The Sound of One Hand Typing: A NerveCenter Discussion on Cybersex

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“If you can’t come into the room without my feeling all over me a ripple of flame, and, if wherever you touch me, a heart beats under your touch, and, if when you hold me, and I don’t speak, it’s because all the words in me seem to have become throbbing pulses, and all my thoughts are a great golden blur . . .” — Edith Wharton to W.M. Fullerton

I love the way Wharton describes the blur and pulsation of words. It seems to describe, in some way, the finest moments of cybersex. You know, those times when it just seems to work and the words describe the beauty and passion that you feel in your body and mind.


As a married man, and happily so, I’m a big fan of cyber and phone fun. Because it lets my imagination (and libido) run wild, in the quasi-company of others, without violating my marital vows.Oh, but here’s a question: Does having any sexual encounter, even a virtual one, count as a violation? I don’t think so, but that doesn’t explain why I’m so secretive around the house when it comes to my virtual exploits. The wife, I’m thinking, would be displeased to know the extent of them.But how else to deal with the relative needs of our libidos?


Well, Jesus allegedly said that even thinking about adultery was to commit an act of adultery, so I’m guessing that cybersex would count. But it ultimately boils down to the levels of trust and commitment that two people set. Where do you draw the line between fantasizing about fucking another person and fucking another person? Cybersex is a gray area, similar to flirting with other people, that every couple has to define for themselves.


Oh damn, I think I live in the gray area. What is black and white in anything we do in life?


Chipster, I remember reading some study that suggested women feel more violated by emotional cheating while men feel more violated by physical cheating. I don’t think the above counts as cheating per se, as long as you keep it online. But the fact that you are secretive, and that you know your wife would be displeased suggests that there are some serious issues of trust there. It is black and white: If it’s not cheating, why don’t you tell her? Then again, if it’s not, why would she be angry?


Online relationships may not be as easy as you seem to suggest. If you ever discover yourself developing some emotional connection with your online partner, you’ll see what I mean. It often takes people by surprise, when the conversations become more about who you are as people and it is no longer just an outlet for an exchange of fantasy and sexual dialogue. This may not necessarily happen to you, as long as you treat cybering as interactive erotica/porn.


Let’s address that question, then, shall we? What’s cheating about “going cyber”? The breach of trust that you’re talking dirty with someone else?


Perhaps cheating isn’t just a physical act. It’s also an emotional or psychological one. What’s important is the context of the relationship. In the average set-up, any kind of romantic or sexual contact with a third party will usually be construed as a violation of the unspoken ground rules of being a couple, married or not.We like to feel that certain bodily functions, and certain emotional expressions, are reserved for us, not to be shared with an outsider. Sex is the kind of intimate bodily function that’s generally shared only by a couple. By extension, the same goes for talking about sex, writing about sex, et cetera. When a significant other finds out you’re exchanging such sexual communication with another, they will feel as though they’ve been cheated on because a special kind of intimacy, the kind we usually save for our partners, has now been shared with an outsider.Unless it’s an open relationship, I can’t see how to avoid that sense of betrayal.


I’d just like to introduce another reason some individuals choose to engage in cybersex: an incurable virus. I can no longer conduct my life with the same joy and sense of freedom I once had because I simply cannot live with the thought of passing on my disease to another person. This occurred once, and, after three years, I remain unable to fully reconcile the incident. So, having the opportunity to engage in conversation and mutual fantasy with another person has, to some degree, restored that joy in my life.Cybersex, marriage, infidelity — damn, that’s a tangled one. I don’t believe in marriage, personally, but I do try to respect others’ attitudes and boundaries. Isn’t this really what is at the center of not just questions regarding sex, but anything we do in life? Arriving at an understanding of others’ thoughts and feelings, responding to that knowledge and nurturing mutual respect for others?


I know virtual relationships sometimes become real-life ones, with all manner of real-life complications. But what I’m wondering is how the ones that remain virtual (meeting only online, or perhaps via telephone, but no further) develop an emotional weight for people.I’ve learned astonishing things about people via cyberchat. It’s amazing to me that once you ask someone a few questions, you can end up eliciting an avalanche of autobiography whose details are hilarious, heart-wrenching and/or flat-out fascinating. And titillating, sure. I can never get enough real-life tales of threesomes, orgies and the like. But what sticks with me in the end are the other confessions. The woman whose long recitation of marital complexities took a mighty turn when she wrote, “Oh, and did I tell you he’s a drug addict?” I can recall a dozen other, just as jarring, admissions. And in some way, that’s part of the appeal for me. Call me a voyeur (duh), passive-aggressive (guilty) or whatever, but I love the way people reveal themselves online.


Playing around in someone else’s head can lead to the same entanglements that the physical realm engenders.


I would say cybering is cheating if it interferes with your main relationship and begins to supercede it. You cannot turn a brain off, everyone has sexual thoughts and I doubt very seriously that any one person can dominate another person’s sexual thoughts for all time. I look at other people, I fantasize about other people, and I still have a good sexual relationship with my significant other; I hope my fiancÈe fantasizes, I hope she looks at other women and men and, most of all, I hope she enjoys it.


Mr. Toy, I agree with you. There’s a huge difference between internal fantasizing (which surely is normal and healthy) and external interaction with another person.However, I still believe that when you engage in intimate, sexual communication with another, and do it for the purpose of sexual gratification, you are in extreme danger of violating the oath of fidelity in a marriage, or the presumed monogamy of a committed relationship. I not only believe that a partner expects you not to sleep with someone else, I also believe they expect you to reserve all of your sexual interaction for them.And maybe the critical factor is not the physical nature of the sexual behavior, but the level of intimacy involved. Which would leave a partner feeling more betrayed: My seeing a hooker, or my masturbating during an ongoing cyber relationship? Neither would be easy, but I wonder if the ongoing cyber relationship wouldn’t be more threatening because it’s more intimate, more of a personal connection.


When I discovered my husband had cybered, I was enraged and hurt. I viewed it as betrayal. What put me over the edge?Each relationship has a “structure” and in no part of our structure (in my mind) did it include sex with other people, real or virtual. I felt he’d “lied” to me since he didn’t tell me: Would he ever have told me otherwise had I not confronted him? His cyber experience was a “relationship”: he knew about her life, she about ours. If you’re making dates to be online at the same time, even if it’s just “I’ll see you Sunday night,” it’s a date. Period. And my imagination is more powerful than any reality, so I could see where this could lead: chat rooms, private messages, private rooms, cybersex, phone conversations. What next?I felt, and did, things I’m not proud of during that period. But we turned it into a “positive” and used it to talk about some issues, which we were avoiding. And I’ve since introduced myself and come clean with his ex-cyber partner — I really like her! (I must say my husband has good taste.) But I leave you with a couple of thoughts:- When wondering if it’s “okay” for your relationship, ask yourself if it’s something you’d be “okay” with if your partner did it.- An adage from my wise old mother: They say the truth hurts, but I’ve never seen it cause the pain that lies do. Be truthful with yourself and your partner.- Jealousy can be destructive to a relationship, so why create reasons to make your partner jealous? And if past actions have crossed the line, realize it takes time to rebuild trust.


I don’t think there is any general answer to the question of cyber-cheating because every relationship has its own set of boundaries. I for one am married to my best friend in the world, and when I discovered my previously PC-phobic husband was involved in cybering, I was surprised — and titillated. He has always been somewhat nervous about explicit sexuality, and this hinted that maybe he was open to more than I thought. Now, I am fairly broad-minded on the fidelity issue in general because I have such faith in the strength of my bond, my friendship with my husband; I just feel our relationship goes beyond something as fleeting as a physical union. When I finally started to experiment with cybering, I’d keep him updated on my progress (I’ve found that finding a decent cybersex partner is just as problematic as finding a real one used to be!). Though we’ve never read the other’s correspondence, we are completely open about our involvement in it and I think it will only serve to improve our sex life. I also find it’s a good outlet for my frustrated desires for other people; marriage has been a difficult mental adjustment for me and it really helps to blow off some steam.I think Swerdloff had the right idea in a previous post:

Hell, get a second computer and cyber with each other one night, just to show each other what you’re doing and that it’s harmless to your relationship. Not only that, but it could probably lead to some pretty steamy nights ’round the old homestead!