Thursday, August 03, 2006

Being Faithful To Fidelity

The American Heritage Dictionary defines fidelity as:
NOUN:
1. Faithfulness to obligations, duties, or observances; implies the unfailing fulfillment of one's duties and obligations and strict adherence to vows or promises:

I'm critiquing a book for a good friend. The book is great—a paranormal kicker that has all kinds of unusual twists—but part of the plot concerns a man who engages in a sexual relationship with a married woman … on the Internet.

The setup is this: They began as colleagues then became friends and confidantes. It seemed natural that they should become online lovers as well. Rarely did they talk on the phone and they never met in person. Now, in the book, the man tells a woman-friend about this and she reams him a new one. Okay, I thought, he deserves that. After all, his online lover was married and their IM logs were smoking with a whole lot more than dirty talk. But the female character acted like an unwanted conscience. She didn’t stop with ONE reaming out—she went on and on, until finally I had to stop and reason with this character. (Yes, I often talk to characters, even ones who aren’t my own.)

Dee: What’s the deal here? Give the guy a break. It’s not like he dragged this woman to a Holiday Inn and forced her to betray her husband in the most shameful and degrading ways. Making her lick him and touch him—
Conscience: I get the picture.
Dee: Well, okay. I mean it’s debatable whether they even committed adultery. The two never even kissed much less exchanged bodily fluids. They didn’t share a bed or a night or feel skin against skin. Her sweet aroma never filled the air and his groan of passion—
Conscience: Good Lord, will you stop? You’re right, they never did any of those things.
Dee: So what’s the big deal? They chatted, they got hot and heavy, they got off and then she tucked in beside her husband. Who’s the loser?
Conscience: Tsk, tsk. How long it’s been since you were in catechism listening to Sister Mary Paul. Didn’t she tell you that sinning in the heart is the same as sinning in reality? For those minutes of chatting, that woman committed adultery, and the guy encouraged it since he knew she was married. She gave her online lover access to emotions that by right should only have gone to her husband.

Okay, I think bringing age into this was hitting below the belt. Just like a lousy, good-for-nothing conscience. It has been a hell of a long time since I’d sat before Sister Mary Paul but she had been unrelenting: Thinking a sin = doing a sin. That fear alone had kept me in line during the BJ years. (Get your mind out of the gutter! In this case, BJ means Before Jack.)

Anyway, this whole "are they guilty - are they not guilty" thing got me thinking. Where is the line drawn? If I go to a party and see a good looking guy and I imagine him with no clothes, am I betraying my marriage vows? If a husband drinks a little too much at the local bar and makes a pass at a woman that goes no farther, is he a cheating bastard? How far does harmless flirting have to go before I’ve crossed the line? What about fantasies? If a husband imagines Nicole Kidman for a second while he’s making love with his wife, where does put him on the adultery meter?

To see how other people thought about this I conducted a very scientific survey. Okay, I asked four people, but two men and two women, so I thought that would be scientific enough.

The results were interesting. I started the scenario with the two women sitting together. “Suppose a man talked to a woman online in a sexual way. They never met, just chatted online and—“

“I’d never put up with that,” said Lady Number 1. “No way.”

“Me, either.” Lady Number 2 didn’t seem to need to hear more.

“But it’s not like they checked into a hotel room or anything, they just talked sex.” Gosh, I at least wanted to get to question two.

“I don’t care,” said Lady Number 1. “It’s the same thing to me.”

“Right,” chimed in Lady Number 2. “It’s cheating.” She nodded at me. From the corner of my eye I saw Lady Number 1 cross her arms.

Okay.

I asked the two men separately. Both of them took their time and really thought about their answers. I also noticed that before they answered, their eyes lit up as though thinking about what that might be like.

“I don’t know,” said Man Number 1. “I’m not sure it would be. I mean, it’s just talk, right?”

“Just talk,” I said. “The man and woman would never meet.”

“Well, I don’t see where it would be cheating,” he said. Then he stopped and thought again. “Unless … if they developed a relationship. If they talked online multiple times and he went online for the purpose of talking to her, then that would betray his wife’s trust.” Then he kind of breathed a sigh. He smiled. He could go home and face his wife, his smile said. He’d come up with the right answer.

The second man was Jack. He thought about the answer a little too long for my comfort. “Flirting is okay as long as both parties know the limits,” he said. “But regular online meetings between a guy and woman where they have sex talk is a relationship and that’s too far.” He waited a moment, watching me.

I smiled and patted his hand. “Great answer, Sweetie.”

He smiled back. “I know. I learned how to handle trick questions a long time ago.”

So, what do you think? When is it crossing the line between a man and woman not bound to each other through marriage or mutual agreement? I wish I could offer the book I’m critiquing as a prize for the best answer—it’s a good one!

If I don't respond right away to your posts, it's becasue I'm still working and don't have access to a computer until I come home. So hang with me!

Thanks for visiting—

Dee

32 Comments:

Blogger Jodi said...

I think it's crossing the line. If I found out my husband was corresponding with someone else on the internet, I'd be upset. Okay, I'd probably break his computer! LOL
Who's to say that it would stay on the internet? I think that eventually they'd become over-confident with what they were doing and eventually move it to the next level of meeting in person.
Good luck on your new book proposal, Touching the Stars. I'm interested in learning more about it.

2:15 AM  
Blogger Teoh said...

Cyber sex still sounds like infidelity to me. Even if it's a one shot thing, would be like a one night stand. And this is between couple who knows each other and chat regularly. Think the best test would be would those who are involved be willing to tell their other half about the incident? If they feel guilty about it, then it's infidelity to me. Congrates on finishing the proposal for "Touching the Stars", good writing with it!

2:55 AM  
Blogger n0odz1 said...

HI DEE!! GOTTA GO TO WORK BUT I SAW YOUR EMAIL AND THOUGHT I'D GIVE YOU A HOLLER. THERE ARE NO WORDS TO DESCRIBE WHAT MY WIFE WOULD DO TO ME IF I EVEN FLIRTED WITH ANYONE (OTHER THAN YOU) LOL!!! BY THE WAY, I DIDN'T COME HERE TO WIN (REMEMBER THE SITUATION OF HOLDING THE COMPUTER IN BED.LOL) I JUST WANTED TO SAY HI AND GOOD LUCK!!
JACK

6:43 AM  
Blogger Dee said...

Good morning, all, and thanks for taking time to post your thoughts.

I did tell my lady friends that if I found Jack meeting someone, I'd have to hurt him then take everything he owned in a divorce. If I found out he was chatting with someone online, I'd at least have to find some way to hurt him. For a long time. In a variety of ways. But I don't know if I'd divorce him over cyber-sex.

Jack, you're the only man I flirt with. But then, your name is Jack so I don't consider it in bad taste, lol.

Dee

7:43 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

I see a difference between talking sex and cybersex. The latter is definitely doing.

People may forget that the little people inside the computer are real people, but it's like a phone: if phone sex is cheating, cybersex is that too.

8:35 AM  
Anonymous Vanessa Hart said...

Paula, you nailed it. Cyber sex=phone sex. Sorry, but phone sex is way too intimate to be considered harmless. If I found out my dh had an on-line relationship, I'd be hurt but I wouldn't file for divorce. I told him when we married he would be my LAST husband *LOL*

9:52 AM  
Blogger Amy S. said...

Congrates on finishing the proposal for Touching the Stars.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Cheryl Norman said...

Hi, Dee! I polled my husband and he gave the correct answer, too. Do we have these guys trained, or what? *LOL*

Cheryl

9:54 AM  
Blogger Daun Ann said...

I would consider that cheating. Even though there was no 'physical' activity.

Can't wait to hear more about Touching the Stars. Love your writing.

Have a great day.

10:32 AM  
Blogger LISA WILLIAMS said...

I like Jack's answer.

10:54 AM  
Blogger ThatBrunette said...

Hmm, your post really got me thinking. I hate to answer with a question but, is cyber-sex the same thing as porn? Are the people who are upset about the cyber-sex upset if their honey has a collection of erotic magazines and movies?

I understand that the CS is a little more from the first person but is that different from a fantasy?

Okay, enough questions! Congratulations on Touching the Stars proposal!

11:41 AM  
Anonymous Cherie J said...

I think it is crossing the line. I would be upset if my husband did that. Good look finishing your work in progress "Touching the Stars.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Meljprincess said...

Sweet Dee! Oh, how I have missed you...Wench! e-mail me. *smooch*
I don't think cyber sex or phone sex are grounds for divorce. I think actually touching another party is crossing the line.

12:17 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

Goodmorning Dee (well actually almost afternoon) I'm not entering the contest, I just came here to gab a bit. I do believe that if my hubby was flirting online, or any other place, well.......I really can't say here what I would do but it would definitely include the loss of some vital body parts! I see old baldy has been here trying to fish a compliment out of you. He's pitiful that way ~LOL~ Good luck on the book and I'll talk to you later. (I hate this, I don't have my smiley faces~~wah wah wah~~) Bye for now.

1:07 PM  
Blogger Shazi said...

Hiya Dee,
I would regard it as cheating. Especially if it got to that stage it's the sharing of emotions and a connection - which should be with me.
Congrats on the proposal for Touching the Stars. I like the title.

2:34 PM  
Blogger A J Matthews said...

Hi Dee! Congratulations on Touching the Stars - lovely title! =) As for the question... hmm! No physical contact = no foul. But how many people can flirt on-line and not wonder what it would be like to meet? It's a long, slippery slope from there to a whole world of grief.

2:56 PM  
Blogger LISA WILLIAMS said...

Congrats on your Touching the Stars proposal.

3:19 PM  
Blogger Shuck Ying said...

I think if you play with fire sooner or later you will get burned. Looking forward to Touching the Stars.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Deborah Chan said...

Jack's comment hit it bang on. Good luck with your proposal of Touching the Stars

3:21 PM  
Blogger Jean P. said...

Good one, Dee. Talking cyber sex once is just getting caught up in the conversation, but doing it a second time is crossing the line. When you spend more talking/thinking about the 'other' woman (or man), you're cheating.

Good luck with Touching the Stars and I hope everyone goes to Mary's site to try and win I'm No Saint, Valentine. It is such a great read.

4:09 PM  
Blogger A J Matthews said...

I agree with jean, "I'm no Saint, Valentine" is excellent!

4:57 PM  
Blogger jennybrat said...

Hi Dee, I think once you have intereaction with a real person versus watching photos/videos, it is considered infidelity. Good thoughts on finishing Touching The Stars.

6:06 PM  
Anonymous AmeliaR said...

Hey Dee!

Great question about cyber sex and infidelity. To me, if a couple is talking intimately to each other on the net, then this would be a form of cheating against one's partner. I believe when one is too personal with another person, whether physically or even verbally, then they are not being completely faithful to the significant person in their life.

And I am delighted that you have completed the proposal for Touching the Stars! Time travel stories have always fascinated me, and the setting for this one is so unique. Definitely looking forward to this story!

Hope you had a great day!

Amelia

7:24 PM  
Blogger Tina Holland said...

What an interesting question Dee! I would definately be surprised if dh had online meetings - only because he's such a technophobe. I would be more surprised that he had that much commitment to using the technology. LOL!
I think each couple has their own boundaries and if you don't know what they are you better ask your significant other.
My husband and I are both very touchy people...if it was socially acceptable I'd hug everyone I meet. We both tend to touch people when we speak to them and I think a member of the opposite sex gets touched more. You mix in our flitatious personalities and I'm sure many people find our marriage a bit odd. I will usually abandon Mr. Holland to a gaggle of women (much to his pleasure) and go mingle at a party or whatever. At the end of the day we both no we are going home together because that is where we want to be.

Tina

7:24 PM  
Blogger April Martinez said...

My general rule? If it's an act that would really hurt the spouse if he or she ever found out, it's probably wrong. Even if there isn't actual sex involved, and sometimes even if there isn't actual emotion involved. It depends on the spouse, really.

For instance, women are more likely to find their husbands' emotional extramarital affairs more hurtful than their husbands' one-night stands. And men are more likely to be the other way around. There are, of course, exceptions, but that's what it usually is.

7:37 PM  
Blogger lynangel said...

Congratulations on finishing the proposal for Touching the Stars. Can't wait for it to come out!

7:45 PM  
Blogger Dee said...

Hey everyone, I'm home from the salt mines!

I love some of your answers--thanks for posting!!

Amelia, you know Touching the Stars is set in North Carolina, and I'm sending you a copy of the dang thing when I finish, just because you live in such a great state!

How are you doing, Linda? You know how much I love balding men, so I was happy to see Jack post! Be nice to him, now.

So many of you said cyber sex is equivalent to cheating I now stand corrected. I'm nervous to even smile at a guy now, y'all. lol!

A long time ago, Jack told me if he ever became unhappy being married he'd tell me, he wouldn't cheat on me. He said he thought too much of himself and his own integrity to cheat, which is another way of lying. For that reason alone, I know Jack wouldn't start a relationship online or off.

And if he did, I probably wouldn't think of divorce. Murder maybe, but not divorce.

Cheryl, your husband is a sweetheart, and it's no surprise he gave the "right" answer. Your haolding that rolling pin probably didn't hurt, lol.

Mel, I'm sorry I haven't written, lady, but the email world goes both ways, Sweet Thing. You still looking for a penis charm? Hmm?

I'm so sorry not to answer each of you individually. Maybe the next time I blog I won't be trapped behind a desk proofreading 6 point text all day... Or whatever it is I do. LOL.

Stay tuned to see who's winning I'm No Saint, Valentine and Heart of a Soldier! Thanks AJ and Jean for syaing how much you liked No Saint!

Dee

8:55 PM  
Blogger Kayelle Allen said...

I'm interested to see how many yelled "CHEATER!" on this blog.

Remember the 12 steps to intimacy?
1. Eye to Body
2. Eye to Eye
3. Voice to voice
4. Hand to Hand
5. Arm to Shoulder
6. Arm to Waist
7. Mouth to Mouth
8. Hand to Head
9. Hand to Body
10. Mouth to Breast
11. Hand to Genital
12. Genital to Genital

On the surface, it seems as though cyber-sex doesn't include any of those steps, since they can't touch, although they could see and hear with the right software.

The whole cyber-sex thing reminds me of the story of the little boy with his hand in a cookie jar. If he's looking over his shoulder and trying not to let anyone see, he knows he's in the wrong.

So, if they feel they have to hide...

9:07 PM  
Blogger Dee said...

Hi, Kayelle. I was kind of surprised that really only one or two people seemed to think cyber sex wasn't an awful thing. I do think it's all about intimacy. After a commitment has been made between people, then outside friendship is allowed but not intimacy. And your list notwithstanding, I think intimacy starts mind to mind--which does happen online when two people decide to share personal information.

All in all, I think it was easier having a relationship before the computer age. lol.

Dee

9:59 PM  
Blogger Dee said...

Jodi I should have mentioned this earlier, but look for more info about Touching the SDtars in the next newsletter--which good Lord willing will be in a couple of weeks.

Dee

11:27 PM  
Blogger Dee said...

I like your question, thatbrunette. Is sexual activity online another form of a fantasy? Trouble is, when Jack has a fantasy, I want it to be with ME and not some respondent at the other end of a virtual line. I'm a selfish broad and not ashamed of it.

Dee

11:31 PM  
Blogger Roxy Harte said...

Okay, I've waited, and waited for someone to share my opinion and since it isn't happening, I'm jumping in with both feet and one big mouth.

Remember the emotional and heated debate, concerning Clinton and blowjobs--mostly men and the younger generation, ie, decades younger than me, agreed that blowjobs aren't sex. I'm fairly certain that if not most of those men, and the generation younger than me would agree that phone sex, cybersex, mutual masturbation and even group jerk-offs are not necessarily sex in the context that they are cheating on their significant others.

However, that leaves up in the air how their significants would feel.

Surprisingly, or maybe not because I haven't asked any of my women friends if they have these types of conversations with their sigificants, but I tend to have these kinds of conversations with my significant all the time...after four years I'm still trying to figure out where he draws the line.
Is verbal flirting okay?
Is body-contact flirting okay?
Is watching porn alone okay?
Is online sex dialogues okay?
Is play party BDSM play with another, if you aren't with me and no intercourse is involved okay?

The bottom line is this: every relationship has to set their own boundaries, and each partner needs to know and accept those boundaries, but like marriage vows, it is a contract, accountable, not to anyone else but to each other...so my neighbor, my friends, my clergy only needs to know that we have a bond of faithful fidelity, and we know that our faithful fidelity strays into a lot of gray areas that is no one's business but our own.

8:46 AM  

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