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Cyber Affairs and Infidelity

Date Posted: 2000-04-08

David Jones (name has been changed to protect the individual’s privacy), a married young marine on Okinawa, loves the Internet. He spends hours in front of the screen at night and uses the ICQ’s random chat program to find girls to talk to. He has found several “dates” via this chatting program. David and his on-line secret friends usually end up at one of Okinawa’s more than 100 love motels for secret sexual encounters.

As he is married, David prefers to have an affair with married women.

“I slept with (other people’s) wives before. My wife doesn’t know about this. She is very busy,” confessed the young marine.

Asked if he feels guilty at all when he cheats on his wife, David said, “No. It’s my hobby.”

“I love my wife a lot. That’s why I don’t want her to know about this,” he quickly added.

David is one of the many Internet fanciers who spend hours surfing the Net to find someone for cyber sex or to meet in person to have a sexual encounter with. Thousands of chat rooms have mushroomed as the Internet has become increasingly popular. Never before have ICQ, MSN, IRC, and other chatting programs been this popular. People are chatting all day every day. They are attracted by this alluring cyber world where geographical boundaries do not exist.

The Internet is indeed a hot bed of sexual affairs. America Online (AOL), for example, is well known for its various chat rooms with lots of “lonely” people searching for cyber sex or real encounters. When you log onto a chat room you will find lots of people are chatting, with, of course, obscene language. People publicly flirt with each other. And within only ten seconds or less, someone is asking you for a private chat. If you accept the request, one of the very first questions will be “Do you want to cyber?” followed by “What are you wearing?” People most of the time trade their pictures right away to help fuel their imagination. Gays and lesbians have their places in this cyber world, for there are tons of chat rooms designed especially for them.

In all these chat rooms, men and women of all ages can be found. A 13-year-old 8th grader in Connecticut says he enjoys cyber sex. Asked if he will still have cyber sex after he gets married, the teenager promptly said “Why not?”

“It’s not real sex. It’s just a type of chat,” answered the boy.

A married AOL user confessed to having a physical affair with a woman he met on-line.

“We met here, advanced to phone calls after seven months, and met in person after three years. Meeting was great! She is so sexual. We were together for nine days last April, a second meeting, and plan more,” said the man. (cybersoc.com)

Approximately 300 million people worldwide are on-line. In the U.S. alone, 120 million. A sexual revolution is indeed taking place in the cyber world. But a question is automatically raised when talking about cyber sex: Is cyber sex considered infidelity? Peggy Vaughan, a California-based psychologist and expert on relationships who is working on a book on cyber sex, believes it is a form of infidelity.

“The person involved will try to argue that it isn’t - since, in the beginning at least, there's no physical contact. (Although far more online activity moves over to the "real" world than people anticipate.) However, even if it stays "online," it still poses the same kind of threat to the marriage as any kind of affair. This is because the damage from affairs is far more than just the "sex." While any sexual contact may be the first focus of the spouse, I've found during the past 20 years of working with this issue that people recover from the fact that their spouse had sex with someone else before they recover from the fact that they were deceived. And the deception involved in an online affair is just as devastating to the spouse as any kind of deception. So - regardless of the effort by most people to "rationalize" their activity as not being an affair, it feels like an affair to the spouse - and the damage can be the same,” said the psychologist in a recent on-line interview.

Mrs. Vaughan reiterated that cyber sex is a threat to marriages even though people involved in cyber sex may argue that it is harmless because it is done “on-line.”

“Even though most people begin quite innocently (often out of curiosity), it quickly escalates, often taking on a greater significance in people's lives. As their involvement in this online activity increases, their connection with their spouse decreases. But the most dangerous part of this activity lies in the fact that it is kept secret from the spouse. And any time one partner keeps this kind of secret from his or her spouse, it creates an emotional distance. The spouse inevitably picks up on the distance and becomes very anxious and concerned,” she added.

Another psychologist Dr. Cliff Heegel, of internetpsychology.com, concurs, saying he has worked with several couples who have been torn apart by cyber sex.

“I personally consider cyber sex infidelity. I don't think it meets the exact legal definition of infidelity. However, we can gauge the importance by the effect it has on our partners. If they are extremely upset, it can be equal to infidelity in its impact,” he reiterated.

What about people whose spouses have lost interest in sex, but they have not? What about those who choose to have on-line sex instead of real sexual encounters? Do these circumstances justify cyber sex?

“The secrecy involved in turning outside for sex means simply adding more problems to the marriage instead of working on the primary problem of different desires. Many excellent sex therapists know how to help couples talk about their needs/desires (or lack thereof) to reach some kind of decision on how to proceed that does not involve dishonesty and deception,” argued Dr. Vaughan.

“My focus is on honesty, not monogamy per se. Much of the damage of outside sex is due to the "dishonesty" involved in a secret relationship with someone else. So the real question is whether any particular circumstance might "justify" dishonesty and deception - and my answer is no, it does not,” she insisted.

Dr. Heegel said a lot of people are addicted to cyber sex because it is seductive and exciting.

“It is fast, easy, anonymous, and free from sexually transmitted disease. Plus, there is the element of mystery. It is similar to playing the slot machines in a casino. One never knows what will happen next. So we are kept in a state of high arousal for a long time. That sort of stimulation is addictive,” he explained.

On-line affairs have become an increasingly hot topic as more people are introduced to the cyber world. The Internet is indeed a two-edged sword; it is undoubtedly useful to mankind, yet it is capable of tearing apart families.

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