4 Sep 2022


The Concept of Adultery according to Michael Wreen

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What is adultery? It has several definitions depending on a situation or circumstance as explained by Michael Wreen in his descriptions. 

In his explanation, Wreen description is that this is a case of adultery sine both are aware of the commitment X has to Z. Y is aware he is having intercourse with a married person, and X commits a sin by having sex outside his marriage with another person. As Wreen explains, according to Pauline’s principle of mutual ownership of each other’s bodies i.e. a woman owns his husband body and a man owns his wife’s body, engaging in sex with a person who is not your wife as in the case of X, is committing adultery. Having non-marital relationship is seen as adultery since one has to take care of his body and preserve it to his or her husband. For this case Y, who is not married commit nonmarital adultery and sex outside marriage is a sin. 

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X and Z who are married to each other and therefore do not commit adultery when engaging in sex since, one, they do it for pressure which married people are allowed to do even in Christian perspective. Even though they fantasize of other people, probably who are their lovers this according to Christian’s beliefs is mental adultery which will not hurt the other partner since it’s not seen on the outside. Wreen continues to explain that if Z is for some reason is not able to satisfy X in marital obligations, through an agreement is it permitted to invite Y to share their bed. This is not adultery since there is consent from each party. It would have only been adulterous if X took Y to a hotel room and had sex without the consent of Z. to answer Soble question, if X coerces Y into having sex against Ys will, this is rape and not even adultery since for an act of sex to be turned adulterous, both parties must participate in it willingly. 

As discussed from the third paragraph, sex which is of force, commonly termed as rape has no adultery in it. This is because the rapist didn’t enter into any agreement with the victim. In such a case, the victim y has not committed adultery and neither X. But X has committed a sin again Z since he had sex with his wife without his consent. Sleeping with another man’s wife or another wife’s man without the consent of the third party is what Wreen in this paragraph describe as adultery. However, if X engages in sex with Y without the knowledge that Y is married to Z, then Y is the one committing adultery and not X since x does not recognize Z as the husband of Y. In the same case, if Y sleeps with X believing X is divorced or widowed, and X knows he has a wife, both are committing adultery since, at the back of their mind, they are both cheating their spouses. As explained by Martin (1994, 76-91), any sexual act between two wrong parties who enter into it willingly, despite the motive is adulterous. When we talk of wrong parties, it means a spouse who is cheating his other partner whether with a married or unmarried party. 

Wreen emphasizes on adultery as a case whereby one partner cheats on his or her spouse by having an intimate sexual act. In this case, if X and Yare both happily married, it doesn’t mean they have no right to feelings towards opposite sex. It’s human if we can look it from another perspective to be sexually attracted to the opposite sex whether one is married or not. For X and Y, they can hold and resist their feelings to just a simple kiss or caresses which don’t end up in sexual acts. Such a case is comparable to the acts in paragraph three, where one partner has sex with his spouse but fantasizes as having sex with his or her lover. Christians term it as mental adultery, but it’s not adultery as per say since it does not involve sharing a bed. 

Wreen definition tries to look at all causes for adultery. From one cause he defends the other, however, much has been said but the truth of the matter is adultery exists and hurts the other party who was cheated. According to Baker & Wininger (2009), in many cases, adultery can result in divorce, and this is one major consequence as to why spouses should remain faithful to each other. This is because it destroys marriages and lives as well. The offended spouse may suffer from emotional distraction as well as unmet needs that may lead him or her into sinning. According to McEvoy (2011), many spouses who engage in immoral acts argue that this is just casual sex which is a necessity and cannot be avoided. They even argue that such affairs even spice up marriages and hence marital bliss. However, from another perspective, this is seen as a weakness and more so deceiving. 


Baker, R., & Wininger, K. (2009). Philosophy and sex. 

Martin, M. W. (1994). Adultery and Fidelity. Journal of Social Philosophy , 25 (3), 76-91. 

McEvoy, A. L. (Ed.). (2011). Sex, Love, and Friendship: Studies of the Society for the Philosophy of Sex and Love: 1993-2003 (Vol. 232). Rodopi. 

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 16). The Concept of Adultery according to Michael Wreen.


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