Is VR Porn Cheating?

 Image ©Caitlin Murphy, 2016. Lomography Redscale 35mm Film. 

Image ©Caitlin Murphy, 2016. Lomography Redscale 35mm Film. 

The short answer: not inherently, no. 

There's a bit of a longer answer here though, and it's worth exploring both the intricacies of how this new technology can impact our relationships and love life. 

This was an idea that was first posed to me a few years ago, when VR was a fairly big topic in the news. I was reading about someone who tried out a VR experience at some expo–the details are hazy to me now–and the intimacy of the experience made him feel as if he was cheating on his partner. As I recall, the simulation only involved talking, sitting next to a simulated person and holding her hand in virtual reality. Though it wasn't inherently sexual or "promiscuous" in content, the level intimacy felt during that experience made the user feel he was doing something that infringed on his relationship agreement: that he had cheated on his partner. 

My first reaction was that this was preposterous conceptually; but on further consideration, I realized that it was far more complex than that.

As straightforward as society makes us think it is, cheating is a complex and individualistic thing. Where we often operate with certain expectations, usually unspoken, cheating is really about the agreements you've made with your partner/s. Though there is a lot of assumption about what constitutes as cheating in western society, talking with people has shown me a wide range of beliefs regarding what cheating is, which fluctuate in seemingly extreme ways depending on the age, culture, subculture, relationship structure, and sexuality of the people involved. While some people would like to believe that the concept of cheating is a straightforward and simple one, it is anything but. 

If I had to put it simply, cheating is any sort of contact with another entity that is outside the agreed-upon expectations in your relationship. But how does VR porn play into this? 

Porn has been a source of contention for couples for some time. While it's become more socially acceptable with the years, there are still plenty of people that see porn consumption by their partner as some form of cheating: gaining sexual pleasure from a source other than themselves. I have seen some suggest that porn watching is also a precursor or indication that the person is cheating, and this sort of belief is far more widespread than my sex positive bubble would lead me to believe. 

I personally don't see watching porn as cheating, but another person might feel entirely differently. For people who do find that sort of threat in porn–insecurity over their partner gaining pleasure from someone other than themselves, even by proxy–VR porn could be seen as a higher 'violation' of the relationship due to the interactivity of the experience. It's worth discussing why people feel this way. 

While every case will be different, discomfort with porn viewing, in general, comes from insecurity and shame around sexuality. Having been in non-monogamous relationships, the idea of porn as cheating seems foreign to me. But for people who have only ever been in (or been comfortable in) monogamous relationships that insecurity can be far more present in the relationship. While I could make this a dissection of why people think of porn as cheating, that would completely derail the blogpost. 

VR porn offers new and unique experiences that don't have to be merely solo, in the same way "old fashioned" video porn can be educational or merely hot to share. The ways in which you and your partner/s could explore that are really up to you. I think it's also important to talk about VR porn for its potential to explore new sexual experiences. In monogamous relationships, it's unrealistic to expect a partner to fulfill all of your sexual needs, experimentation, or fetishes. Within certain dynamics, VR porn could be a way to explore sexual curiosities that don't interest your partner, without having to rely on another human. In other words, depending on what you decide, VR porn could either be cheating or help deter cheating.  or a teen shaping their scraggly beard and spraying on some Axe before a night making out behind the movie theater. 

How VR porn could play into your relationships is something only you and your partner/s could determine, and is definitely worth a conversation if you're curious about it.