Durban - Infidelity has long had a male face, but more women are finding sexual gratification outside of their relationships – their indiscretions though are not between the sheets, but in cyberspace.
This is according to South Africa’s leading sexologist, Dr Eve, who spoke to the Daily News while in Durban for the African Society for Sexual Medicine Congress which ended on Sunday.
Dr Eve, whose real name is Dr Marlene Wasserman, said online was where women found themselves sexually and were able to express their desires without fear of judgement from their partners.
She explores this in her book, Cyber Infidelity: The New Seduction, which was launched earlier this year.
The book is based on research she conducted through Ashley Madison, “the world’s leading married dating service for discreet encounters”.
“It’s an engaging book with tick boxes which encourage readers to think critically about their own journey and decide for themselves their own values when it comes to cyber infidelity. It really is a self-guided process” Dr Eve said.
She said that when the American website was first opened in South Africa, she was opposed to it because multi-partnerships were not a good idea in the age of HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases.
However, after seeing how liberating the space was for women especially, she realised that cyberspace expanded contemporary intimacy.
“We must stop thinking of relationships in this binary, stereotypical manner which curtails freedom and independence, and imposes these heavy expectations of monogamy.”
Although some women opt to have sexual intercourse with men they meet online, could cyber infidelity, without physical contact, be considered cheating?
There is no clear definition of cyber infidelity and it was up to each couple to discuss and decide for themselves what they considered cheating.
“Like physical contact, cyber infidelity can be seen as a betrayal,” Dr Eve said.
“The number of women engaging in cyber infidelity is indicative of the uniqueness of the online world, it has given us something we didn’t know we needed until we got it,” she said.
Going online meant being able to use rich, descriptive language, which was interesting and playful, and allowed women to express themselves in a way different to how they did with their partners.
“Generally, if you keep it a secret from your partner, it’s infidelity, but many women have taken online sexual arousal back to their partners and improved their sex life tremendously. I’ve had patients who then agree to continue the cyber infidelity openly because of the fantastic benefits to their real-life sex.”
She encouraged couples to discuss cyber rules just as they would discuss any other aspect of their relationships, so that they knew where each stood, to avoid the pain of betrayal.