Is sexting cheating? Now there's a question you can ponder for a long time. The topic will naturally generate a wealth of different opinions, none of which can be 100% certified as 'correct' since it's all subjective. But if you ask enough people, you'll get a few similar answers crop up, from hell yes to sometimes to definitely not.
So, to get some clarity around the issue, we've took it upon ourselves to ask a few couples their personal opinions. We kept them out of earshot of each other to get a more honest perspective and we've changed their names for anonymity purposes. So, is sexting cheating? Here's what the general public think.
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There's no true answer to the question of whether sexting is cheating or not, given that it depends on a ton of different factors. For example, a sex and relationships expert like a counsellor is going to have much different frames of reference for the question since they're a lot more familiar with human psychology than the average person. Therefore, the best we can do is ask REAL couples their opinions. Here's what our interviewees had to say:
Sarah, 38: "Absolutely it is. If I caught my husband texting other women, even if it was just some light sexual banter or something, I'd consider it a betrayal. Obviously it's fine if he talks to his female friends, but there's definitely a line you don't cross. It might be different for younger people but in my circumstances? I'd consider the relationship over at that point."
Martin, 35: "Yeah, I'd say it was. I mean, there are levels and stuff. Like, what kind of sexting? Were they having some random online affair or were they friends in real life? I guess you'd have to play it by ear but it would definitely hurt my feelings. Not sure if I'd end the relationship over it, but I'd need to know why she did it."
Eva, 28: "No, not really. I have online affairs all the time, ha. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy in my current relationship, but sexting is just... easy, you know? Especially as a woman. I get messages off guys constantly, and sometimes it's just fun to indulge them. I don't consider it cheating because I'd never have physical contact with these guys in real life. It's just fun - basically a masturbation fantasy."
Carl, 29: "Nope. To me, cheating is when you have physical sex or a real affair. Are you telling me that when someone jerks off, they only think about their boyfriend or girlfriend? Get out of here. It's natural to want to get your rocks off with someone else and sexting lets you explore it without going too far. You gotta be really insecure to think that sexting is the same as infidelity."
Rich, 24: "One hundred percent it's cheating. If you're having sexual fantasies about being with someone else, then that's a problem. You should be committed to your partner, otherwise what's the point of being in a committed relationship at all? Even if you don't define sexting as cheating, it means there's something wrong with your relationship. If you catch your partner sexting, you need marriage counseling quicktime."
Craig, 26: "Yes and no. If they're sexting for a bit of a fantasy play, then whatever. I don't see it any different as looking at porn. If they're sexting someone with the intention of meeting up, or trading nudes or something, then I'd take issue with that. Same as if they're trying to address emotional needs that I wasn't fulfilling. I'd want them to talk to me, not go elsewhere."
Judging from the above opinions, it seems that most people consider sexting to be a form of cheating. We can discern a number of conclusions from this public opinion which can be condensed down to a few main points. There are the common reasons why such interactions are considered off limits in an exclusive relationship.
Sexting with other people suggests that you're having thoughts of sleeping around. Of course, it's only natural for people to occasionally crave the companionship of someone else - it's human nature. As Eva said above, anyone who thinks their partner only thinks of them when they masturbate is being a little naive.
However, the difference here is the line between fantasy and reality. The majority of people understand that an imagined sexual encounter is vastly different from an exclusive physical relationship. Some people, however, struggle to differentiate between the two.
Connecting with an extramarital partner - even in a virtual environment - can foster an emotional connection between the two. Even though you might not see each other in the flesh, digital devices mimic regular interactions sometimes to the point where the two are indistinguishable.
With the advent of a new intimate relationship, this may lead to a person second-guessing their happiness in their current relationship. The number one reason for separation amongst married couples is that one half of the relationship met a new, more exciting partner.
For many partners, it's not the prospect of their husband or wife sleeping with someone else, it's the emotional reasoning behind why they sought out a sexting relationship. Doing so suggests they're not fulfilling their partner's needs, be it emotionally or with sex life issues.
Therefore, not only is it a betrayal of trust, but it's also a sleight on their current partner. Many consider sexting another person to proclaim "my current partner no longer meets my standards, so I'm going to start talking to someone else."
The older generation first learned about the existence of sexting when the Anthony Weiner scandal broke back in 2011. The public learned that this married Congressman had sexted with several women not his wife, including now-famous sex worker Sydney Leathers. This incident caused nationwide uproar and sparked much debate that continues to this day.
One reason for this uproar was that it quickly became clear a lot of people were engaging in similar activities. With a new digital age being ushered in, the swapping of explicit photographs and messages opened up new avenues of cheating - one which hadn't been possible in previous eras.
But how common is sexting cheating really? Judging by the recent statistics, around 25% of men have admitted to sext-cheating on their primary relationship partner, while the number hovers around 15% for women. How true these numbers are is up for debate since cheating isn't a topic people tend to be honest about. See this BBC article for related reading.
This is an important question to ask; will sexting lead to actual physical cheating? Unfortunately, there's no hard answer for this as it all depends on the individual. One person might be content with the thrill they get from virtual engagement, while others might want to take their illicit intimacy a little further.
If you discover your wife or husband sexting, your immediate action might be to end your marriage or relationship right there and then. However, it's important not to act rationally, since your spouse may not view their actions through the same lens as you. Instead, sit down and have a full discussion about their actions.
If they've physically cheated in the past, then their sexting may be a symptom of further intentions. But before you make any decisions, sit them down, explain why you're hurt and see their reasoning.
This all depends on the individual and the strength of your relationship or marriage. If your spouse assures you that their sexting was simply some harmless fun and had no intentions of going further, it may be wise to sit down and discuss how you can both contribute to the continuation and betterment of your marriage or relationship. There's no right or wrong answer, but it's crucial to consider every option before making a decision on the matter.
So, you might think we've been a little tough on sexting cheaters here. It seems that public opinion sways towards the belief that sexting another person is indeed an act of betrayal, which is understandable. But even though many people think it's inappropriate, there's a segment of our audience that are totally on board with extramarital sexting.
To some people, sexting is simply an extension of adult entertainment. For example, when the aforementioned Anthony Weiner sent images of his private parts to the distant Leathers as “Carlos Danger,” this might have meant little about his feelings for his very present wife. To Weiner, it was no different than lusting after a fictional character in a film or play.
Some people are able to separate physical pleasure from emotional intimacy. This is becoming increasingly more common in today's sex and porn-positive society, which is why the number of people cheating in relationships is steadily rising. Some people might not feel bad about their actions because they don't see it as any worse than masturbating or viewing porn.
A person might be in a toxic relationship. They might have an abusive or distant partner. In cases like this, sexting cheating can arguably be justified. Some might argue that it doesn't matter the toxicity levels of a relationship, most people have a duty to sever ties with their spouse before going elsewhere, but this is a polarizing subject for many.