Cybersex, cheating, and flirting online

Online, we can create, nurture, maintain, and even cease relationships. In some instances these may be easier processes than their off-line equivalents. And it seems popular, with teens at least, to do a little of both. (Pascoe, n.d.)

How far would a partner/spouse have to go online before it is considered cheating?
Cheating needs to be defined by the intimate partners and although there is a general perception of what it means, individuals will have degrees of difference. Here are a couple of definitions worth examining.

4. to practice fraud or deceit: She cheats without regrets.
7. Informal . to be sexually unfaithful (often fol. by on ): Her husband knew she had been cheating all along. He cheated on his wife.
( Unabridged)

How far can one go online under these definitions of cheating?

Briefly, the fourth definition above makes it as easy as lying or deceiving via some form of online communication, to the detriment of a partner/spouse relationship. Although broad, worth consideration for the nature of such deceit to come out through Facebook for instance. Nonetheless, surely such fraud must be deliberate before being considered cheating.

Under the seventh definition however, to cheat on one’s partner or spouse in a cyber-sex fashion could be termed polyandry as in having two or more mates […] successively ( Unabridged). Apart from cultures that tolerate polygamy or polyamory, none would disagree that this would be cheating. The issue here is that such relationships are enacted without the knowledge and consent of all partners concerned (Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia). Thus to engage in any form of cyber-sex with a partner other than one’s spouse (in monogamous partnerships), is to be sexually unfaithful and probably break a vow of marriage.

Up to what point is flirting online acceptable?
Provided it is reciprocated, flirting between one another is accepted, and possibly expected, particularly in the early stages of a relationship. In the online world, this seems no different to me. Reciprocation deems acceptance, whether it be sending instant messages or posting private messages through the Internet. Depending on the individuals, perhaps even posting comments to public spaces is also acceptable. There isn’t any stage in a relationship that makes flirting between intimate partners unacceptable. It simply migrates to off-line forms when those involved can spend enough time face-to-face.

Cyber-sex is real
The term immediately makes me think of the scene from The Lawnmower Man where he and some token girl get hooked up. Although the characters’ real bodies don’t have intercourse with each other, their virtual representations or avatars, seem to. An interesting portrayal of how real cyber-sex could be. Given any sexual activity whatsoever, presumably involving at least one individual, and the Internet, you’ve met the requirements for cyber-sex, then I would say it is very real. How can it not be real?