A few days ago I had a long online chat with a woman I have known only via the Internet for about two years. During that time we only communicated by messages and by making sometimes flirtatious comments on our web pages. We wrote a lot about our families, what was going on in our lives. We got to know each other pretty well — the good and the bad. We became real friends — to whatever degree the term “real” can apply to an online relationship.
During the past few months, however, the communications have become more sexual in nature. She started sending me pictures of herself in various seductive poses; I would talk about some of my recent and not-so-recent sexual encounters — names changed to protect the guilty, of course!
For weeks she had been trying to get me to call her, which I was reluctant to do. Eventually, though, we ended up in a long online chat, a first for us. It quickly turned into a sexual ritual, that special erotic dance men and women do before they get down to the serious stuff. As the flirtatious dance got more serious, she hit me with a question I wasn’t expecting and which I answered with all the sensitivity of a 10-year-old.
She asked me if I ever had sexual fantasies about her. I told her, “No,” I hadn’t.
OK. Big mistake, I should have been a gentleman and lied and said “sometimes” or even an evasive, “Well, who wouldn’t, you sexy thing!” Instead, I just blurted out the truth. “No.”
In addition to just being stupid, there were two other reasons for my klutzy response. First, she is a married woman with several kids, into her second marriage now and I am single, and second we live well over a thousand miles apart. However things might evolve, the likelihood of our relationship becoming more than just an Internet sex fantasy seemed remote.
For myself, my marital status — single — means that I can still have guilt-free, real relationships with available single women. Not that I do that often, but that’s the theory anyway. Even online sexual flirtations with other single women have a different dimension. No one is cheating on anyone else. Done right, no one should come out of an online affair hurting anyone else.
In her case, her fantasy of me is not real, she is not available, and it has the potential of damaging her marriage. I can hear the Greek Chorus out there saying, “What business is it of yours, Sky? If the woman wants to have long distance fantasies, that’s her choice. Just go with the flow and have some fun!”
From what she has told me, her husband — who travels a lot — has no idea that she is online looking for sexual encounters with strangers like me. I guess the question, to put it in its crudest form, is whether there’s something wrong if she gets her sexual release with strange men like me and her husband doesn’t know about it? Unless she decides to tell her husband, I am part of a deception that could possible destroy her marriage. I know enough about her to understand that the foundation of her relationship with Hubby is not all that strong to begin with — otherwise, why flirt with me? Getting caught in an online affair could possibly have dire consequences for her and her children. Do I want to be responsible for that?
I think the topic raises two important issues: the issue of honesty with your partner, and the openness with which partners can discuss their sexual fantasies.
Should you tell your partner that you have these kinds of fantasies and online relationships?
My reaction is, “No.” Most people simply are not secure enough in themselves and in their relationships to hear about their partner participating some kind of cyber-fuck with other people. If you say you are having sexual fantasies about another man, most men are going to get very pissed about it. We don’t like having competition we can’t punch out in a face-to-face confrontation.
If the roles were reversed and a guy tells his partner that he’s got this hot, online chick that can really turn him on, most women are not likely to welcome the news. Most will be jealous as hell and insist on knowing all the sordid details. Consider yourself lucky if she doesn’t rip out your Internet cable connection and smash your lovely LCD computer screen.
All these new ways of “getting it on” do not change human nature.
Consider, also, the likelihood that your online fantasy lover will find his or her way into the family bed. So there you are trying to make love to your lifetime partner and in the back of your mind is some delicious-looking lady you have been chatting with online. What then? Do you tell your partner?
A Web MD article recently looked at the pros and cons of admitting these fantasies:
One good reason to remain mum, says Barbara Bartlik, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, is that the majority of people in long-term, fulfilling sexual relationships do not necessarily think about their partner when they’re at the height of sexual passion. But even though both partners might routinely think of something other than each other, revealing this may result in hurt feelings.
That’s putting it lightly. An additional problem with online fantasies is that they are not just fantasies — often they involve each partner masturbating while the phone call or chat proceeds to more erotic subjects. The basic rule of ethical behavior is that you can think what you want, but once your thoughts are turned into action, then an important ethical and moral line has been crossed. Assuming one of us is already in a relationship, do I actually have to be in your bed, making love to you, before our act can be considered “cheating”?
The other side of this argument might be — and perhaps in the case of my friend — that by having these online sexual trysts she is in fact saving her marriage. She is less likely to have a “real” affair with some Bozo in the house or condo next door. On the “cheating scale,” I guess that is true: long-distance, online affairs are neater, easier to hide, usually easier to end, and — like so much of our imaginary cyber-lives — it doesn’t seem completely real.