The Adulterous Female

Much of the coverage of the Robinson Affair has been focussed on the financial aspects of the story and naturally enough the potentially devastating political implicatons for Northern Ireland.

I’ve been trying to watch the story from a different persective, with most of my interest on the infidelity angle. I haven’t been able to get my head around Peter Robinson’s valiant coping mechanisms to the revelations of the affair, mainly because my personal and professional experiences tend toward the usage of hysterical weeping and gnashing of teeth in the face of such heartbreak. The end of a relationship is very much like a death and while we all grieve in very different ways, such stoicism is relatively unusual. That is not a criticism, merely an observation. Perhaps the fact the he was the cuckolded spouse is what is causing the difficulty coping with the idea, as we seem to have become more accustomed to the idea of male politicians having affairs. However, the idea of the adultering female is much less common. In general, we have largely come to accept male politicians who have extra marital relationships, and often find forgiveness for them if the apology is properly done. It seems that it’s OK to accept that men are lustful creatures with desires that they cannot always reign in. Recent history is littered with such men from Berlusconi, Clinton, Majors… the list goes on and on. However, as long as certain rules are followed, it seems that middle aged male politicians who have sexual relations with younger women are marked as being vital and daring, with a whiff of Trojan derring do.

Female adulterers in public life are not completely unheard of, of course. We can look for those Biblical examples who escaped the stoning mobs, or more recent characters such as Kitty O’Shea. Edwina Curry would be among the few who are publicly acknowledged for their deeds.

So Iris becomes, not of her own desire I would warrant, an fairly unusual example of a woman who risked it all for the sake of an affair. Michelle Langley makes some very interesting points in general about female infidelity and identifies 4 stages that she thinks women go through. This is from Stage 3: ‘Women at Stage 3 may also be experiencing the ending of an extramarital affair, and the ending may not have been their decision. They may have been involved with single men who either lost interest because the relationship could not progress or who became attracted to another women who was single. Women whose affairs are ending often experience extreme grief. They may become deeply depressed and express tremendous anger toward their husbands. They are typically unaware that they are experiencing chemical withdrawal due to sudden changes in their brain chemistry. As a result, many will feel that they have missed their chance at happiness due to their indecisiveness

It may seem a little clinical to examine the actions of female adulterers, but it is estimated that the percentage of women who cheat on their husbands is a rapidly rising number. Those who have chosen to do so while still actively engaged in Public Life are a small number, so Iris has identified herself as a rare entity and I have no doubt she will be long remembered for this.

However, for the female, there is little adulation and less sympathy. In this particular case, as the support she was offering to Mr McCambley turned to physicality it underscores the sense that the nurturer is not ‘supposed’ to be sexual. There is much less understanding of the sexual drive of women, a subject that is too easily confused with our notions of the nature of woman, mother and grand mother.

And finally, the impact of it all on the individual. For the men we have seen braving the world following adultery, it is a case of apologising and getting on with it. Clinton said ‘Now, this matter is between me, the two people I love most — my wife and our daughter — and our God. I must put it right, and I am prepared to do whatever it takes to do so. Nothing is more important to me personally. But it is private, and I intend to reclaim my family life for my family. It’s nobody’s business but ours. Even presidents have private lives. It is time to stop the pursuit of personal destruction and the prying into private lives and get on with our national life

On the other hand, Iris seems to be paying a much heavier emotional price for her actions, and one has to wonder if this is related to her gender and her own ideas of what she represents and what is expected of her. Everyone is paying a heavy price for my actions. Psychiatrists may suggest that my mental illness was a significant factor explaining my irrational behaviour – I do not, in any way, question or doubt their judgement – but in order to master my life I do not want to dilute the blame or resist taking full responsibility for my actions. I am completely ashamed and deeply embarrassed.

While I personally despise the sin of adultery, I must work on the premise that human nature is such that these things have always happened and will always continue to happen. Perhaps she will set a whole new trend of sexually active and pro-active female politicians. Nah, maybe not.

  • Kevsterino

    The first thing that makes it different in my view is how regularly and loudly this particular woman preached regarding public officials and policy reflecting God’s plan for human beings.

    Infidelity, in her case, is thus cast in stark relief against her public pronouncements of personal virtue.

    Personally, I have a hard time believing that this type of behavior can be adopted when a woman is 60 years old.

    Does everyone assume she was faithful for 40 years? Does Peter?

  • Rory Carr

    I wonder if I slipped young Kirk a few oul readies would he take Herself off me hands. Seeing as he has a restuarant an added attraction might be that Herself is a dab hand with a frying pan. I’ve often felt the weight of it round me lugholes for transgressions that I am yet trying to puzzle out.

    But young Kirk will now have the experience to handle that kind of thing; he has had the benefit of an older woman to verse him in the contrariness of the female women.


    I’d like to see an explanation as to why you think Iris is paying a greater price for her infidelity than a male politician would under similar circumstances.

    The mental health aspects to this case do make me very uneasy since it has always been a common tactic of men to dismiss a woman as crazy in order to undermine her. Blair shamefully used this tactic against both Mo Mowlam and Clair Short.
    the problem is that in this case it seems to be Iris herself who is using it to absolve herself from culpability for her actions and an excuse to answer questions.

  • Mark McGregor

    This least interesting and mainly irrelevant aspect of this story imo. The actual affair is for tabloids and titillation. The serious issue is money, lies and ethics. Let the Sunday World cover the pointless examination of the truly personal aspect.

  • joeCanuck

    Does everyone assume she was faithful for 40 years?

    Idle speculation. Unworthy.

  • Scaramoosh

    The notion that her actions were caused by mental illness, satisfies her wounded husband and the broader protestant repressed psyche. In the end of the day, it all boils down to the notions of projection and transference; notions that lie at the very heart of the Ulster conflict, but which are never explored, due to the very high defensive walls that both sides of the divide have erected around themselves.


    Idle speculation. Unworthy.

    I agree but how about, does everyone else assume that apart from this incident she was true to the ideals she preached and insisted everyone else follow?

  • joeCanuck

    I have no problem in calling her a hypocrite.

  • Kevsterino

    I admit that I engage in idle speculation from time to time. I only wanted to know if it had occurred to anyone how strange it seemed that a 60 year old woman would change the habit of a lifetime and step off the straight and narrow path to taste the charms of a nineteen year old kid.

    It just seems too strange.

  • [quote][i]Everyone is paying a heavy price for my actions. Psychiatrists may suggest that my mental illness was a significant factor explaining my irrational behaviour – I do not, in any way, question or doubt their judgement – but in order to master my life I do not want to dilute the blame or resist taking full responsibility for my actions. I am completely ashamed and deeply embarrassed.[/i][/quote]

    An unequal partnership and playing second fiddle to a delusional Nero Complex would be a significant factor to consider playing a role, as well as a strident perverse personal view on the contented lives of others of a different persuasion and upbringing [something for which the province is justly infamous and for which it should also be completely ashamed and deeply embarrassed about]

    And the following smash hit [No 1 in Holland] is something for all to consider, for it is most appropriate here …..

    And I do wonder at the fact that the mental illness problem is being pushed so much and yet a full and active public service life is undertaken. Surely the one would automatically disqualify excellence in the other and thus render one totally unsuitable and unable to perform as expected and required?

  • ding dong

    One only needs to look at “Occasions of Sin” Diarmuid Ferriter to see how women have always come off worse in illicit affairs in Ireland.

    A mixture of social repression, religious intolerance and unhealthy maternal imagery leads to the idealised women broadly being a non sexual being while the sexualised women being a “slut”

    The only relevant question in regards to this should be is the affair relevant for public comment.

    personnally only for the raising of questions like this- the role of women in society, the role of religion in the characterisation of women in society etc etc.

    Otherwise follow the money

  • Mr. J.

    I’m of an extremely cynical opinion.

    I do not think that PRs emotional interview was a frank admission of his heartache. I think it was a carefully executed ploy to distance himself from his wife and to try and maintain some credibility and voter sympathy.

    I doubt highly Iris’ mental problems, and her ‘attempted suicide’. As is pointed out in the above post, I think she is using it as an excuse for her actions and to explain it to those in her fold who find her ‘sin’ unforgivable.

    The Robinsons are extremely well practiced in keeping their private lives hidden. This whole story is extremely uncharacteristic and, therefore, worthy of suspicion.

  • Danny Boy

    The gender implications of this whole mess are fascinating, and will no doubt fill a book or two. I don’t think taking a clinical view of what may or may not be going on in Iris Robinson’s head is a helpful way of getting at them though. It’s much more interesting to look at public reactions to the story.

    Some of the revulsion towards Iris is pretty revolting itself in its misogyny, which is entirely predictable. What’s interesting is how this relates to her own self-presentation over the years as a woman more than comfortable with the sexist nature of public life, even revelling in it. As the glammed up handmaiden to the man in charge, as well as the uber-respectable churchgoing guardian of morals, she managed to straddle various contradictory stereotypes and look like the mythical woman who triumphs at the no-win game of femininity.

    The most unpleasant thing about her affair is not that it was adulterous, it’s the imbalance and abuse of power within it. We are much more used to seeing old powerful men exploit young vulnerable women, to the extent that we barely raise an eyebrow. We should. Just as we don’t tend to see old men’s indiscretions as symptoms of mental illness, we should be wary of dismissing old women’s sexuality as pathological.

    It would be nice to think that this episode could shake up the painfully Victorian mores of our political scene, with its dynasties and endless parade of men for whom ‘women’s issues’ are something we might get to once we’ve dealt with ‘proper politics’.

    It won’t though, at least within the DUP, as the whole thing seemed to be cast within a strikingly familiar narrative before Spotlight even aired, with Peter’s account of the weak, mad, sexually dangerous woman being returned to the domestic sphere. (I’ve said it before, but what the hell – back in the attic!)

  • joeCanuck

    Otherwise follow the money

    Agree; the sexual affair is just a sub-plot.
    People are going to be tittilated, of course, and I don’t exclude myself, but it’s a question of whether or not the financial affair is a breach of Ethics or even criminal law (unlikely).

  • Eleanor Bull

    “The Robinsons are extremely well practiced in keeping their private lives hidden. This whole story is extremely uncharacteristic and, therefore, worthy of suspicion.”

    Ditto Uncle Gerry.

    I have the uneasy feeling that ‘my Da was an abuser’ and ‘I’m suffering depression’ are both attempts to manipulate sympathy from the public and a back off from the media.

  • Pigeon Toes

    I also think that young Kirk was remarkably candid regarding the money business..

    I detect bullshit.

  • Kevsterino

    I have no trouble believing that she is depressed today. Clinically? Who knows?

  • joeCanuck

    Now a top story on Canadian TV news. Don’t know about the States; don’t watch their news much.

  • andnowwhat

    My job does not bind me to confidentiality. I’m contracted outside of the health service.

  • Danny Boy

    Good God. Perhaps the Lock Keeper’s will become the next step on the tourist bus tour.

  • JNM

    The term “Adultery” echoes through the ages: agreed, it smacks of Patriarchy and there is some delight in hearing the term “her young lover” in the same sentence as “Iris Robinson”.
    There is such a lot to be unpeeled here. Such a rich archaeological resource. It’s Old Testament: the public abasement of Iris by her husband. He dragged her into the marketplace, stripped her and just as the stoning was about to begin, forgave and reclaimed her. Previously, he has left her in a state of self-reduction while he went off to work. It’s Homeric: the journey of a young man: succoured, fucked then rejected. He is given money freely but it is demanded back with menaces. Betwixt times, there are the great solemn moments: the moral proclamations and the adrenalin of righteousness; the illicit sex and the intense privacy of acts whereby one can regain control of one’s destiny if only for an moment. All risk-taking; all orgiastic.

  • Turgon

    Can I suggest that comment 16 be removed very quickly.

  • Turgon

    Sorry it has been: no disrespect Pigeon toes; it was not your comment. The offending one has gone

  • joeCanuck


    Any chance you will give us a bit of insight as to how this will play with Fundamentalist Protestants.

  • Miss Fitz

    I tool it down Turgon, but I was a little ambivalent. It looked like an informed view, and there was no sharing of confidential information or breach of privacy. On the other hand, how could it be proved from an anonymouse source.
    So there you go- all gone

    One other brief comment: The moment you choose to step into public life, you compromise your absolute right to privacy. I felt this was the case for Brian Lenihan and I feel it now. The moment Iris Robinson released a public statement outlining her affair, it became fair game and a matter of public record.

    I am making the point that she is a public figure who will go down as the Kitty O’Shea of her time. I bet that will please her no end.

  • joeCanuck

    Miss Fitz,

    I think you made the right decision. I felt somewhat uncomfortable when I saw the comment.
    Patient (non-patient?) confidentiality is highly important.

  • The Raven

    Thank god for that. New depths there.

  • Henry94

    I defended Iris Robinson when the story broke but I didn’t know about the age difference. That’s exploitation in my view and not a relationship of adult equals.


    I now think you called it right from the start. I frankly don’t believe the suicide attempt story.

  • McGrath

    I agree but how about, does everyone else assume that apart from this incident she was true to the ideals she preached and insisted everyone else follow?

    Posted by TAFKABO on Jan 08, 2010 @ 04:44 PM

    I personally don’t care if Iris shagged half of creation and Peter videoed it all, that’s entirely their business. However their behaviour after the episode just confirms that the pair of them are bankrupt in character.

    Its the excuses from this pair, especially from Iris, I find to be more offending as they are just a continuation of the lies and deception. Iris’s playing of the mental illness card to try to gain our sympathy and attempt to make her seem the victim. Any of us could leave a Doctors office with a Depression Diagnosis if we really wanted one.

    Weather this is Iris’s first ever transgression is indeed speculation, however any research into adultery statistics shows that approx 50% of marriages encounter some form of infidelity and in about 25% of those cases there was more than one occurrence, with very little differentiation between males and females. Stats aside, she couldn’t even just ask for the money back, she had to ask for a kick back too!

    All of this puts her in the position where no one is ever going to believe anything she says leaving her virtually unable to defend herself from any accusation level against her. Shes a silly woman.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Miss Fitz,

    Did the young gent admit to having an affair with Iris?

    I have yet to watch the Spotlight pro gramme again (nor the will)

  • joeCanuck

    BBC reporting that Robinson has asked for a senior Counsel to be appointed to investigate whether he did anything wrong. Will await the result before making any other decision.

    I think he should stand aside temporarily.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Yeah Joe, a few areas of not best practice on Peter’s behalf. But no manifest error. It was Iris what done it….

  • Miss Fitz

    Pigeon Toes
    I will at some point watch the tape again, preferably when I am warm.
    But in answer to your question, and having watched carefully last night, he at no point denied the affair and was very matter of fact about the entire process. I recall he spoke of how long he had known Mrs Robinson, how she had been kind to him after his father’s death, how they began spending more time together and that things developed. He will have known that he was the subject of her statement last week and if he was going to be in a position of denial, he has had ample opportunity.

    I think your point of his explicit owning up to the affair is a red herring,

  • Pigeon Toes

    1.I am just surprised that he wasn’t asked outright.

    2. Without evidence of such, he was in a perfect position to claim that she had made advances which he spurned. She has after all, admitted to imagining “plots where there were none”

    3. Why was everyone so cagey about naming him yesterday, if there were not some query over the legality of naming the “young man”?

  • joeCanuck

    Pigeon Toes,

    I think you are allowing yourself to get distracted. Most of us like a bit of sexual schadenfreud (wrong spelling I’m sure) but the real story is in the money.

  • Pigeon Toes

    It’s only £50,000 Joe and the lease of a cafe.

    The inquiry that ould Peter has called for may well come to more than that.

    I understand that £50,000 wouldn’t be considered as “significant”.

  • joeCanuck


    Obviously you’re wealthier than I am.

  • Pigeon Toes

    If only Joe. No that;s according to the esteemed public representatives of Northern Ireland.

    Am absolutely fucking delighted that Mr and Mrs Robinson are having such problems over that exact figure…

  • joeCanuck

    OK, PT.
    I missed the sarcasm. Silly me.

  • Jaggers

    Is this timeline correct?

    Midnight 1st March 2009 to 1am 2nd March 2009, husband finds out for first time about adulteress’ affair

    Between 1am and 11am, adulteress attempts to take own life

    11am or thereabouts – husband leaves home for FMQs

    After 11am – two GPs arrive at adulteress’ home and remove adulteress by ambulance to hospital

    12 midday – husband answers FMQs

    IF correct, then the suicidal adulteress was left alone whilst the husband went to FMQs? Was she hospitalised and if so for what? Was it a suicide attempt or the less serious self-harm? What was the injury and was it entirely self-inflicted? I wonder can someone do a Freedom of Info request on her diaries for 2nd and 3rd March, 2009.

  • joeCanuck

    Robinson’s interview today is on the BBC site.


    The repeated use of the term adultress makes my skin crawl. Are we in the old fucking testament or something?

  • Ramzi Nohra

    yeah agreed to 17. There are worse things in a reltionship than infidelity in my view.

    Can i ask Mis Fitz, what is the picture embedded in the story?


  • Mrazik

    Can i ask Mis Fitz, what is the picture embedded in the story?


    Posted by Ramzi Nohra on Jan 08, 2010 @ 08:14 PM

    The DUP officers meeting…

  • Miss Fitz

    Le supplice des adultères by Jules Arsene Garnier
    Cheer Joe

  • Miss Fitz

    LOL Mrazik…… I just got that!

  • joeCanuck
  • JNM

    It’s not just about £50k. It’s about 2 cheques written from business accounts to a private individual. How was that represented in public accounts.
    No tax was paid on the money received by the recipient. Did he declare it?
    Mrs R received £5k in cash: did she declare it to Inland revenue?
    She then initially claimed that £25k was hers by right. The recipient had died and she was sulking with the young man.
    Other questions remain: one interesting one is how a 19 year old with no previous experience managed to be the only applicant to meet the criteria set for the lease of the property from Castlereagh Council?

  • Pigeon Toes

    “Other questions remain: one interesting one is how a 19 year old with no previous experience managed to be the only applicant to meet the criteria set for the lease of the property from Castlereagh Council?”

    Depends on who set the criteria, if the criteria was changed or simply ignored.

    It’s been known to happen previously in Northern Ireland public contracts.

  • Ramzi Nohra

    thanks Miss Fitz