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People Debate Whether Cheating Should Be Made Illegal — And What Punishment Is Justified

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Couple kissing, Reddit post

Cheating should be a crime punishable by law — according to a woman on Reddit, anyway.

"Married people that cheat in their relationship ruin so many lives and families with their actions, and often times they just get kinda a slap on the wrist," she wrote in a post to the "r/unpopularopinion" subreddit. 

As the name suggests, the subreddit is a place for people to share their hot takes and opinions that others might find a bit over the top or misguided.

And while there were a few people who agreed with her, the woman's suggestion that cheating spouses be subject to criminal liabilities definitely sparked a heated debate.

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The woman suggested cheaters be forced to pay hefty fines to the people they cheated on.

The woman was quick to clarify that she meant cheating should "not [be] punishable by jail time but by heavy fines" paid in addition to any money provided in a divorce settlement or infidelity clause in a prenuptial agreement.

Of course, it can be very hard to know if your husband or wife is cheating, so the Redditor stipulated that the punishment should come only "if there is clear proof covering it."



Her rationale for these draconian moves?

All the stories we hear nowadays about cheaters who have secret families — especially since children of affairs can end up accidentally marrying their siblings "if someone got pregnant and it was never mentioned."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, other users thought her suggestion was pretty extreme.

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Others pointed out that enforcing this sort of move is nearly impossible without getting into all sorts of messes.

Infidelity is a thorny and very personal issue, and hence ripe for all sorts of "what if" situations, which even the Redditor herself had to acknowledge. 

"There would be a lot of gray area with open relationships and polyamory, but in cases without those situations, it should be illegal," she wrote.

But as others pointed out, there are far more gray areas when it comes to cheating than just those.

One noted that there's no standard definition of cheating, writing, "Is it specifically sex? kissing? hugging? liking a photo? Do you need to be married?"



But that was the least of many other peoples' worries.

Others likened her idea to similar laws already on the books in more repressive parts of the world, often in places where women are punished for it whether they're the cheater or not.

As one user wrote, "Can I interest you in one of the many Middle East countries where it is illegal?"

RELATED: What Really Counts As Cheating, According To Experts

Even people who have been cheated on were strongly against the idea of the legal system handling their private matters.

Many Redditors were turned off by the most obvious problem with this idea — it's a fundamental violation of privacy.

One wrote, "yeah, I have been cheated on and if someone tried to get the state involved I would still lie through my teeth to them about what happened."

"Those things are between me and the person I am/was with."

One likened this idea to the way LGBTQ relationships are still policed in many ways in many places.

They wrote, "That’s wack. So many states have crazy laws illegalizing things like [gay relationships] still and it’s high time they were abolished."

Another was a bit more direct about what the Redditor was actually suggesting.

"That’s just putting the government and police in charge of more things about people’s lives. Is that what you want?"

RELATED: Why Cheating Should Never Be Considered Normal

Infidelity is already illegal in lots of places — it just usually isn't enforced.

Users also pointed out that the Redditor has already been beaten to the punch with criminalizing cheating.

States like new New York have laws on the books making adultery a "class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 3 months in jail or one year of probation," as do 15 other US states, though they're rarely enforced.

The US military also has steep penalties for infidelity that include "Dishonorable Discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for one year" — though they do actually enforce them.

With all the privacy concerns and intrusion on people's rights, this seems like a pretty insane idea — especially when there are so many other effective ways to make your partner pay for cheating.

Guess this Redditor has never seen "Gone Girl."

RELATED: 15 Specific Signs A Spouse Is Cheating And Can't Be Trusted

John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.