“We just kissed.” “There were no feelings involved.” “It didn’t mean anything.”
There's no shortage of excuses when it comes to cheating.
But what does infidelity even constitute in the age of right swipes, virtual-reality porn and animatronic sex dolls? Depends on who you ask.
We took the query to the court of public opinion, by asking 11 real, live, sex-having women to weigh in on the matter. Turns out there's no shortage of definitions either.
Here’s where they draw the line.
Lily, 27, Marketing Coordinator
My Facebook says ‘Single’
“The world of dating is more complicated than ever before, but the basic principles of it never really changed. Cheating is being unfaithful to your partner. But ‘unfaithful’ looks different for different people and depends on the expectations you've set. When it gets to the nitty gritty — VR porn, keeping in touch with an ex, going to the strip club, whatever — it's easy to get caught up playing a guessing game about where you think your partner would draw the line. Instead of guessing about it, try a conversation before you indulge.”
Anya, 28, Publicist
In deep with this dude
“I think the line for cheating varies in each relationship. Boundaries are as different as the people who set them. In my experience, if you would feel anxious or guilty about telling them what you did, then it's on the other side of that line. But sometimes you have to fuck up a bit to know where that line is.”
Frances, 32, Marketing Consultant
Married and stoked about it
“Penetration. Emotional penetration qualifies.”
Layla, 31, Graphic Designer
Living happily in sin
“If the other person doesn't know about it: having an online dating profile — even if you don't use it — is cheating. If the other person knows: whole different story. Bottom line: you have to communicate, because it is definitely a sliding scale. If my boy comes to me and says he needs something outside of what we have going on, I am more likely to find a way to understand than if I find him in a questionable act. But I hate when he goes to a strip club. They are gross, but I pick my battles. Of course if he goes he will get a lap dance, but no Champagne room allowed!”
Katherine, 40, Social Work
Dating, why? You know someone?
“I just don't believe cheating exists. I literally do not believe in it. ‘Cheating’ is this misapplied shorthand for ‘lying’ relative to sexual fidelity. And as for physical fidelity — I seriously can't be bothered to give a f***. Every intimate couple should have an agreement (or, you know, agree to not have an agreement). In that agreement, that couple should lay down what they expect from each other: total monogamy, emotional monogamy, physical monogamy, physical monogamy except for blow jobs after concerts — I mean, who cares? It's your life.”
Jean, 30, Financial Services
Not single anymore, f***ers!
“There is an exception to every rule and my definition has evolved as I've gotten older. It comes down to my trust level in that person, but also the circumstance. There are obvious no-nos, like hooking up or going on dates with other women. But when it comes to porn, strippers, etc., I just kind of chalk that up to fantasy and I'm not super threatened by it like I used to be. I'm not naive and I know he's going to look at titties other than mine. VR POV porn? Creepy, yes but not ‘cheating’ per se. There is a line there though — like hookers or a BJ at a strip club ... because ... nasty ... and I wouldn't know how to re-establish trust after something like that.“
Marion, 29, Freelance Designer
Couple years deep, probably forever
“Everyone has their own definition of cheating and it’s important for all parties in a relationship to be forward about theirs. Mine is essentially ‘something you wouldn’t do if your partner was in the room.’ That said, personal insecurity isn’t a good enough reason to rake your guy over the coals every time he makes eye contact with a woman. Porn, strip clubs, close women friends — those would only become problematic for me if our intimate life and friendship suffered as a result. We had dinner with my partner’s ex last night, and there was no weirdness to it at all.”
Otto, 35, Magazine Editor
Coupled up and in it to win it
“No one has to tell anyone how to define cheating. It’s subjective, but like bullsh**, it has a very distinct smell, and if you’re doing it, you know it — whether it’s lunch with an ex, a rub ‘n’ tug or feeling up a sex doll. To breach the parameters is demonstrative of not having the stones to face up to your own insecurity, desire, truth. They're pussies. In fact, rarely is the actual act the issue. Rather, it’s underestimating your partner’s ability or willingness to understand. It’s the selfishness that is deplorable and weak.”
Julia, 30, Nurse
Hooked on this phenomenal guy
“Cheating is still universally understood: getting intimate with someone without your significant squeeze knowing. What's blurred now, and been stretched into obscurity, is this nuclear area of sexual acceptance surrounding cheating. Am I comfortable with my dude following so many models on Instagram? Should I care that Tinder is still installed on his phone? And how should I act when his good friend cheats on his cool-as-f*** wife all the time and they're having a boys night out? It’s not so much what constitutes cheating, but what constitutes comfort. Hashing out the gray area is vital. My BF and I often talk about polyamory. I think there are some couples that do polyamory so f***ing right you’re like ‘Damn, you guys really are all-loving sex gods.’ I want to be cool with it and I can appreciate attraction to other people. But, at the end of the day, I’m so into my dude, and feeling that his man junk is mine, and that the emotional connection is just ours, that I’m not ready or willing to share that at this time. And he feels the same way and that’s f***ing sexy to me.”
Victoria Simon, 26, Artist
Very single, let’s mingle
“I think cheating and loyalty are becoming much more fluid concepts and are defined very differently — which is absolutely okay, as long as all participants in said relationship are on the same page. I would consider a significant other having a physical or emotional relationship of any sort with someone else to be cheating. If they're on a dating site, whether they're actively looking or not, I wouldn't necessarily define it as ‘cheating,’ but it would be a dealbreaker. On the other hand, if they're into something like VR porn, though I might not love it, I'd condone it because it's not real. At this stage in my life, I'm much more inclined to date someone casually. For me, when in a casual, open relationship, there is no such thing as cheating."
Louisa, 29, Marketer
Single as f***
“Pre-gaming is cheating. I find it worse than physical cheating. It involves lying to the one you 'love' and also, lying to yourself. A breathtakingly destructive act of cowardice leaving one party wondering, 'Wow, if you lied to yourself — and to me — about being interested in this other person, how long were you lying to yourself about me/us?' I can work past physical cheating. Physical cheating is more of a mistake in my opinion, whereas pre-gaming is deliberate and destabilizing. If you were just a moron one time, maybe two — or even had a John Lennon-esque lost weekend — we can probably work it out. If you were carrying on a whole other clandestine relationship though, #IDFWU. As far as strip clubs and such, I wouldn't count it as cheating; it's just grody. Also, I hope I never date anyone dumb enough to go into the Champagne Room. It's like a venus fly trap for your wallet, I like my men fiscally responsible.”