Adultery is illegal …sort of
Adultery has been in the news a lot lately, thanks largely to full disclosures by a porn star and a former Playboy bunny who claim that they both had sex with Donald Trump (not at the same time, of course). While President Trump’s alleged extramarital dalliances may be big news on CNN, there’s nothing new about presidents who have also allegedly strayed from the nest.
President John F. Kennedy allegedly sneaked women into the White House on a regular basis, including such luminaries as Marilyn Monroe and Judy Exner, the famous mafia go-between. He also allegedly took nude swims in the White House pool with two of his interns. Lyndon B. Johnson was even more brazen, allegedly having sex in the back room of Air Force One, while his wife was on board. And then there’s Bill Clinton, who allegedly had affairs with numerous women including Jennifer Flowers and Paula Jones, before romping around the Oval Office with his intern Monica Lewinsky. Of those presidents, only Clinton got into hot water, and that was for lying about sex, not actually engaging in it. A similar fate may await Trump who is being investigated, not for committing adultery, but for allegedly having his attorney and a magazine mogul pay hush money that could be construed as illegal campaign contributions. But the real question is, why don’t these powerful men (and men in general) ever pay a substantial price for committing adultery? After all, adultery is still a crime in 21 states, carrying prison time ranging from 30 days to five years, and fines ranging from $10 to $10,000. In Massachusetts, for example, adultery carries a three-year jail sentence and a fine of $500, while in Oklahoma, an unfaithful spouse can do five years in the slammer. In Wisconsin, the jail time can be three years and a whopping $10,000 fine. On the flip side, if you cheat on your spouse in North Carolina and get caught, the longest jail term you can face is 30 days. But marital cheaters fare the best in Maryland, where you only pay a $10 fine for messing around.
The problem is that while adultery is often used as leverage in divorce settlements, it is almost never prosecuted as a crime in and unto itself. For example, according to Divorcenet.com, in North Carolina, a cheating spouse can be sued by an aggrieved spouse only if the adulterous act took place within the past three years. Translation? Even in a divorce action, any person whose past indiscretions are discovered to have taken place more than three years prior gets a free pass. It’s easy to see, then, why most district attorneys feel that prosecuting an adulterer under antiquated statutes, is a low priority. Not so in many other nations. In parts of Asia, an adulterer is subject to painful caning. And in 15 countries (including Iran and Somalia), having sex outside of marriage will result in the offending party being stoned by a legally assembled mob.
American men who commit adultery are lucky to be living in a country where their crime isn’t treated as a crime, and where their spouses tend to throw lawsuits at them, rather than rocks. Of course, we don’t yet know what kind of throwing arm Melania has.
Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11 a.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).