With the downfall of former Rep. Anthony D. Weiner (D-NY) for sending lewd photos of himself online, it may not shock many to know that virtual infidelity over the Internet or with cellphones is typically the first step toward the ultimate goal of real-life cheating.
That is, although sex and infidelity are now only a keyboard away, at the end of the day, there is no substitute for physical, face-to-face contact in our sexual relationships, according to a new study.
Drs. Diane Kholos Wysocki and Cheryl Childers, both sociologists, investigated the behaviors of infidelity on the Internet and sexting — sending sexually explicit text messages and photographs via email or cellphone.
Their findings are published online in the journal Sexuality & Culture.
According to experts, the Internet is now where the majority of people go to find sex partners. And at the same time, the Internet has made infidelity much easier.
In order to explore both sexting and infidelity and understand how people use the Internet to find sexual partners, Kholos Wysocki and Childers placed a survey on a website aimed at married people looking for sexual partners outside their marriage (AshleyMadison).
A total of 5,187 adults answered questions about Internet use, sexual behaviors, and feelings about sexual behaviors on the Internet. The authors were particularly interested in aspects of sexting, cheating online, and cheating in real life.
The survey revealed the following results: Women were more likely than men to engage in sexting behaviors. Over two-thirds of the respondents had cheated online while in a serious relationship and over three-quarters had cheated in real life.
Women and men were just as likely to have cheated both online and in real life while in a serious real-life relationship. In addition, older men were more likely than younger men to cheat in real life.
Saliently, Kholos Wysocki and Childers found that respondents were more interested in finding real-life partners, both for dating and for sexual encounters, than online-only partners.
“Our research suggests that as technology changes, the way people find each other and the way they attract a potential partner also changes. While social networking sites are increasingly being used for social contact, people continue to be more interested in real-life partners, rather than online partners,” the authors said.
“It seems that, at some point in a relationship, we need the physical, face-to-face contact. Part of the reason for this may be that, ultimately, humans are social creatures.”