Is Cybersex Cheating?

A middle-aged man stares at a computer screen. Beads of sweat form on his white-collared neck, and every so often he glances around, obviously nervous. In the adjacent room, his unassuming wife is busy making dinner. He licks his lips and begins to type faster. One of his hands is buried in his lap.

This is cyber cheating as we like to imagine it. Cut and dried. Husband/boyfriend goes online to have cybersex with unknown, exotic women; wife/girlfriend has no idea, until one day she comes across the transcripts. Someone cheats and someone is cheated on. It may take a while for the truth to come out, but when it does, one thing is for sure: it’s cheating.

But is cybersex really cheating? Some people claim it is. Period. After all, there’s always at least one other real, live person on the other end, right? Other people claim it isn’t—since there’s no physical contact, just "fantasy." The truth is, figuring out whether cybersex is cheating is a lot more complicated than all that.


Heroine Sheik
Bonnie Ruberg's blog about sex, tech, gender, and videogames

First off, what is cheating anyways? Cheating—as one “Click Me” reader put it—is in the eye of the beholder. Or more specifically, the eye of the person being cheated on. As a general rule, it’s probably not a good idea to deliberately do anything behind your significant other’s back (especially if you’re feeling guilty about it). But online as in real life, it’s up to that significant other to decide what’s harmless fun, and what’s old-fashioned tramp-ery.

And just like in real life, lots of people have different takes on what’s out of bounds. I once knew a bi couple who agreed cheating only meant cross-gender hook-ups; making out with partners of the same sex was totally legal. In a way, that’s not so different from another couple I know: they’ve decided that cybersex in general is a-ok, as long as the action stays online. Of course, I know plenty of girlfriends who would be furious to know what they’re boyfriends are up to in chatrooms and virtual worlds. (The genders could certainly be switched. Unfortunately, I don’t know many women who’ll actually admit—and I stress "admit"—to being sexually active online.)

Then there are the special arrangements. Take me, for example. I have a lot of cybersex. I mean, a lot. Maybe fifteen different partners a week. It’s what I do. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be an expert. But in real life, I’m also happily engaged. People often ask me how that works. Why am I interested in cybersex if I’m having real-life sex? Doesn’t my fiancé get jealous? My first answer is usually, "It’s for research"—and it is. But let’s be honest, if the research is good enough. . .

For us, the important thing is communication. I always let my fiancé know what I’m up to, so he’s not surprised to find me in the act. To tell the truth, a lot of the time he’s there with me—hanging out beside the keyboard, offering suggestions of how to word and re-word phrases like "Put your hot cock in my wet pussy." Bad cybersex gets a lot better with a friend. Plus, it becomes a collective sexy experience. As for those times he’s not around, he says the idea actually turns him on. There’s also the added bonus that once I’m all worked up, all I want to do is jump him.

So if you’re hoping to avoid the, “Oh my God, you cheated on me with the internet?” conversation, I suggest communicating. Talk about whether cybersex is cheating. You might be surprised by the answer. If the subject is too awkward to even bring up with your significant other, I’d go with the conservative bet: he/she isn’t going to be okay with it.

Still, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask. Cybersex is a healthy part of sexuality in our tech-friendly age. Besides, maybe you’ll find out your sweetheart has shared your love of cybering all this time. Maybe you’ve already been making eyes at each other across the chatroom floor, you just didn’t know that was the same person typing away in the next room.

Last week: Getting started with sex in Second Life

Click Me runs weekly. Contact cybersex columnist Bonnie Ruberg at bonnie[at]heroine-sheik[dot]com.

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