I’m going to try a bit of an experiment. A survey of sorts. You don’t have to comment to take part; simply read, and think about your answer.
For all of the scenarios I’m about to list below, the question simply is this: This is cheating, True or False? There are no right or wrong answers. Maybe that’s my point. It is an open brain quiz; feel free to use whatever compass you have to determine your answer.
Scenario One. Cindy, 40, has been married to Brad, 42, for several years and they have two kids together. Cindy is a regular online gamer, and found herself in her first ever same-sex relationship (real or game) in SL. Cindy’s online girlfriend, Amanda, is also married although the details aren’t clear to Cindy. Cindy begins to feel guilty about her regular online encounters with Amanda and so, in spite of great fear of what her husband would say, she sits down privately with Brad and tells him all about Amanda. Brad, to her pleasant surprise, is not mad at her but is instead relieved by her honesty. Even though he harbors a little bit of unspoken insecurity about the whole thing, he’s confident enough in Cindy’s love for him and the kids to give his approval for her to continue with Amanda. And so they do continue.
Scenario Two. Marie, 25, has only been married to Pierre, 30, for a couple years now and they don’t have kids together. As you can guess by their names, they live in France. Marie’s and Pierre’s short marriage is already troubled; Pierre’s more of an old-fashioned traditionalist when it comes to gender roles in the home, which differs from Marie’s more liberated outlook. They’ve had fights about money, each other’s parents, and household chores on an almost weekly basis. Marie turns to SL regularly as an escape from day-to-day life; one day, as she least expects it, she meets Eric. Eric is 21, single, and lives in the States. Marie and Eric are surprised by just how much they have in common and before long are an in-game “item”. It isn’t long until, when Marie and Pierre are intimate (which is becoming less and less frequent), she finds herself fantasizing about Eric in his place. Meanwhile, Pierre has been receiving text messages from Michelle at work. These messages have been getting more and more sexual in nature; occasionally he replies, more teasing than serious, but he really does relish the attention. Because nothing’s actually happening on a physical level, he thinks it best not to upset Marie unnecessarily by telling her about the text messages. Marie, meanwhile, has been spending more and more time on the computer than on housework. One day out of frustration, Pierre asks Marie just what’s so exciting about SL anyway, and she replies, “Nothing.”
Scenario Three. Tess, 34, is in a live-in relationship with Jeff, 38. His controlling behavior has gotten so bad that she can’t even go to the grocery store without him calling her 3 or more times on the cell phone to check up on her. He’s never hit her, though he’s come close to it on more than one occasion, and he calls her terrible names. Tess hasn’t had a job in nearly a decade now, and is sure that nobody would hire someone with a resume as empty as hers. She would love to get on her own two feet but until she can begin to afford it, she forces herself to endure living with Jeff. One of her few means of escape is playing SL on the computer at the library while Jeff is at work. That’s how she met Shawn, who’s 36 and lives in another state but in the same time zone. Shawn is everything that Jeff is not; he’s kind, polite, respectful, and genuinely loves the time spent with Tess. When they cyber for the first time, Tess cries RL tears, never thinking it could be possible for a man to be so giving and kind to her. Well, time goes on, and she tells Shawn all about Jeff and I do mean ALL. Shawn sends Tess a bus ticket in the mail, disguised as a birthday card from her mom. The next day, Tess and her belongings are all out of Jeff’s apartment without so much as a note. Tess and Shawn are married before the end of the year.
Scenario Four. Lauren, 51, has been playing SL for years now. Her husband Jim, 52, knew this since before they started dating. Jim approves of and even likes Lauren’s in-game trysts, because at the end of the day she turns off the computer and takes all those randy feelings out on him. In RL, neither of them has anything romantic or sexual with anyone else. Lauren has a favorite in-game partner, one Aaron; in fact their avatars are married in-game. Lauren finds herself having feelings similar to those for Aaron towards Craig. So Lauren decides to create an alt she calls “Sunshine” to pursue a romance with Craig. Craig knows that Sunshine is really Lauren. Aaron does not. Jim knows of both Aaron and Craig. Lauren goes out of her way to tell Aaron that she will be offline and away from her computer for several days; what she really does, however, is spends the weekend as Sunshine developing a romance with Craig.
All of these scenarios are based on ones that I’ve personally either seen or experienced. I thought of them, when I heard someone say that any romantic or sexual in-game relationship that isn’t with your RL partner is cheating and therefore wrong. But see, right and wrong aren’t always black and white. There lies a whole spectrum in between. It’s up to us individually to decide what is right and what is wrong, and why, on an individual basis.
So, what do you think?