Is marital infidelity still off limits?

While Americans are split on casual sex, the vast majority (74 percent) disagree that it could be OK for a married person to have sex with someone other than their spouse. That estimate should not indicate that 26 percent think it’s OK to cheat; most of those who did not clearly disagree said they weren’t sure.

Figure 23.1It is sometimes permissible for a married person to have sex with someone other than his/her spouse
Very few Americans openly agree with the statement. Age seems to matter little here. Men are only slightly more likely than women to be tolerant of the idea of extramarital dalliances. Predictably, there is very little support for extramarital sex among religious Americans. In fact for every religious group except Buddhists, and among the religiously unaffiliated, a majority disagree that extramarital sex is acceptable. Nearly 20 percent of liberal Protestants and liberal Catholics agreed that extramarital sex might be OK, while nearly 30 percent of spiritual-but-not-religious persons did so. The highest rates come from Buddhists and agnostic/atheist/nothing, at just over and just under 40 percent, respectively.

Although recent trends have tracked toward greater sexual liberation and more permissive sexual attitudes, Americans still largely disapprove of married persons straying.


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