What do you call a female cuckold?

Besides "Suzanne Craig."

Published September 5, 2007 4:52PM (EDT)

With every breaking political sex scandal -- and the ensuing awkward press conference/photo opp -- it becomes more and more tempting to imagine little thought balloons over the heads of the stoic, forbearing wives. ("Well, this explains a lot." "Game face game face game face." "Dude. Diapers?")

In her blog yesterday, Susie Bright went farther, offering a thoughtful, if partly speculative, psychosexual profile of the cuckolded [political] wife, and dropping in along the way the unsurprisingly underused Canterbury Tales-tastic term cuckquean. "The spectacle of a prominent woman standing by her man, now revealed to be an adulterer -- and of a bent that she could never satisfy -- is one of the bewildering aspects of the recent Prig-Freak scandals," Bright writes. "Some say there's one explanation for the wifely stoicism: 'She's protecting her investment.'"

Sure, sure. But what interests Bright more is what's behind that game face -- that is, how these wives feel about the (ostensible) sexual vacuum in their bedrooms -- and why we don't talk about that. "There's a part to the cuckquean's inevitable reaction that is completely denied, because of our cultural inability to imagine a woman's sexual outrage ... For all the spicy details we've learned recently about tearoom cruising or diaper fetishes -- the man's sex life -- when does the subject turn to the sexual lives of the cuckolded women?" she says. "It terrifies us that sex might actually matter to women as much as it does to men."

I'd argue that we are actually plenty able to imagine a woman's sexual outrage -- pruriently so, in fact. To me, that's why female sexual desire, at any rate, is so often portrayed as a "mania" ("nympho-," to be precise). And that seems to be where the "terror" comes in. The cuckquean may look cucumber cool at the press conference, live from Stepford -- but, Bright says, be afraid, very afraid. "The only thing that ever really belonged to her -- to her alone --was her sexual identity and self-confidence. Her STUFF. If she was deceived or deprived of those big eggs, or if she never knew what to do with them in the first place, she's been damaged, and it's no careless stripping," Bright writes. "There is a female hellfire, and if our myth-making of events fails to take in a cuckquean's sexual imperative, we're all in for a little taste of it."

P.S. Word nerds: It's neologism time! Anyone got anything more felicitous than cuckquean?

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of BreakupGirl.net. She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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