It turns out there's one thing all Americans — Republicans, Democrats, East Williamsburg hipsters — agree on: We're nearly all anti-adultery. In her new, sure-to-be-big-deal book, Lust in Translation: The Rules of Infidelity from Tokyo to Tennessee, Pamela Druckerman, a former foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, explores what she calls the Marriage Industrial Complex, a pervasive network of people working to help you conquer adultery — mental-health professionals, religious organizations, and laymen who have put their personal experience with cheating to public use. "In no other place in the world do people assume that talking about their adultery was an act of public service," Druckerman, who's traveled the world, visiting marriage fairs in Dallas and probing strangers in all-you-can-eat Uzbek cafés, for details on their cheating habits and attitudes, told us from her Paris apartment this week. And New York, she found, is a city of faithful urbanites, toeing the same guilt-laced line toward adultery as the rest of America.
We're not a city of carefree adulterers?
New York is in many ways a perfect storm. You have urban hipsters, unmarried, and then a lot of young married people, and they are probably the top demographics for infidelity. But I found that even among urban hipsters, there's a real puritanical streak. If they are married, they value monogamy as much as anyone else in America.
So is cheating happening at all here?
You have Wall Street, which is a sexual culture of its own — these bankers work 80 hours a week, and there's the thinking that you are entitled to life pleasures, and one of them is women. On Wall Street, people have these bragging affairs with strippers. I also interviewed a corporate lawyer and a paralegal, and they described how the partners cheated and that sets the tone for what was allowed in the firm.
What about among the Hasidic community in Brooklyn?
I do know that the men who cheat are obsessed with blow jobs because it's not technically adultery. But then, Bill Clinton said the same thing. Also, theirs is such a closed world, so when they finally escape it, even just for a night, they go a little crazy and end up in strip clubs or sleazy massage parlors, where even a slightly more sophisticated cheater would never go.
It seems you set out already knowing that Americans are more puritanical than the rest of the word.
They are more puritanical. Looking at the statistics, the only countries that are as disapproving of affairs are Ireland and the Philippines. Americans disapprove more than anyone else, but they behave the same way that everyone else does. Why bother having all this guilt if you are going to behave like the French anyway? —Emma Pearse