Female infidelity, however, has a far lower profile and, in popular culture at least, tends to have terrifying consequences.The two most famous adulteresses in fiction, Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina, came to sticky ends: one poisoned herself, the other threw herself under a train.Wendy, a 34-year-old full-time mother of two from East Sussex, was a 'typical girl about town, with a few long-term boyfriends peppered with a handful of one-night stands on holiday or after a night clubbing'.Six years ago she married Billy, a stockbroker, gave up her administrative job and moved out of London.But as well as seizing their chances, today many women and men plan their infidelities with chilling efficiency.They decide they want to commit adultery and set out to find a suitable partner.
'Usually we just have a snog and a fumble but two have come back to my hotel room.But today the guilt that tormented these classic heroines is largely missing.Thousands of women like Sheila are enjoying what they believe to be no-strings flings. Some of my friends ride, some sing in choirs, I have Michael.' The number of people having affairs is impossible to know, as few are truthful about their sex lives, but the recent Way We Are Now nationwide survey conducted by Relate showed that 34 per cent of women respondents admitted to being unfaithful, compared with 32 per cent of men.Having witnessed the devastation divorce wreaked on their parents' generation, they have no desire to end their marriages. I like cooking with him and gossiping about the neighbours. Sex with Michael is a purely separate thing; it's about erotic abandonment, being seen as just a woman rather than as Peter's wife, or "the doctor" or a mum. Paula Hall, a sex and relationships counsellor and Relate spokeswoman, says that she expects to see a rising number of female clients who have been unfaithful, as the reasons for straying have changed.Instead they are searching for variety in an otherwise humdrum routine. 'Traditionally we believe a woman who has an affair is looking for emotional intimacy, whereas men are looking for sex. 'Women feel more powerful and in control and as a result there are certainly more women being unfaithful because they fancied somebody and were away for a weekend with the girls or on business and seized an opportunity.