It’s no secret that I have a “thing” for black and white photography. It would, I guess, have made sense if I tackled this week’s prompt by perhaps focusing it around one of my own photos. I was actually tempted, but then I thought I’d come at it, as it were, from a slightly different perspective. So, instead of focusing on imagery, I decided to look at “grey areas”.
Relationships and, in particular, sexual relationships, all have their own dynamics; their own “rules” that make them work. Each relationship is as unique as the individuals that make it up, and as such, there are no absolute “right” or “wrong” answers to the particular question I decided to ponder; there are only answers that are “right” or possibly “wrong” to the individuals in a relationship, within the context of that particular relationship.
The particular question in question was, courtesy of an article in a popular free newspaper often found on public transport, this:
In a monogamous relationship what constitutes cheating?
Is sexting cheating? A stolen kiss at a party? What about enjoying sexual fantasies about a co-worker or your spouse’s friend?
Where is the line?
The question, you will notice, concentrates on monogamous relationships. Why this should be, I’m not sure. I sometimes think the vanilla world sees the non-mono world as some sort of free for all, and that cheating is impossible in a non-mono context. That is, of course, bollocks but is, perhaps, a topic that deserves a post in its own right.
I can only assume that there is an assumption that in a monogamous setting, due to it being more “restrictive”, things are, perhaps, more clear cut, more, shall we say, black and white.
Let’s just say that when I was married, the only person (until very near the end when it was pretty much all over bar the shouting and the tears) that I had a physical sexual relationship with was my wife. For 15 and a half of the 16 years we were together, the only person that I had sex with was her. That the same cannot be said in reverse, is a different matter and, maybe, something for a different post.
Let’s take the above scenarios in reverse.
Personally, I think these are fine and, for the most part harmless. What goes on in our heads doesn’t harm anyone and, in the main, probably benefits both parties in a relationship in terms of arousal and how that translates to a given sexual experience. There is, of course, a fine line between fantasy and obsession and obsession can become dangerous but, sticking purely to fantasies, whether they be about some celebrity, a colleague, a friend, or possibly just a slightly different version of your partner, on the whole I believe they probably benefit the relationship more than they harm it and do not count as cheating in any way. Whether or not you choose to share those fantasies with your significant other is, of course, an entirely different matter. Personally, for me, it’s always been a case of what goes on in my mind, stays in my mind.
The stolen kiss
This, for me, is a grey area. I, personally, have never done it. Unlike fantasy, this is an actual encounter. What was in the kiss? Was it a “friendly” peck, or was it an expression of something that is always fated not to be? After all, there are kisses and there are kisses. If it’s just a kiss, a display of affection, nothing more, then it’s probably nothing. If it’s a full on snog that is an expression of what could happen, then I would say the line has been crossed. If the kiss is sexual in nature, even if no actual sex occurs, a boundary has been blurred, in my opinion, if not actually crossed.
This is a difficult one for me. Yes, I do it. Yes, even when I was married, I occasionally did it. Not as an expression of intent, per se, but as a pretty extreme form of flirting. Now, flirting, I believe, does not count. I am a flirt, most people flirt; it is (I suspect) a natural part of the male/female human interaction. We are, after all, sexual creatures, and monogamous (I believe) only through choice, not design. Sexual attraction, whether we recognise it as such or not, is a natural thing. Flirting is a natural expression of that most basic element of interaction between the sexes. In the main, it’s fun and it’s harmless and, so long as it stays like that, no harm is done if both parties are willing to play along. Of course when one party isn’t willing, that way leads to sexual harassment. Sexting is a form of flirting. It’s a particularly modern form of flirting resulting from the technology that we employ, but it is, I guess, no different from the sending of salacious letters that happened in the past. Again, I think, much depends on intent and content. A slightly smutty, off-colour comment is one thing, sending a three minute video of you masturbating along with the comment “Wish it was you doing this to me” is another. There is a spectrum of behaviour and, the line lies somewhere along that spectrum. When I was married, I’d have happily swapped flirty texts with someone, I would never have sent them photos of my penis. For me, at that time, the line lay somewhere between those two points.
A further complication is that each person in the relationship will have their own definition as to what is “acceptable” and what isn’t. Sadly, in many cases, human nature being what it is, people may apply a different standard to their own conduct as opposed to what they deem acceptable from their partner. Is this hypocritical? Yes, but as with so many things, when it comes to sex, humans find it very easy to be hypocrites; frequently unconsciously or unintentionally.
The important thing, in my opinion, is that the definition of “cheating” is unique to the relationship that it is applied to. It is an internal thing that really only the parties in the relationship can call, because only they really know and understand how their relationship works.
So, yeah, it’s a tricky one to answer and I suspect there will be as many views as there are people expressing them. My own “bottom line” I guess is that every relationship is a kind of contract entered into by the participants on that relationship. As I said above, every relationship will have its own particular “rules” that will develop and change over time. If you break the “rules”, whether they be explicit or implicit, of the particular relationship you are in, and that in doing so you cause pain to the other participant(s), then the chances are the word “cheat” probably applies.