Walker—an assistant professor of sociology at Missouri State University—does research that forces us to rethink not only female sexuality but our most cherished and basic beliefs about what women do and are, what they want and how they behave, and the role that context plays. Walker explodes several of our most dearly held notions about female infidelity: that women cheat only when they are unhappy in their marriages; that unlike men, they seek emotional connection, not sexual gratification, from affairs; and that like Diane Lane’s character in Unfaithful, who literally falls and skins her knee, thus attracting the attention of the man with whom she has tryst after hot tryst, women “just” stumble into affairs.  Walker, who has blonde hair, favors red lipstick, and speaks with a touch of a Southern drawl, is well aware that her findings demolish certain familiar stereotypes. She is also conscious of the profound discomfort this might cause, and more than once told me she hoped that readers of the book she wrote based on her study of female infidelity, The Secret Life of the Cheating Wife, would not shoot the messenger as they took in just how different women who commit infidelity are from our comforting clichés about them. But her email signature includes a quote from the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, one she lives: “My goal is to contribute to preventing people from being able to utter all kinds of nonsense about the social world.”--Wednesday Martin, author of Untrue: Why Nearly Everything we Believe about Women, Lust, and Infidelity is Wrong

In certain marriages, behind smiling family photographs, are everyday women who carry dangerous and delectable secrets. In this revealing new book, they tell their stories. Unwilling to divorce, but frustrated by sexual boredom and the tedium of modern middle class life, their affairs serve as a release valve for an otherwise stultifying reality. Full of contradictions, Walker’s interviewees offer a window onto the ‘cheating wife,’ one that challenges our assumptions about women, power, morality, and monogamy itself.
— Lisa Wade, Occidental College


This fascinating and well written book develops a sociology of infidelity, bringing insight into marriage, monogamy, relationships, and internet dating that will be useful for researchers examining relationships, professors teaching classes about the family, sexuality, and gender, and counselors of patients who are involved with infidelity. I was intrigued by the details of how women who cheat think about their actions, form and negotiate the details of their affairs, and the benefits and drawbacks they get from those affairs. The distinct social norms around affairs reveal what we often take for granted in other relationships. Many of my assumptions about affairs were overturned, and it was a fun read too!
— Arielle Kuperberg, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro


The Secret Life of the Cheating Wife challenges gendered stereotypes and expectations of what and how women desire. Using compelling data, Walker demonstrates both diversity and commonality among unfaithful women and, in a truly sociological way, makes sense of the complexity of this stigmatized identity. A great read for anyone interested in sexualities in the digital age.
— Beth Montemurro, Penn State University, Abington

Book Review of The Secret Life of the Cheating Wife: Power, Pragmatism, and Pleasure in Women’s Infidelity appearing in Sexualities by Cristen Dalessandro (click to download)