barbados, who is jealous of Labarbara's pure affectionate love for Hermes.
The Real Life "Tokyo Rose" allegedly used this trope against American G Is fighting against Imperial Japan during World War II. The legend was that she would come on radio stations between songs and berate the soldiers for leaving their wives and girlfriends at home, where other men would be there to "comfort" them (especially if they died). However, in truth, there was no "Tokyo Rose"—and the only known equivalent was actually broadcasting pro-Allied messages to BOOST their morale.
This was a common Axis tactic used to demoralize Allied soldiers and to divide British and American soldiers. British soldiers on the Italian front, by 1943, had in many cases been fighting continuously since the beginning of the North African war in 1940 and had not seen home for up to four years. There had already been at least one mutiny from long-serving soldiers who felt strongly that being sent to Italy after three years fighting in Egypt and Libya was not fair. They felt they had done their bit and that new units being raised in Britain should be sent out to relieve them. Anxiety as to what their wives and girlfriends were doing in a Britain perceived as full of bone-idle war-avoiding Americans with money to spend note yes, not the whole truth and a slur on American soldiers who did fight hard, often without even seeing Britain. But it was very widely held- while they were out there fighting the war - was fertile ground for German propaganda. British morale was not helped by German propaganda leaflets pointing this out.
American soldiers received similar leaflets asking if they knew what their wives and sweethearts were up to with men at home who'd avoided the draft. The Germans also played on commonly held fears about black men, Mexicans, and especially draft-dodging Jews who were taking good care to stay at home, make money out of the war, and exploit a surplus of gentile American women who were suddenly available.
Five hats means that five tropers think it is ready to publish.
You are saying that you think this draft is ready to be published. That means the description is not ambiguous,
it doesn't duplicate an existing trope, there are at least three examples, and the title makes sense.
Is that what you meant to do?
You are saying this draft has a ready-to-publish hat it does not deserve and you are taking it back.