I know what it’s like to engage in an illicit online relationship. When the news broke that former Rep. Anthony Weiner had been engaging in sexual exchanges over the Web, my own internal censor went off. I began struggling with the implications of my own desires, because I had been getting into it deep with an attached guy online for months. While the Weiner spectacle has come to an end, I’m still embroiled in the problem. For I am the woman on the other side. I’m the one with your guy – digitally.
I get the secret IMs, the (coded) Facebook messages. I fill his head with impossible fantasies. You are looking for me when you go through your boyfriend’s cell phone — although my partner and I are way too smart to leave a paper trail of nasty texts, or tweet constant pulses of flirtation. What my sex buddy and I do takes places via instant messaging, so isn’t exactly sexting, but the intimate aspect is there. We might not talk for weeks, as our “love” is confined to live chat sessions. Yet when we are both online at the same time, something deep, raw and undeniable drives us to connect if we see each other’s screen names. We are available. We are ready. We mingle through AIM, and aim to please.
And boy do we. The words of my invisible man have set the most delectable fires in my body. I say to myself, “It’s not cheating if I don’t see his naked skin, stroke (what I imagine to be) his muscular abs, or take his dick between my actual sucking lips. If it’s not really happening, it’s can’t be wrong.” But the sexiness of it is sometimes too real. Just my fingers touching the keypad turns my computer into an erogenous zone. Sometimes when he’s “talking,” I stroke the screen like it’s his face. We’re attached. As far as I can tell, we’ve both had orgasms “together,” each of us riled up by the titillating convo, but actually absolutely alone.
At least I hope so. Did my ghost-beau really “come for me” like I ordered him to – in a little S&M playacting – or is he is eating Cheetos with friends and watching the game, amused by this crazy girl? And that’s why I tell myself it’s fair.
If the real girlfriend gets the daily talks, physical cuddling, and red-blooded fucking, why can’t I have this? The sensual drawl of his voice in my mind as his quips slip up the screen. His pretty compliments. The wicked side of himself that he releases with me. Perhaps his girl doesn’t want to satisfy this darker aspect of his spirit. I’m willing to take it. “Maybe I am doing something that she can’t,” I inwardly gloat. That makes him stay. It keeps me hooked.
It turns me on. Some of our virtual “dates” have been much hotter than real ones. At least I know I am going to get off — without the inconvenience of getting dressed up and pretending to be interested only to be let down during dinner conversation, then in bed. By contrast, a clandestine online relationship can be perfection. As long as it stays online.
But this whole Weiner debacle has got me pondering sins of thought versus deed. If I wanted to murder someone, and imagined it but didn’t do it, would you send me to jail? If I fuck your boyfriend, but in the end it’s just words traced in pixels that disappear as soon as a window is closed, did it even happen? Our earthly lives remain completely uninvolved. Are a handful of pictures and raunchy sentiments enough to ruin a man’s life?
They were for Weiner. Though not as famous as Weiner, as a minor star in his field, my baby has something more important that “face” to lose if anyone finds out about our computer love. He could lose the literal love of his girlfriend. Knowing this, I feel pained. One of the most stimulating joys in my life could bring two people emotional harm; to him if she left, to her if she found out. I ponder the morality of what I am doing almost every day. With things like fidelity on the line, you’d think we’d forget about each other. But I don’t think either of us should bounce.
I’ve heard many women say of the Anthony Weiner affair that sexting is not cheating – but that it would destroy their trust in the relationship. Trust is an important issue in life. But it’s also important to express every aspect of who you are. If you can’t do that with the one you are committed to in the real world, the most painless way to meet unmet needs is through the imaginary one. Sexting is a tool for just that, and isn’t cheating as long as it stays in the immaterial realm. We all fuck exactly who we want to in our heads, all the time. Doing it over the Internet is barely any closer to the real thing.
As far as trust goes, that is between my distant lover and his woman. But here is what my online love does for me: Getting freaky in a secret space helps me explore uncharted aspects of who I am, while connecting with someone who understands this part of me, which is not accepted by anyone else. Who wouldn’t glory in the attention? For Weiner, I bet messaging with multiple women did this for him, too. He wanted to get his sexual ego fed, meet unmet needs without actually cheating, and I completely get it. This seems normal, human and natural. It’s only admitting it in our society that is taboo. Hopefully that will change.
Until that happens, we shouldn’t feel guilty for things that take place only in our minds. Sexting can be a responsible way of acting out non-monogamous impulses, thus making literal monogamy possible. It’s too bad for Weiner that the public (and Democratic leadership) couldn’t agree. For both of these reasons, I hope my online love doesn’t feel guilty for merely pretending to make love to me – and I hope he never gets caught.