Josephine Ho, an English professor and coordinator of the center for the Study of Sexuality at National Central University, has dedicated herself to womens rights for years. She shared her views with `Taipei Times’ staff reporter Jimmy Chuang on whether it’s important to maintain a monogamous relationship.
Taipei Times: What is your view regarding the decriminalization of adultery?
Josephine Ho (何春蕤): We are living in a more complicated society that contains complicated relationships. My personal concern toward this issue is the message that has been sent out by those who consider adultery a crime.
It may be considered a sin, but it is actually a crime in our Criminal Code. I think that by considering “adultery” a crime, we are actually encouraging people to be vengeful and hateful toward those who have developed other possibilities in intimate relationships. As a result, we are also encouraging people to enforce a very rigid concept of loyalty or faithfulness, which I consider a severe constraint on the human spirit.
TT: What do you think we should do to decriminalize adultery?
Ho: The first thing to do is to get rid of the term “adultery,” because I think “adultery” implies a historical concept that a marriage bond is considered to be totally exclusive.
People criticize “adultery” for interfering with the intimate relationship between couples. But there are a lot of people or things that could cause the same kind of interference, such as your mother-in-law, your children, your job or your hobbies. Yet, many wives may complain that their husbands spend too much time going bowling, but they will not treat “going bowling” with such an hateful attitude as they do the women suspected of having a relationship with the husband. Husbands may complain that wives spend too much time with the kids. But they will not hate the kids for that.
But whenever we enter a triangular relationship that involves another woman (or man), suddenly, there is a flare-up of strong emotions which, I think, is more likely to destroy the relationship than anything else.
TT: How would you suggest a “plaintiff” or “victim” of adultery protect herself or himself once adultery is decriminalized?
Ho: It’s interesting that whenever people mention the decriminalizing of adultery, they quickly think of “protection” as if they should be on guard all the time for fear some woman may come and snatch the husband away. The fact is, many people maintain their intimate relationships even in the presence of a third party. They are not as fragile as you think.
And also, when pose this question in terms of “victim” or “protection,” you are actully presuming that all these people who are committing adultery or who have other relationships with other people are men. Well, these days, a lot of women are having affairs. I am not sure their husbands would concerned about “protection” in these cases. Protection from what?
Even if protection is needed, I think it should be handled under the Civil Code rather than the Criminal Code. The Criminal Code does not protect victims. It only increases their self-righteousness. And the Criminal Code only increases or strengthens a person’s hatefulness or vengefulness toward another because the whole thing is considered a crime. By treating adultery as a criminal matter, you are only leaving this matter in the hands of public outrage or accusation.
Right now, when we are talking about “protection,” we are only talking about protection in the context of a failing relationship, as if we can make up something for a woman’s loss. But “protection” should be directed at a woman’s right of self-decision even in a perfect relationship. That is the only form of protection for any kind of woman in an intimate relationship. Protection is the way that everybody should live in this world.
TT: Do you suggest lawmakers amend our Civil Code?
Ho: Oh, absolutely. I think, as soon as we remove the entire adultery section from the Criminal Code, people will begin to look at the Civil Code to make sure that their rights are taken care of.
But I think it is also a good chance for people to think about maintaining their own space, thier own financial resources and their own independence within any kind of intimate relationship.
TT: Do you think a woman or a man should be loyal to his or her partner? Do you think it’s an important thing?
Ho: Well, that depends on how you define “loyal.” For me, “loyalty” means that I feel good about you and I take care of you and we have a good relationship. But “loyalty” does not equal “exclusivity.” I can love you and love other people at the same time. “Loyalty” becomes a problem only when I turn all the way to another person and I don’t love you or care about you anymore.
Being loyal is a positive thing. But that does not mean a person’s spirit should be limited. Many people define “loyalty” as rejecting all others but your “mate,” but in fact, you could take more than one person into your life.
Many women don’t care if their husbands love them or not. What they care about is that their husbands don’t love somebody else. That is a terrible definition of “loyalty.”
For me, if my man has another woman, but he is still good to me, we still communicate, the exclusivity does not poison our relationship, then I think it will be just as good.
“Jealousy” is an emotion that we must learn to deal with. “Possessiveness” is also a feeling that we need to get rid of. Because possessiveness causes a total domination of power, and that shouldn’t be the nature of any intimate relationship.
People have to learn to deal with their emotions instead of letting themselves out with vengeful and hateful behavior. A lot of people kill their rivals in an intimate relationship. And those who believed in exclusivity are the ones who kill their Casanovas. It just creates more tragedies.