Friday, March 21, 2008

Cybersex Is Far More Common Than Our Society Would Like To Admit -- More On This 21ST Century Taboo

With millions of people engaging daily in this tabooed topic, the following article is timely.

Is cybersex a sign of the declining times?

Journal Article Excerpt
Emotional Adultery: Cybersex and Commitment.

by Louise Collins

This paper forms part of a larger project: the construction of a feminist theory of committed adult relationships that challenges the culturally dominant traditional Christian marriage model. This paper itself describes and analyzes two kinds of on-line relationships, as a thought-experiment to explore conflicting intuitions about what matters in personal relationships. Thinking about "virtual" affairs conducted in the medium of cyberspace allows us to consider the importance of the disposition of bodies in personal relationships. By appeal to these case-studies, I will argue that although sexual and emotional infidelities may well be of concern within particular relationships, feminist attention should be focused currently on a different mode of fidelity, "practical fidelity," which emphasizes interactions between individuals conducted in physical space. Virtual relationships should not now be regarded as having the same significance as body-based relationships.(1)

Before turning to the case studies, let me sketch the traditional Christian model of marriage, which provides the contrasting backdrop for the discussion below.(2) This model presents a comprehensive account of what committed relationships are like and should be like. A committed relationship must be a heterosexual marriage properly constituted in the eyes of the state and the Lord, with the wife subordinated to her husband. The spouses should live together and provide a stable and pious home for their children, whose procreation and upbringing are the primary goals of the relationship. Marriage is an essential part of a flourishing human life. Once overlaid with the bourgeois ideology of romantic love in the mid-nineteenth century, marriage appears as a woman's destiny, and the necessary support to a man's achievement of his primary goal of success in the public sphere. Sex becomes an emotional as well as physical fusion of selves.

Clearly, many features of this model are unacceptable on feminist grounds, notably: it is inegalitarian (a wife is graciously to submit to her husband), heterosexist (only opposite sexes are to marry) and pronatalist (the only good sex is procreative sex and women's natural and best role is to bear and rear as many children as possible).

However, this traditional understanding of what a committed relationship is and should be continues to dominate North American culture. For example, to the extent that the popular media were able to sympathize with the companion of the late Gianni Versace, it was by configuring his situation, "as if he had lost his spouse." Alternative forms of committed relationships are made popularly intelligible by comparison with the marriage model. Moreover, many important social, legal, and economic benefits are only available to those whose relationships at least appear to conform to the marriage model.

At the same time, there are hints that the ideological power of this model is waning. For example, despite the protestations of the Right, in some parts of the U.S. there is some acceptance of gay and lesbian marriages. Some companies now grant benefits to "domestic partners," whether or not married and heterosexual. Currently (July 1998), the U.S. military is debating whether to downgrade its judgment of the seriousness of adultery. As the Clinton sex scandal plays out, there has been public debate about what counts as sexual, and hence as adulterous, activity.(3) The dominant story about the role of sex in a committed relationship as properly procreative and the correlative definition of sex are in question. Again, there is demographic evidence that the marriage model is no longer descriptively adequate for many relationships.(4)

In this cultural context, there is a need for feminist theorists to provide an alternative framework for exploring the meaning of committed relationships. One set of questions revolves around the nature and significance of different forms of infidelity. As a thought experiment to explore intuitions about what commitment requires, let us consider the following two cases:

1. The on-line erotic affair (the affair of the cyberloins). One partner, B, in a conventional committed relationship (e.g., they have lived together for years, they have a joint bank account, etc.), catches the other, A, typing at a steamed-up computer screen. Over A's shoulder, B reads, "Ooh C baby, come back to the hot tub and let me nibble...

The rest of the article can be seen by purchasing a subscription to Questia:

Another Website focusing on this taboo topic:
untitled.bmp (image)


Wikio - Top Blogs

"The Mother Of All Black Ops" Earns A Wikio's Top Blog Rating

Julian Assange's WikiLeaks Alternative Media's Been Wrongfully Bankrupted By The U.S. Military Intelligence Complex

Rating for

Website Of The Late Investigative Journalist Sherman Skolnick