This classic column originally appeared at the barbershop notebooks where Sex with Timaree runs every Monday.
Question to the Sexpert:
“I feel like a I’m being crazy about this and my boyfriend says I’m blowing this way out of proportion but it’s bothering me so much, I needed to see what your opinion is. My boyfriend is spending at least 6 hours a day online in a virtual world flirting with other women and even having virtual sex with them, isn’t that cheating? I think even if they don’t get it on in real life, he’s emotionally cheating because he’s so obsessed with the damn thing. Am I right to be upset?”
Yes, damnit, virtual relationships are just as valid and therefore just as cheat-tastic as real life ones. Sure, he can get endless BJs in Second Life and type about doing it doggystyle with chatroom vixens until he’s crippled by carpal tunnel, and you’re in no real danger of STIs or illegitimate babies. But unlike pornography where the feeling is entirely one-way, virtual sex with real women is an interpersonal interaction.
Your boyfriend has the distinct disadvantage that you came to ask me, of all people, my opinion on this matter. As someone who has had to (thank you very much, graduate school) and chosen to (thank you very much, Buzzfeed.com) spend disgusting amounts of time on the Internet, I understand both the draw and pratfalls of choosing online interactions over real-life ones.
When all of his appendages are broken, he becomes allergic to sunlight and is on house arrest I will side with him and his apparent addiction and allow him his harmless enjoyment. In the meantime, he has a girlfriend whom I’m going to assume he finds attractive and interesting, whom he is ignoring in favor of other women’s time and attention.
Ya’ll know that I’m not a prude by now, I hope. I’m not someone who thinks it’s fair for someone to get all riled up because his or her partner is ‘talking to’ other people or meeting them for drinks. I am, however, someone who has read the research that the majority of regular Internet users consider their online friends to be as important or more important than their comrades in real life as well as the findings that humans use the part of their brain that is devoted to social interaction when they think they’re playing a game against another person instead of a computer.
But this is not a totally harmless hobby. Internet Widows, like their Gamer Widow and Football Widow peers, are neglected for hobbies but have the added insult of knowing that their partners are spending that time with other humans.
Example 1. We know time equals money. It’s quite one thing to know your wife spent $5000 on shoes, it’s quite another to know she spent it on shoes for a person to whom she talks about gettin’ it on. Maybe it’s just me, but I assume the latter stings a little more than the former.
Example 2. Your boyfriend’s ass would be in jail if the women with whom he has virtual sex were under 18, even if he never came within 10,000 miles of them. Somebody takes cybersex fairly seriously to have come up with that idea. It’s not the physical sex but the psychological interaction.
Example 3. Consider this doozy of a relationship. A man spends entire days on Second Life, running his fake businesses, hanging out with virtual friends and even marrying the avatar of a woman he meets. Meanwhile, his actual physical wife is less than amused, spending most of their conversations staring at the back of his head while he refuses to budge from the computer. Read that and tell me that man’s not having an emotional affair.
I’m not trying to put a damper on online relationships, knock interacting with people other than your primary partner or stop anyone from getting involved in role playing games. I am, however, going to side with you on this issue. If he’s setting you aside for these other women, not spending time with you that he promises to and becoming so emotionally involved with his online activity that he simply CANNOT stop, you have every right to walk out the actual physical door and find another actual physical man.
Do you have a question or comment? Please email Timaree directly at sexpert@MarcLamontHill.com