Wednesday, March 29, 2006

But Is It Cheating?

My personal answer to this question has generally been, "If you have to ask yourself the question, then the answer is yes."

But let's examine this for a minute.

In general, "cheating" used to be defined as becoming involved in some kind of a physical sexual act with another person outside of your committed relationship, without your partner's knowledge and approval.

So for instance, looking at porn would not be cheating. While you might get off on seeing a person (or persons) in a photograph or video, that "person" is not "real," in the sense that you can't meet him or her and pursue any kind of human contact. In short, you can not touch that person. You can not "have sex" with that person.

But now, with the advent of the internet, among other things, we have a number of new sexual outlets besides print and video porn, which make the definition above a lot blurrier, and perhaps a lot more questionable.

What do I mean? Well, let's assume for the sake of argument that your spouse or committed lover does not know you are doing any of the following...

Cyber-sex via IM:
No touch here, right? It's strictly textual, no different than reading the Penthouse forum. Except that the text is being created in real time, on a screen. And there is a person on the other end, creating the text, with you. But you can't see, hear, smell, taste, or touch this person. Is it cheating? Is it cheating if you do it once with a complete stranger with no emotional attachment? Is it cheating if you do it multiple times with the same person, who is someone you like or have some affection for?

Video Cam sex chat:
Now you've got text and video. There's a person on the other side, and you can see him or her. You can't have physical sex with them, though. No touch involved. Is it cheating? Is it different than watching a porn video? Again, is there a difference between once, anonymously vs. multiple times, with a connection? Does it "count" more if it's with a real-life, everyday person vs. a professional sex worker?

Phone sex:
No touch. No images. No ability to have real physical sex. But there are two people talking, listening to each other and saying sexual things to each other. Is it cheating? Did you "have sex" if you both got off while talking to each other? Does it count? Again: anonymous vs. regular arrangement? Regular Joe vs. sex worker? Does it matter? Is one better or worse than the other? Is one cheating and one not?

Strip club:
If you're just watching the floor show, there are visuals, but no touch. Is it cheating? Can just watching count as a sexual exchange of some sort? What if you get a lap dance? In that case, touch would be involved, and there is often arousal. There is no technical sex, but there may be an orgasm in some situations. If your partner doesn't know you're at the strip club watching, or that you're getting a lap dance, is it cheating?

Let's say in any of the cases above you don't get overtly sexual. You just flirt an awful lot.

Or maybe, if you're in a strip club, maybe another patron of the gender you're attracted to is a little buzzed and snogs with you a little bit. Nothing heavy, no touching of any "private parts," no official sex of any kind. Just a some stolen kisses, let's say.

Is it cheating? Where is the line drawn?

What do you think?


Anonymous Cherrie said...

Cheating is when you deceive the other person, or violate his/her trust.

If the other person knows about what you are doing, and is secure enough in the relationship to have no objection, it's not cheating.

3/30/2006 8:50 AM  
Blogger Miss Syl said...

Cherrie: So you're saying doing any of these things without telling your mate and getting consent ahead of time would be cheating?

What I was trying to point out is, most people probably wouldn't make a point of telling their mate they were looking at porn any time they were doing it, because it doesn't really "count" as cheating due to the no-human-contact factor. So they could do that activity relatively guilt-free, even if they don't mention it. But now there are a whole lot of other no-human-contact factors that people probably hadn't bargained for. Do they count like porn, or are they something where an agreement has to be reached? If you *don't* tell the person you're doing them, is it a violation of the relationship?

3/30/2006 10:09 AM  
Anonymous Tory said...

None of that is physically cheating but you are definitly betraying our partners trust. If you cant openly say you did something then you probably shouldnt be doing it. Or so thats how I gauge it. It keeps everything simple. If i am to ashamed or i have to lie to my partner about what i am doing, i shouldnt be doing it. which is why it makes it easy to always tell the truth.

The strip club thing is not cheating. Some guys fuck the strippers but that isnt me. I prefer my dick not fall off from VD. If a woman is so insecure with herself and the relationship that she cant trust me to go to the strip clubs then she isnt for me.

3/31/2006 2:59 AM  
Anonymous Cherrie said...

Yesterday's post was hurried. Let me elaborate.

If the basis of the relationship is absolute, I won't even look at another person monogamy, then yes, any of the activities you described would be a violation of trust.

I've known people like that, and I respect their views. But my experience has been that very few married people realistically expect that kind of utter devotion from their mates. So the slippery slope begins.

What is the distinction between an adult film and a mainstream feature or TV show that depicts sexual activity, or attractive women or men partly (or totally) unclothed? Just the degree and frequency of sexual stimuli. Is it cheating for a happily married couple to look at, and possibly be aroused by, hot members of the opposite sex on film? I think most couples expect a certain degree of that.

Now let's say one member of the couple is the object of flirting at work. The discourse is all friendly and innocuous at the surface, but it's obvious the other person is getting close to the edge. If s/he doesn't sharply rebuff the contact, is it cheating? Probably not.

Then s/he accepts an invitation to go out for dinner or drinks with the people at work, and the flirter comes along. By the end of the evening, arms are being extended around shoulders amid drunken laughter. Cheating? Now there's a real issue for most people.

What about the Internet? For most people, I would think casual contact, even flirtatious contact, with cyber-strangers is OK. The problem arises when it becomes all-consuming and the significant other is ignored.

The reality is that couples are going to be subject to all sorts of external sexual approaches. Each couple needs to work out the boundaries within which they are comfortable in responding to such approaches in order to stay together.

My man and I agreed early on to have, for lack of a better term, an "open" relationship, based on disclosure, trust and care (protection against pregnancy/STDs). This is what we both wanted, and it's worked out very well for us. We treat other people outside the relationship as adults, and assume when they respond to our advances (or we respond to theirs) that they are working within their comfort zones with their other partners. I'm sure we've been fortunate in not having enraged partners come after us with knives and guns, but it's all worked out well.

3/31/2006 8:34 AM  
Blogger Anastasia said...

I'd say, even if there is no physical exchange involved, that it involves the thought process, which includes hiding the activity in question. With cyber etc, when it involves another person, where details are exchanged (because a verbal exchange usually takes place prior to the cyber occuring, the 'get to know you' in whatever way), where a person has to cover their tracks, i.e., lie, then it's cheating (mind you, it's 'cheating' when two people within a relationship make an agreement).

Looking at porn, is largely looking at a visual medium without getting involved with another individual by way of chatting to them, getting personal with them (discussions about other aspects outside of sex/cyber).

Basically, when a person alters the 'rules' of a relationship (much like altering the rules of a school/uni test, through deception) without the other person knowing, it's cheating, regardless of whether it involves IM, webcam or email. They have decided to diverge their energy into other people (the standard agreement between their partner being the opposite, monogamy etc) and cover it up.

I don't think wanking to porn is the same, because porn isn't another person by way of direct communication (talking, chatting, taking it to the 'mind fuck' so to speak)

For me,, especially after knowing people (yes, through the net) who effectively create online harems -there is no word describing the female equivalent-(not all do, but there are those who do, men and women), I call it the 'Poor Man's Harem', simply because they wouldn't be able to afford (financially and/or timewise) it outside of their everyday life, and it's a relationship cop out if the person agrees to different things (the opposite of monogamy) and lies about them.

It's the one aspect of Internet technology that I find annoying really, and I don't find it that way when people are up front, but when they hide it and then it's found that the cyber thing is a primary element of their life, then it's a disappointment in more ways than one.

there is nothing worse (relationship wise) than having to contend with a 'virtual person'.

3/31/2006 8:52 AM  
Blogger Miss Syl said...

Tory: I don't know if the strip club thing is an issue of trust for most women, or something else. I suspect many of them don't understand why, if a man was happy with what he had at home, he would need to go and look at anyone else. What would your answer be?

Cherrie: Thanks for the elaboration. For some reason, I'm rendered brain-dead right now and can't think up an appropriate response. (Long day, and exhausted from responding to the most recent post.) But I liked reading everything you wrote.

Ana: I laughed for about fifteen minutes at the "Poor Man's Harem" term. I swear, that has phrase just has to integrated into my speech and writing forever more. Okay if I steal it and use it from time to time?

And re the "virtual person" thing, yeah. Anyone can present themselves as the perfect person over the internet. It's hard to compete with that when you're standing in front of someone, as a corporeal being with immediately visible flaws.

3/31/2006 11:11 PM  
Anonymous Cherrie said...

Syl, sleep on it and come back when you're inspired. I think we all need to take a deep breath at this point.

3/31/2006 11:13 PM  
Blogger Anastasia said...

Perfectly fine to use the term 'poor man's harem'. (lol)

the story behind me using it: I was infatuated with this guy for a year, being so naive to think he wasn't a 'collector' of virtual women, only to realise it much after when he accidently clicked his mouse the wrong way on the wrong thing and all of a sudden (we were talking in a general sense, not sexual) there was a 'Kathy' on the screen with, 'oh baby you're so hot', and I sat there fucking dumbstruck, and dumbstruck with a dash of 'pissed' off because after a year, I made a work trip to meet him interstate.

4/01/2006 12:46 AM  
Blogger Blue Gal said...

For me, just thinking of someone else all the time, or at certain times, is enough to not see that person again, socially or otherwise, even when my partner is there with me. I've cut off communication with some men I thought were just too flirty.

4/01/2006 4:40 PM  
Blogger Miss Syl said...

Blue Gal: That sounds like an excellent barometer of what to do. Now, if only we all had your self control. ;-)

Oooh, and cute icon.

4/02/2006 10:22 AM  
Blogger Miss Syl said...

Ana: Oops, missed your comment. Thanks for the permission!

Yeah, IMs and emails are dangerous things. Hit the wrong "send" and you're caught. I remember I was working one place where we all used an IM service to communicate and a good work friend of mine IMed me confessing how she'd unexpectedly slept with another co-worker over the weekend. He was IMing her at the same time and she typed a fairly personal comment about him, intended for me, into his IM box by accident. Oops. Boy was she red.

I've run into a few liars on IM, too, though it sounds like yours was more serious than mine, because you actually spent time with the person. But now, until I meet them in real life (which I rarely choose to do), or know enough about their personal lives to verify the facts that they are who they say they are (talk to them on the phone, known their work AND home phone numbers, home address, etc.), I keep in mind that I can never *really* assume I'm being told the whole truth, and so I'm very careful about what information I give out or how close I get to "online people." Of course, if you keep things casual and you're chatting just to pass the time, it really doesn't matter if they're lying or not. But if you're gonna forge a friendship of any sort, fakery is right out.

4/02/2006 3:18 PM  

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