Season 8 of YR's Adult ISH podcast kicks off with hosts Nyge Turner and Dominique French exploring the scandalous world of cheating. From tests to romance, the pair dig into what it means to skirt the rules, break hearts, and carry guilt for years. They are joined by artist and writer Saxon Baird.
Adult ISH is produced by YR Media and brought to you by PRX’s Radiotopia. Be sure to follow all our socials @yrAdultISH!
Georgia: Hey, this is Adult ISH producer Georgia Wright. We’ll start the show in a second, but I wanted to give a heads up that this episode includes discussion of sex addiction with our guest.
Dom: Cue the music! (sings)
Nyge: Nah! We need some — we need some real music. We need some real music.
Dom: Okay. That was very beautiful, but okay. Cue the real music!
Nyge: Welcome to Adult ISH produced by YR Media and brought to you by Radiotopia from PRX. It's Season 8, baby. I'm Nyge Turner.
Dom: And I'm Dominique French.
Nyge: And we are finally both hosting together! Sheesh.
Dom: Finally! What is up Adult ISH fam? Oh my gosh I have never said that before.
Nyge: How did it feel?
Dom: Amazing, like a 13 and a half — so good. Oh I think I may be done. Bye!!!
Nyge: No! Please stay. Please stay. Actually, can you do more than stay and introduce our first topic?
Dom: Of course. Oh, my gosh. Okay. This week, we are talking about cheating. (Music starts) Nyge, are you a cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater?
Nyge: Um, I think that's a complicated question. Like, I don't think anybody wants to be labeled as a cheater. You know?
Dom: I myself have never been the cheater. But I have been propositioned to be the — how you say — other woman.
Nyge: Hmm? Propositioned?
Dom: Uh, yes. Many people have tried to “other woman” me. So, like, for example, in college freshman year, I became the other woman for a weekend, which is a very short amount of time when you're 18 years old and you think that you are head over heels for somebody. So, I like did the whole thing and, like, saw him off at the, the train station. And was like bawling my eyes out in a public forum with my friend next to me — who like, actually knew this person and was like, “Okay, bye!” And he was also like, “Ok, bye!” And meanwhile, it's me just, like, fully crying, like an old Hollywood film.
Nyge: Pretending like “Yo, why are you crying?”
Dom: Yeah, I'm like, “I have something in my eye, homies!” or whatever.
Nyge: Nah, that sucks. I have cheating stories, but, like, I don't know, they really aren't special. Like, I cheated, and it kind of just happened. And I really didn't feel a ton of guilt about it until I got older. I just didn't think relationships were real until later on in life. And I know that's really messed up in hindsight. It’s not correct thinking. But I just really bought into that. And then when I got older, I had a conversation with someone. So, like, I had a girlfriend and I cheated on my girlfriend with this person. And they were telling me just about, like, how they had like some real, like self-esteem issues. Like, I felt really bad about that because it's just like, “Man, this like, really affects you to this day.” And to me, it was like, all kind of like make believe back then. Like, it was, it was like — all like a, a game. And I was just like, so, so, like, ignorant, you know?
Dom: Yeah. I mean, whoah, kids shouldn't be allowed to date. (laughs)
Nyge: Yeah. There needs to be like a class, like, before you are allowed —
Dom: You have to take a test.
Nyge: Right. Right. You need your — you need your permit to do… (laughs)
Dom: Yeah, I still don't feel like I should be allowed to, um, but that's really interesting because you had, like, a delayed, uh, thing with guilt. Whereas I feel guilt so soon after I've done something that … So like, I cheated. (I cheated!) I cheated on a quiz in my AP music theory class in high school. I cannot believe I'm telling the story. And I, (sighs) — it was one of those things where, like, I just happened to notice, like during the quiz that I could see the study material. And I was like, “Well, I'm not going to not use it.” (Nyge: Right.) But the weird thing was that I was really, really good in this class. I tutored other students and I loved this subject matter. And then I went on to win the school award for, like, best in AP Music Theory.
Dom: Which I feel terribly guilty about. (laughs) To this day.
Nyge: So you feel like you cheated — you feel like you cheated just because it was, like, available?
Dom: I, uh, I don't even know! Maybe it was like a sense of perfectionism or something that I was just like, “Oh, well, you know, on my own merit, I could probably get like a 95, but with this, I can get a 100.” (Nyge: Yeah.)
Nyge: That was tempting.
Dom: Yeah. And that was ten years ago. And I probably feel just as guilty about it as like the day it happened. And the worst part is that I loved that teacher so much. She was my favorite teacher.
Nyge: That's interesting. I never — so I never have cheated in a class that I really liked the teacher. Like, every class that I cheated in, it was. And I'm not trying to like — (laughs)
Dom: That’s great for you. I love that for you.
Nyge: (laughs) I didn't mean it that way. But nah, I just haven’t. Like it is just a fact. (both laugh) But I mean, I did definitely, like, cheat in a ton of classes in school. Like I was a habitual cheater, all through school and I felt zero guilty about it and still feels zero guilt about it. Like to this day. I’d say like probably one of, like, the most elaborate ways that I cheated on a test in school was: So I had this test coming up and I was just like, “I made flashcards. I'm trying to like study, but it's just not clicking. Like, it's not really like working.” So I'm like, “Yo, I gotta cheat on this thing.” So, I pull up (laughs) — because I needed it. I needed it to, like, pass the class. (Dom: Yeah. I hear you.) So, I pull up to the test and I got like, you know, my beanie on, my hoodie on, on top of it. I had — I got my Beats on. And then I have my old phone, like connected to my Beats. I’m actually not playing any music, but I'm like bobbing my head like I'm slapping. And then, so like, I walk in. And you know, teacher does like the classic like, “You know, take off your headphones and put your phones on the table.” Like, “What are you doing?” I'm like, “Yeah, yeah, my bad. I got you. I gotcha.” So I take out my old phone, I take off my Beats, I put them on, on the desk, and just so like, they're, like, visible, right? Meanwhile, I have my AirPod. I have one AirPod in my ear under my beanie, and then my real phone is like on. I'm on the phone with one of my best friends. So he has flashcards and we had a system worked out to where I would like clear my throat once like “hmm mm” and then he would start like reading off all the different like terms. And when he got to the one that I actually needed the definition for, I'll clear my throat like twice, like, “hmm mm. Hmm mm.” And then he'd stop at that one and then read the definition or whatever. And I just like marked it off on the test. And so we did that. And I, yeah, I aced that test. I've passed the class and —
Dom: So I am so impressed with you right now, I, I don't even know what to say. Just like…
Nyge: It felt like “Ocean's Eleven.”
Dom: It sounds like Ocean’s Eleven! So like, what are you doing with that evil genius today?
Nyge: Uh, Nothing. Podcasting.
Dom: The ultimate cheat! (Laughs)
Dom: Nyge, you and I have discussed, like, our experiences with cheating, so we wanted to get a perspective from someone who deals with cheating on a day-to-day basis. That's why we spoke to Saxon Baird, an artist, a journalist who has been very open with his sex addiction.
Saxon: Hi. I'm Saxon. I'm 38 years old, and I now am located in Berlin.
Dom: So we made a call out asking for cheaters of any kind. And you responded with your tale about your sex addiction. And as we know, there is a lot of misinformation about this topic. So could you give us your working definition of sex addiction?
Saxon: Yeah, I mean, it's really complicated, to be honest with you. And I think that the definition is often like shifting when it comes to like, you know, the DSM or things like that. But the way that I would define it is that your relationship to sex and like relationships is like destructive. And that could be physical or like more like emotional, in regards to like your relationships with like other people. Maybe like it's affecting your job and like, you know, also your own wellbeing and things like that. So I mean kind of similar to, like, I would say alcohol or, or drug addiction. Usually people go into 12-step programs for this stuff because it's like adversely affecting their life.
Dom: And what made you want to be so open about it?
Saxon: Yeah, I appreciate that question. Actually, I think that, um, it's something that, like, no one really talks about. And I think particularly among like cis-straight men, I think I know that there's like guys who do talk about like, you know, cheating on their girlfriends or maybe being with somebody and like desiring to, like, sleep with somebody else or like things like that. But, but generally, like, no one frames the conversation — or at least in my experience, like, no one's really framed the conversation as like, “Hey, maybe this is something that's like adversely affecting my, my life and my relationships.” I think one of the reasons why I want to be so open about it, is because of the fact that a lot of the cheating that I did is because I wasn't being honest, and whether that's like with myself or obviously with a partner. And so, for the sake of being like radically transparent now, I am completely open about it all the time.
Dom: It takes a lot of bravery.
Nyge: Definitely. And I think that's — I think that's so true. I mean, just from, um, kind of like the way that I grew up or even like, yeah, the way that I was raised. Even the older, you know, like men that I was raised around, it wasn't ever framed like, “Hey, like, maybe you should take a step back and look and see how this is actually affecting your life.” It was always something to be, you know, praised. Or if it was like adversely affecting somebody's life, nobody would say anything. Nobody would really speak up. And they would just be like, “Oh, you know, it's like he's just at that part of life right now, or whatever.”
Saxon: I think the one thing I try not to do is like moralize it in a sense. You know, if you want to be single and be in your poly queue and like have multiple partners, like there's nothing wrong with that. Like, I mean, I’m no judge on that, right? I think it really comes down to like, how is it like affecting your life?
Saxon: I think that a lot of this rooted back to like coming out of like a really long-term relationship. I was like married, and then I got divorced and it was a pretty like intense breakup. And it was like sex kind of became like a way of almost like a coping mechanism, right? And it's like, I don't think there was anything that I was, like, necessarily doing that was like, you know, wrong or destructive. But then it, like, kind of spun out of control and kind of became destructive in the sense that I kind of kept up this behavior in ways that it was like losing my job, or like losing friends or like, you know, obviously like cheating on girlfriends and things like that. So I actually, I talked to this old cat like a couple of months ago. He’s probably in his sixties and seventies, but he's like, “Yeah, I don't know how you kids do it nowadays. It was just so easy to, quote unquote, step out on my wife every now and then before like social media and cell phones.” And I'm like, “Whoa!” Like I've often asked myself the why question, you know, like, “Why do I cheat? Why did I cheat?” You know, one of the things I think is that it's how I've been conditioned, how I've been conditioned to, like, be a man. You know, how I was raised, you know? Like what I've been taught to consider validation when it comes to, you know, women.
Dom: It's all very “Mad Men.” Like our modern day looks into womanizing and adultery and look into yester years views on marriage and like monogamy and what that can look like if you're a cishet man.
Saxon: I have a complicated relationship with, like, my father and like, we're close and everything. But — and I don't want to, like, assign blame to him — because I think that, like, in some sense, like, you know, he's just the product of the generation that his father was like part of, and that generation and that generation, right? Each generation we're just trying to, like, shed off these, like, generational leftovers, right? Like they just keep sticking to us. (Nyge: definitely.) But we when it came to talking about like girlfriends or like women, I mean, you know, I kind of had a strange sort of competitive relationship with my father where it was like — I mean, I remember, you know, being like maybe like 10. And he asked me if I'd been naked with a woman yet. And I was like, you know, just like, “Uh, no.” You know, like, “Uh, whaaat?” And like him basically being like, “Well, if you want to, like, catch up with your old man, you better hurry up. Because I'd been naked with a woman of your age by that point,” You know, I tell that, I tell that story, like, not necessarily to like assign blame to my father or anything like that. But it just illustrates that it kind of comes from this real sort-of generational, like womanizing, like “Mad Men” style, I guess as you put it. Yeah, it's it's complicated. It really is. Just to be clear, I've cheated on every single person I've ever dated. Like in the act, I wasn't consciously embracing this sort of idea of womanizing. It was more of like a compartmentalizing in my brain and like emotionally growing up.
Nyge: When did you begin to identify cheating as an addiction?
Saxon: That that really didn't really happen until much later in life, you know? So I came out — I came out of like a nine year relationship. I got a good job. I was traveling the world. I was heartbroken. I was just like sleeping with everybody I could, you know. And because I, because I'd been out of the game, quote unquote, for so long — as far as like being like just straight single — like, I don't think I really like, I think I felt like a little bit, um, naive. I was a little bit naive about how like, say, like dating in Brooklyn is like, you know? And, and I remember like, beginning with honesty, actually. Like, I remember one time like riding my bike home with this girl that I'd spent the night with. And, like, we were parting ways in an intersection, and she's like, “What are you doing tonight?” I'm like, “I'm going out on a Tinder date.” And she was like, “You can't tell me that. Don't tell me that. Like, just tell me you're like, hanging out with a friend or something.” And I was like, “Oh,” you know?
And like that kind of, like, brought me back into this, like, here I am finally being honest, even though, you know, I cheated on my wife and everything. But like, here I am like trying to be open and honest and then I'm kind of like being reprimanded for it in a sense, you know? And so then I — and I'm not blaming her — but like, I definitely just felt bad. It like it kind of helped — that's one example of how I kind of just fell back into this, like, old behavior again of kind of like keeping secrets, not being honest, like lying. And I think that that year, you know, like my contract didn't get renewed with the company. Because I found out later from a friend that they felt like I was possibly going to be a liability.
I slept with a couple of coworkers. It was like part of this like radio program. I slept with some guests, you know, like this kind of thing. And, and I just begin to see, like, “Oh, like there's like this sort of, that, I think, sort of destructiveness to some of this and like my sexual energy.” And I began to realize that like I kind of use my sexual energy, like almost as a currency in which I kind of like move through the world and like, develop relationships with people and sometimes. But, you know, I didn't know whether I should be ashamed of it. You know, I was like blaming others and everything. But, you know, there is definitely like this, like feeling of, like, something amiss. But I didn't quite — I wasn't quite sure.
And then it wasn't until, like, I began dating this, this woman. And, you know, I think she's wonderful, you know, like, she's great and everything. And, like, I was like, you know, really into her. But I clearly wasn't ready to be in a relationship. I ended up, like, cheating on her a lot. But, you know, I meant, like, every time I would wake up — and I mean this — like, I would I would feel bad. I would be like, “I got to stop doing this.” You know? “I really got to stop doing this. You know, this is like this is bad, this is destructive.” And I felt like I could just do it myself.
When I broke up with her, I immediately fell into a relationship with somebody else that I had been cheating on her with. And within a week of dating this new girl who I'd had, like, basically, like a nine month affair with, I cheated on her. It just — the pattern, just, like, immediately started over again. And so at this point, I think I'm like, you know, 34, 35 or something, and I'm like. “Holy shit. Like, what the hell am I doing?” You know? And I kept going to therapy and going to therapy and having these conversations with therapists. So I basically, like one night — I decided to go to an SLA meeting, which is stands for like Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. It's basically just an extension of the 12-step programs. AA or NA — it's almost the exact same thing, just replace alcohol or like drugs with like sex. And, and I just kind of had like a come to Jesus moment. He outlined a path for me in which, like, I felt like I could actually change my behavior and like stop this this destructive cheating.
Dom: When you sought that help, how did that moving forward affect your life?
Saxon: Well, yeah. I mean, it was really hard. It was really hard. Like broke down crying and like went back and, like, told the girl that I was dating, like, immediately confessed to her and like, everything. And, you know, it was, it was a tumultuous week and a half, I'd say. And like one of the steps in like 12-step programs is to like apologize to the people you've hurt as far as long as apologizing doesn't like hurt them more. And so the first person I immediately thought of was like my partner that I broken up with, like, you know.
And it affected my life in the sense that, like, I truly had to start to engage in the idea of, like, taking it day to day. Suddenly I became like very hyper-conscious of like every interaction I had and every thought I had. I've talked to like psychiatrists and stuff like that about this, like friends of mine, and they're like, you know, it's really, really hard to change your behavior when you're like — by the time you're in your mid thirties and like really change your life.
You know, I made a 60-day calendar that like next to my door because I was thinking like 60 days is usually when you can like change a habit. And I had like an outline of a lot of the things that I learned in SLA, about like yellow light behaviors. Like going to a bar. There's nothing inherently wrong with going to a bar, but it could lead to like red light behavior, which is like the behavior that you want to change, cheating, etc.. You know, and I had like a list of the things that like were yellow light behaviors for me and what was red light behaviors. And then the behaviors that I wanted to be, in the person I wanted to be.
I mean, it's, it's really simplistic. It kind of like — it's almost a little corny, but like I would look at it every day. It was also on my wall and I would like, just, like, literally: Had a good day. You know? Didn’t emotionally cheat. Didn’t physically cheat. Just mark it off, mark it off, you know. And so my life just became like super, super hyper conscious of like every interaction that I was having and like checking in with myself, like constantly.
It became difficult because it's like, you feel a lot of guilt. You're, you're, like, excited about the fact that, like, you know, you're trying to change and be a different person. But then you're kind of like, unable to get out from that shadow that like, you have this past. You know, I always had that scarlet letter. I got to the point where, like, I didn't want to be that person, you know, I guess. And I mean, I guess I'm doing this interview. So in some ways I am that person. But, but, you know, like, I just like like I'm more than just that, you know? I guess.
Dom: And so, looking back now with all that you've learned and everything that you've been through, what do you wish you could tell your former self?
Saxon: Bruh, just be honest! (All laugh) They are all going to find out anyways, like. (laughs). Like, honestly it’s like — yeah, be honest because it's … the amount of guilt that weighs on you and the amount of trouble it causes you when the truth does come out. And as my ex said, the truth always comes out. People always will figure it out in some way or another. When you're honest with other people, you also can be more honest with yourself and, like, know what you want and what you need.
Nyge: You can get more of Saxon on a podcast that he co-hosts called “Money 4 Nothing” About music and capitalism. You can check him out at money4nothing.substack.com
And check him out on instagram @Saxonius.
Dom: Throughout this episode. Something that's really been coming up for me was that after I graduated from college, I met someone and fell in love for the first time and they happened to be in an ethically non-monogamous relationship, aka an open marriage.
Dom: And they were so into their marriage, which is something that I actually found really, really attractive. It was a point in my life where I didn't want to be someone's main focus. That really scared me at the time. (laughs) And I thought, they're like deep belief in something was so beautiful. But there came a time where their partner started to feel like we were getting too close and she asked them to break things off. So once again, I was then propositioned to be the other woman. I don't know if I have it like written on my forehead or something like that. But I was so heartbroken because this person said that they had such a strong belief in the institution of marriage. And they were willing to cheat on this institution, on this person. And that made me completely question who they were as a person.
Nyge: Yeah, it kind of, like, it changed your whole view of them?
Nyge: I think cheating is such a powerful thing, but I think it all comes down to how much faith or trust that you have in the institution that you're cheating on.
Nyge: Like if you really believe in the educational system and you're just like, “Yo, this is just like what I believe in,” right? And then you cheat on a test. You'll forever feel like you cheated to get your degree, to get your, like, diploma, whatever. You'll feel that guilt for forever. (Dom: Oh no!) But if you feel like, if you feel like the educational system didn't serve you. If you feel like it's set up, like incorrectly. If you don't have any faith or trust in it, you're able to cheat without feeling any guilt, like me. (laughs) I think the main difference with cheating, like when it comes to school or anything like that, versus like cheating in relationships, is the fact that somebody’s really, you know, putting their trust in you. And they are really trusting you with their heart, with their emotions. And when it comes to that, you just — it's not something that should just be taken lightly.
For me personally, I feel like I really wish that I took it more seriously, starting from a young age. And I still feel like I'm dealing with, like, the guilt and also with like the fractured relationships from my particular actions to this day. And rightfully so, because you just have to know. Like, you just can't play with other people's emotions. Ultimately, cheating is super powerful, so just be careful and know the long-term repercussions that could come with it.
Dom: Adult ish is produced by YR Media, a national network of young journalists and artists creating content for this generation.
Nyge: Our show is produced by George Wright, Dominique French, and me, ya boy Nyge Turner.
Dom: Our executive producer is Rebecca Martin.
Nyge: And YR's director of podcasting is Ray Archie.
Dom: Our audio engineer is James Riley. Original music for this episode created by these young musicians at YR: Christian Romo, Anders Knutstad, Noah Holt, Jacob Armenta, Chaz Whitley, Michael Diaz and Sean Luciano Galaraza.
Nyge: Music Direction by Oliver “Kuya” Rodriguez and Maya Drexler.
Dom: Art for this episode created by Ariam Michael. Art Direction by Marjorie Masicat. Creative Direction by Pedro Vega Jr. Special thanks to Eli Arbreton.
Nyge: We are also proud to be members of Radiotopia by PRX, an independent listener-supported collective of some of the most amazing shows in all of podcasting. Find them at Radiotopia.fm and if you haven't reviewed our show on Apple Podcasts, please be sure to do so. Five stars is much appreciated.
Dom: You can follow us on all the socials @YRAdultish. And on that note —
Nyge: We'll see you later.