Why Women Commit Cyber Infidelity
Traditionally the face of infidelity has largely come attached to a male body. Sure there were the few women who also participated in slipping secretly between the sheets, and stats have shown that this increased as women joined the workforce and were exposed to a greater variety of men, but before the introduction of the internet it was more common for women to be perceived as the gender that desired “sex in a loving and committed relationship” above all other forms.
According to Dr Eve this is no longer so. A South African Clinician in Private Practice, Couple and Sex Therapist and a Clinical Sexologist, Dr Eve has had a great deal of experience in the field of infidelity:
“For 20 years ‘Offline’ Infidelity has walked into my therapy room: he looks guilty and remorseful, she’s in tears. They both know exactly what offline infidelity is: he has dated, spent time or had sexual interaction, including penetration, with someone different. She feels the “mental exclusivity” and or “sexual exclusivity” has been shattered. Historically men have felt entitled and women have felt stifled to complain about their husbands cheating.”
However, the picture changed dramatically for Dr Eve when www.AshleyMadison.com was launched in South Africa in December 2012. In her new book, Cyber Infidelity: The New Seduction, she describes a couples counselling session where, still a relatively new concept, cyber infidelity is the cause for concern. Her therapy room is filled with confusion, with one person in tears and the other astonished, believing themselves not to have cheated, as no physical interaction had occurred, only an online conversation with an unknown person. And in the midst of it Dr Eve, whilst playing the ever neutral mediator on the outside, is internally lost to her minds traditional circles of thought:
“Is this infidelity? I asked myself. Why is the one so upset? The other is right, no bodily fluids were exchanged. What’s the fuss? Yet their distress bothered me.”
These questions ultimately lead Dr Eve on a quest; where she infiltrated the area of study herself, in order to get the inside scoop on the world of cyber infidelity.
“A year ago Noel Biderman, CEO and founder of the controversial dating site for married people, AshleyMadison.com, offered me his database of 20 million people to utilize for research purposes. I salivated. 20 million people in 30 different countries who have signed up to a dating site with a byline: “Life is short. Have an affair.” I had been given a golden key to unlock virgin territory: Cyber Infidelity.”
“Being curious to scientifically assess the females on the site, I registered as a male, the motivation being to see if their Cyber Infidelity tales in my therapy room and other forums was anecdotal or really suggestive of a change in women’s cheating attitudes and behaviour. This prompted a survey of 13,410 South African and UK female members registered on the site.”
Since accepting the offer Dr Eve has become the global go-to person on cyber infidelity and her results are in; say goodbye to the idea that the fairer gender is most satisfied by “sex in a committed and loving relationship”, the statistics reveal a very different narrative of modern female sexuality:
“The main reason why woman choose to use a service such as www.ashleymadison.com is lust! An astounding 78.2% of the respondents are seeking ‘no strings attached’ sex (NSA – sex without commitment). 50.4% are seeking a sexual partner while only 18.5% seek romance. It is clear that women want sex, satisfying sex. Not romance. Sex with a new person, and not just sex, but exciting sex, say 72.2% of them.”
Why Don’t Women Want Sex in Their Current Relationships?
According to Dr Eve, the main reasons why women are logging onto a dating site, rather than initiating steamier sex with their in-person partners, are:
71.9% – Their requirement to feel special is not being met by their partner.
61.8% – There is tension and frustration in their current relationship.
48% – Their partners are sexually unavailable
39.5% – Their partners are emotionally unavailable.
What is even more revealing is that the majority of these women don’t feel guilty:
41.3% do not feel guilt
39.3% are unsure
19.4% actually feel guilty
33.6% believe that they are doing the right thing by being on the site
54.3% have cheated emotionally before
28.6% have had one previous sexual infidelity
17.4% have had two
The research she has compiled names the following as some of the primary factors that; impact on modern female sexuality, inhibit women in real life and cause them to look for a little excitement online.
- They feel ignorant about their sexuality
- They lack the ability to ask their partners for what they want sexually for fear of negative repercussions.
- They don’t understand the sexual change they have gone through since pregnancy and as they age.
- They want equality in household tasks.
- They lack the confidence to request the use of a condom and fear; STD’s or pregnancy.
- Their relationship is abusive.
- They are insecure about their body.
- They often fight with their partners about money, children, parents or friends.
Women then turn to cyber infidelity to express themselves sexually as technology has the seductive allure of what has been termed the ‘Triple A Engine’; it is Affordable, Accesible & Anonymous.
“Women see the online forum as a safe place, one where they feel comfortable and are more accepted”, explains Dr Eve “Compare a cyber conversation with a real life conversation. When you sit at a dinner table and talk to someone you don’t know the conversation stays very superficial due to social norms and the fear of rejection experienced by both parties, as such one or both people come away feeling unfulfilled. However, online the conversations become intimate and meaningful – or what we term ‘hyper personal’- far quicker.”
“This works for a great many women. We did a survey to find out why and discovered that this is because the top three things women expect in a partner are; friendship, emotional support and then a satisfying sexual experience. Due to the rejection they associate with pursuing these attributes in their real life relationships, they head online where they can experience this almost instantly. One participant expressed this to me directly, stating: ‘I feel less judged’.”
Perhaps the age old tale of women most valuing ‘sex in a loving and committed relationship’ fails in only one instance – at the definition of ‘loving and committed’. These results show that being married and saying ‘I love you’ are only scratching the surface of what is actually a desire for non-judgemental friendship, emotional connection and reciprocal sexual pleasure (or physical love).
The Blurred Lines: When is Cybersex cheating?
One survey found that more than 60 percent of people having cybersex do not consider it to be infidelity. Many of them believe cybersex to be similar to pornography—an extension of fantasy that actually helps to keep them from physical affairs with other people. Some people even consider cybersex as something that may add spice to their offline relationship with their life partner.
These people believe that if they do not know the real name of their cybermate—and never actually meet them—their affair cannot be regarded as real. From a moral point of view; they say it’s no different from reading a novel or any other form of entertainment; in other words, a way to play out fantasies in a safe environment.
In recent research done by Psychology Today, one woman in a committed relationship remarked about her online sexual affairs:
“I’ve had this discussion with my boyfriend and we both agree that as long as it’s not with the same person more than twice, it is really masturbation. It’s like reading an erotic story and masturbating to it. I think, however, if you do it with the same person more than once there is a risk of getting attached to them.”
One should be aware, however, that not everyone will take this stance to online sexting. Many still see it as a form of infidelity. What may seem like harmless fun in secret, can cause heartache to your significant other when brought into the light of day.
Dr Eve suggests communicating with your partner; make sure that you define what cyber infidelity is in your relationship. When does each person feel that the line is being crossed? Once you have guidelines in place you can be confidently assured that you will not inadvertently hurt one another.
When Cyber Infidelity Becomes More Traditional Infidelity:
What Makes Women Take Cyber-Sex Offline?
Dr Eve says that we know more about female sexuality now than ever before and that this information can help us to understand why women are thriving in a society of cyber infidelity, even one where the fun doesn’t stay online.
“The real surprise, the kicker, came when the female respondents were asked to tick off the activities they engage in when on ashleymadison.com. I expected hot chatting to be high (83.5%) but was surprised by how few formed emotional connections (42.1%). What was startling was the fact that while only 42.1% are sexting, 76.3% of these women are having offline sex. Their cyber flirting and ‘sexting’ is their old fashioned foreplay into real life sex. These women were there for a purpose. They want to get laid. ” Says Dr Eve
Dr Eve cites the following as reasons why, once participating in an affair online, a woman will seek to consummate it offline:
- There is less pressure to perform for and please the man.
- They feel confident to ask for what they want sexually knowing that there will be no negative repercussions.
- Cyberflirting, cybersex and sexting consistently throughout the day take on the role of foreplay and give their body and mind the stimulation they require to desire and experience satisfying sex.
On average; women take a cyber relationship offline after six to fourteen days, they meet up with their cyber partner up to twice a month, each relationship lasts either between two and three months or up to a year.
“What is surprising is that despite the fact that the absence of judgment, more often than not, continues offline and that the participants mostly express being happy with their offline encounters, these relationships are always fleeting. This is because the participants are aware that there are many more opportunities online. They use the process of cyber-dating almost as a screening process to find the ‘perfect mate’ or the person who ticks all the requirements on their list.”
“As a result there is less and less commitment. It gives women the freedom not to settle, but to pursue what they truly want in a mate. However, this can create an endless stream of short relationships with no long term satisfaction.”
Another aspect that increases the possibility of this is that, some women do still form an emotional connection with their cyber-mates. When the relationship ends there is an emotional void. This makes it more likely that these women will participate in cyber infidelity that progresses to offline infidelity, repeatedly.
Beyond just the thrill of attachment these women are also having positive sexual experiences, some for the first time in their lives; this is another factor that will keep them coming back for more. As Dr Eve says:
“The respondents were asked to report on the impacts of their presence on the site. Blow me over, 81.2% stated finding sexual relationships, 74.6% report having good sex and 69.5% say being on the site reduced the stress in their current relationships whilst 40.8% say it has improved the sex in their current relationship. Overall being on the site made 56.7% of them feel better about themselves.”
For many women cyber infidelity has become the answer to a sexually unfulfilling, but otherwise happy marriage. They are still in love with their partner and what to share their lives with them, however, their drive for sexual satisfaction, a satisfaction that they feel is unattainable with their current partner, leads them to the instant gratification of an online platform and an offline one night stand.
“The results are inspiring – ‘Oh yes, women want satisfying sex!’ Disheartening –‘Oh no, they want this sex with a stranger’. And challenging ‘As a clinician what do I do with this emerging new female sexual and emotional behaviour?’”
“I think Female cyber infidelity is creating the groundswell we are seeing in the changing face of modern marriages and relationships. I feel the earth tremble with the many many women who lie quivering in front of their laptops as they sex themselves up for an offline sexual encounter. With no expectation but a sexually satisfying time with a stranger who will fill a gap before they pick up their kids and go home to a happy marriage.”
So … What is The Solution?
Dr Eve explains that there are currently no generally accepted therapeutic interventions for cyber infidelity and that the traditional methods for dealing with offline infidelity do not work on cyber infidelity.
However, she believes that the solution for now is to talk about it, communicate with your partner:
- Define what cyber infidelity is in your relationship.
- Try to rebuild the intimacy between the two of you and re-grow your friendship.
- Be open about your desires sexually; give them the opportunity to fulfil what you require.
If the above doesn’t work it may be a sign that you have irreconcilable issues and that you need to move on, rather than keeping them on the hook while you hook-up online.
Fast Fact: www.ashleymadison.com was hacked in July this year. The site, which encourages married users to cheat on their spouses and advertises 37 million members, had its data hacked by a group calling itself the Impact Team. The hackers threatened to expose 37.5m cheaters private information if the site was not deleted. This information constituted all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails.