Are you cheating without knowing it?

A new poll suggests men and women view cheating very differently

Do you flirt on Facebook? Do you sext? Do you kiss women who are not your wife or girlfriend and consider it a perfectly innocent act?

If so, you may be cheating without knowing it. A new poll has revealed that men and women have very different ideas about what constitutes infidelity, which means that your act of harmless fun might have pretty dire consequences if your partner takes a different view.

So what is cheating and what isn’t? We delve into the brave new world of 21st century sexual mores.

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Sexting

According to the new poll, commissioned by the Huffington Post, and carried out by YouGov 85% of women claim that sexting – sending sexual texts to someone other than your partner – is cheating, despite the absence of any physical contact.

The good news is that, according to the poll, 74% of men feel the same way. The bad news is that there’s a hardcore 9% who may soon be in for a very rude awakening.

The fact that the majority of both men and women view sending sexual texts as cheating, despite the absence of physical contact, is probably sensible. Recent research by psychologists at the University of Nebraska in the US found that sexters often escalate their behaviour into real world affairs. Nearly eight out of 10 respondents had made arrangements to meet someone face to face after initially communicating via text.

But while that may be true, not everyone agrees that sexting – or any sexually charged virtual relationship – counts as cheating. In his book In Defense of Sin, John Portmann, assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia, says we have to distinguish between sex – and just talking about sex.

“The internet has not given us a new way to have sex, but rather an absorbing new way to talk about sex. Distinguishing between flirting and infidelity will show that talking dirty, whether on the internet or on the phone, does not amount to having sex.”

So is sexting with someone other than your partner cheating? There’s a certain amount of intellectual debate about the matter, but for the sake of your relationship it’s probably best to assume your partner will think it is.

According to the new poll, commissioned by the Huffington Post, and carried out by YouGov 85% of women claim that sexting – sending sexual texts to someone other than your partner – is cheating, despite the absence of any physical contact.

The good news is that, according to the poll, 74% of men feel the same way. The bad news is that there’s a hardcore 9% who may soon be in for a very rude awakening.

The fact that the majority of both men and women view sending sexual texts as cheating, despite the absence of physical contact, is probably sensible. Recent research by psychologists at the University of Nebraska in the US found that sexters often escalate their behaviour into real world affairs. Nearly eight out of 10 respondents had made arrangements to meet someone face to face after initially communicating via text.

But while that may be true, not everyone agrees that sexting – or any sexually charged virtual relationship – counts as cheating. In his book In Defense of Sin, John Portmann, assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia, says we have to distinguish between sex – and just talking about sex.

“The internet has not given us a new way to have sex, but rather an absorbing new way to talk about sex. Distinguishing between flirting and infidelity will show that talking dirty, whether on the internet or on the phone, does not amount to having sex.”

So is sexting with someone other than your partner cheating? There’s a certain amount of intellectual debate about the matter, but for the sake of your relationship it’s probably best to assume your partner will think it is.

Facebooking

In many ways flirting with someone other than your significant other on Facebook touches on the same ground as sexting. Let your banter stray into the realms of the sexual and your partner is likely to take a very dim view.

But the Huffington Post study focused specifically on contacting an ex through Facebook, something the ubiquitous social networking site makes temptingly easy.

And there was a discrepancy between men and women on the issue. Around 42% of women would not consider it cheating if a partner contacted an ex via Facebook, while a significantly larger proportion of men – 56% – would take the relaxed view.

An interesting detail is that the study didn’t consider what someone might be contacting an ex for. In other words, whatever your motives for contacting a former girlfriend via Facebook, and however innocent you think they might be, there’s a good chance your current partner will regard it as tantamount to infidelity.

Other internet contact

She’ll do so partly because there’s a large gender divide when it comes to forming an emotional connection over the internet, regardless of whether it ever strays into sexting or suggestive Facebook posts.

According to the Huffington Post poll, 70% of women would consider it a serious betrayal if their partner formed such a bond, but only 50% of men felt the same way.

That’s a pretty serious finding. Half of men think it fine to to enter into a virtual relationship most women consider cheating, or at least next door to cheating.

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Physical contact

But perhaps the most surprising finding involved actual physical contact. You might think the sexes would be far more consistent in their view of what constituted cheating in the real – as opposed to virtual – world.

When is cheating cheating? Not when it only involves kissing, say many men. Sixty percent of the men surveyed said that kissing was OK – even on the lips – presumably so long as contact doesn’t get any more intimate than that.

It will come as no surprise that most women didn’t agree. Only 34% of women felt the same way.But there has been some debate over the issue of kissing and infidelity lately, suggesting that it is far from a black and white issue. In a recent article, the American comedian Mindy Kaling (yes, a woman) suggested that couples should be allowed to kiss other people. They just shouldn’t take it any further.“I’m not saying that kissing is a hundred per cent peril-free,” wrote Kaling. “I’m just saying it should be treated like any other enjoyable (but legal) vice, such as alcohol or gambling. In other words, it just needs to be regulated.”So maybe those men who refuse to equate kissing someone else with cheating have a point. Having said that, it’s not one that’s likely to go down well with wives or girlfriends. It seems the gender divide between men and women on what is and isn’t cheating is wide, so it might be best to err on the side of caution.

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