A harem, from its Arabic origin, is a forbidden place or sanctum intended to keep the female members of the family typically in a polygynous household. Polygyny is a form of marriage wherein the man has two or more wives. Although a Muslim harem does not only house wives and concubines of the head of the household but also other female relatives and young children, it has not prevented the common misconception that a harem is a collection of sensual women ready to offer their sexual services.
To most Westerners, a harem would present a brothel made up of women whose only purpose in life is to provide pleasure to the man they have willingly given themselves to. Perhaps, this is the very picture of a harem-style marriage arrangement which is commonly referred to. However, history would show that not all women in a harem are willing to be in such a position and were merely abducted and forced to participate.
Forced participation therefore has planted the seed for the emergence of cheating wives in a harem. Dissatisfied with her prevailing condition and having no genuine affection for the husband, a harem wife can possibly find her real love interest in another man. This results to a very complicated situation. Punishment for having sexual relations outside marriage in Muslim countries is either lashing or stoning.
Harem-style practitioners of the Western world may not resort to such a punishment for cheating wives in harem. Women are generally free to release themselves from the arrangement except in environments where certain rules are forcefully observed such as cult-like situations. Women in this situation also go through severe punishment when caught with another man.
In a harem-style arrangement, the man expects to be the only one in several women’s lives. Whether or not he suffers the same degree of pain if any of his “wives” cheat is known only to him and may illicit varying reactions depending on the importance of any of his cheating wives in harem. While he may calmly accept the loss of one, he may violently react on the loss of another.
Cheating wives in harem may have probably realized what they should have known all along – that they do not have the chance of getting the exclusive attention of her harem “husband” because of the very arrangement in relationships that he prefers. However, there is no need for her to cheat since she can get out of the harem-style arrangement if she really wants to, except of course when she is under the restrictions of existing customs or under threat.