Although attitudes differ widely between cultures, and even between neighbouring communities, almost all consider adultery an offence, the punishment for which may be divorce or banishment, public exposure or mutilation, even death. Adultery is specifically defined as the act of sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than his or her spouse, whether or not the other person is also married. In a broader sense, the term applies to an act of sexual intercourse with a partner outside the permitted group. Some communities permit adultery but only under certain conditions. Local law often discrimates between male and female, higher class and lower class adulterers, and female adulterers are often discriminated against.
Attitudes towards adultery are changing, especially in industrialized countries. More married women are now having affairs. Increasingly, women, not men, are the first to stray from marriage. In both the USA and the UK, 25 to 50% of married women have at least one lover after they are married in any given marriage. From 50 to 65% of married men stray by the age of 40. Whereas for people who married before 1960, women waited 14 years (and men 11) before having an affair, in 1989 women wait 4 years (and men 5). Currently 73% of married people claim to have had at least one affair. Death by stoning is prescribed by Islamic laws in the event of adultery.