Do you go on Reddit and ask other men what they would do to your wife’s pussy? Do you and your wife get off on sharing photos of her to people you match with as a couple on Tinder? Do you love telling other men what you’d do to please their wives by writing erotica inspired by their photos and post it on anonymous internet forums?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you’re into candaulism.
Candaulism is a fetish in which a man desires to expose his sexual partner to another man in order to turn the other guy on. In its oldest iterations, this involved husbands arranging for their friends to spy on their wives as they took their baths or changed clothes. Today, though, candaulism is mostly (and expectedly) a digital phenomenon, with men sharing erotic images of their partners with their friends over text messages or posting questions like “What would you do to my wife’s pussy?” on the WouldYouFuckMyWife subreddit. (A telling caption from one of the photos posted there: “Wife giving a friend a blowjob in the jacuzzi. Isn’t she a great host?”).
If this sounds creepy, it’s because it often is. Candaulism rarely involved a female partner’s consent for most of history, and it’s the original fetish from which revenge porn was spawned. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of women who enjoy exposing themselves in this way, and couples who use this kind of exhibitionism as foreplay.
“Many men seem to enjoy seeing their girlfriends in sexy lingerie and clothing, but only in private,” explains a Redditor with the handle Kinksie. “When we go out with friends they want their partners to dress and behave modestly, while I seem to crave the very opposite! The more scantily and sexually suggestive she dresses and behaves, as well as the more desire she evokes, the happier I am. Luckily for me, she enjoys it as well. Both the attention and attraction she receives as well as the freedom to also feel sexy for other people (without fear of jealousy).”
Speaking from personal experience, it seems like half the couples on Tinder who are soliciting threesomes aren’t looking to have an actual threesome. Instead, they’re getting off on collecting proof of how much other people desire their partners. The same could probably be said about Kanye West, who seems to have candaulistic tendencies. Case in point: He visualized himself naked in bed with both Kim Kardashian and his ex-girlfriend Amber Rose in the music video for “Famous.” Not to mention, he once told Vanity Fair, “[I say] a lot of lines other wives would not allow a husband to say. But my wife also puts up photos that other husbands wouldn’t let them put up.”
According to David Ley, a clinical psychologist and board-certified sex therapist based in Albuquerque who has written a couple of books (Ethical Porn for Dicks and Insatiable Wives) that touch on these issues, candaulism has everything to do with how the men sending the images perceive themselves. Basically, men with a candaulism fetish feel hotter, powerful and more sexually viable when doing so, which is very different than the humiliation and shame cuckolds feel (and crave). Also, unlike cuckolding, candaulism isn’t about other men actually fucking their wives.
Earlier this week, I spoke to Ley about the fetish’s royal namesake; the different reasons why it gets guys off; and how today’s digital landscape has completely transformed the practice.
Candaulism is named after a Greek king from the 7th century B.C.
“The cover of my first book, Insatiable Wives, is an illustration of a painting called King Candaules,” Ley explains. “The origin of candaulism is the story of this Greek king named Candaules who had a smoking hot, beautiful wife he was very proud of. So one time, he had his advisor, Gyges, hide in the closet while she was getting undressed. Later the queen, whose name we don’t really know, went to Gyges and basically told him somebody was going to die for this insult — whether it was him or her husband. Ultimately then, Gyges and the wife conspired to kill Candaules.
“Gyges became king, and the story became a lesson for hundreds of years to come: Don’t go around showing off your wife to other people because bad things will happen. Thus, when this fetish was named in the late 1800s, it was called candaulism after Candaules. At the time, it was characterized by giving other men access to seeing your wife physically, such as having them hide in the closet or under the bed, or having them look through the windows. Later, men began carrying around naked pictures of their wife or girlfriend in their wallet. Hustler pioneered a version of this with their “Girl Next Door” section, where guys would send in Polaroids of their female partners back when Polaroids were the hot way to share photos.”
Michael Bublé can tell you all about the psychology behind candaulism.
“As for why guys do this? If you remember that old song, ‘Save the Last Dance for Me,’ it’s the exact same thing,” Ley explains, citing the 1960 Drifters hit that Bublé covered back in 2005. “That song is about a guy who lets his wife flirt with other men, knowing that those men really want her, but also knowing that at the end of the night, she’s going home with him. The last dance is his. There’s pride in that. It makes guys feel like they’ve won — they feel powerful. They’ve got these sexy, beautiful women who want to be with them instead of their other male admirers. Interestingly enough, the prouder the man feels in this scenario, the more he views his female partner as sexually attractive and desirable.”
Your sperm also like it.
“Sperm competition plays into this, too,” Ley says. “Male sexuality evolved to compete with the presence or cues of other males, so by showing one’s female partner to other guys and them expressing sexual arousal or interest in her, it spurs the male partner to be sexually competitive for his own female partner. This also increases male status to a certain degree. Men have a social element to our sexuality because males grow up learning about sexuality from other men. There’s a performative element to male sexuality, where men gain sexual confidence and a greater sense of their own masculinity from the way others respond to them. This gets at the whole trophy wife thing as well.”
In the Internet Age at least, don’t rule out quid pro quo either.
“There’s also a brotherhood thing happening in regards to the sharing element,” Ley explains. “The men who have enjoyed looking at pictures of other men’s wives and girlfriends online want to give back to that community. They want to pass on some of the pleasure they’ve received by now sharing pictures of their own wives and girlfriends, as opposed to just being a freeloader.”
Don’t call it cuckolding. Or hotwifing.
“Candaulism is primarily about exhibitionism,” Ley says. “It’s about exhibiting one’s wife in some manner. And while hotwifing also involves showing off one’s wife, it comes with the intent or goal of ultimately sharing her sexually with another man. Similarly, while the way candaulism overlaps with cuckolding is significant, the key distinction is that candaulism involves sharing without the shame and humiliation aspect that defines cuckolding.”
Um, never try this at home without her consent.
“Often, women are upset about candaulism because they feel like it involves men treating women like property or pieces of meat. Sadly, often times, they are. There are some real consent violations that can happen in these scenarios. Men are taking photos and sharing photos online and in person without their partner’s consent. In some cases, this turns into revenge porn scenarios where women’s lives are dramatically affected in negative ways.
“That said, a lot of women are exhibitionists who consent to candaulism. It’s a safer way of engaging in exhibitionism or group play without risking sexually transmitted diseases, assault or harming your relationship. Plus, a lot of women like the thrill of people seeing how sexy they are. However, a man should never assume what will turn his partner on without discussing it. Either way, a man shouldn’t just share a photo because he thinks his wife would be turned on by it. He needs to find out if it’s something she’d actually enjoy first.”
It doesn’t really work in reverse — that is, there’s no such thing as a female candaulist.
“While women are discussing the sexuality, body and performance of their male partners with their friends, they aren’t sharing these kinds of images of them in the same way,” Ley says. “Why women aren’t sharing such images or getting as much of a thrill out of it as men, I don’t know. But as women become more and more empowered to express their sexual desires, this might change. That’s why I’m excited to see what the future of all of this looks like.”