Does watching porn count as cheating? Experts debate digital infidelity

Click to play video: 'Are you digitally cheating? Here’s what an online dating expert has to say'
Are you digitally cheating? Here’s what an online dating expert has to say
WATCH: Expert Julie Spira shares what she believes to be digitally cheating – Jan 14, 2019

The dictionary definition of cheating hasn’t changed, but our interactions with people certainly have.

Dr. Natasha Sharma, a relationship expert and creator of The Kindness Journal, told Global News that these days, people define their own boundaries of their relationships.

“What constitutes cheating to one person may not constitute cheating to another. It’s important to be on the same page when it comes to knowing your own boundaries,” she said.

“For a relationship to be successful and healthy, each party must have the same basic definition for the relationship.”

READ MORE: Why some people forgive cheaters — ‘I was tired of festering in misery’

Online dating expert Julie Spira added that with technology so intertwined in our lives, cheating has also become digital.

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“Chatting or just texting with someone suggestively on a regular basis, to flatter them and yourself when your partner does not know about your ongoing communication, is a form of cheating,” she said. “If you’re sending messages filled with heart emoticons, chatting online or calling someone, meeting them for a casual drink, and you don’t mention that person to your partner, it’s a problem.”

Credit: Getty Images.

She added if you think your partner would be upset with your actions, then you already know you’re in the category of emotional or physical cheating.

“If you have no problem with your partner seeing suggestive texts or inviting them to join you with your ‘friend’ for drinks, then you’re upfront about your activity, but that’s rare to find.”

Sharma said it’s about understanding the boundaries in your relationship and not breaking them. “Any place in the relationship where trust has been broken as a result of a person’s behaviour will feel like a betrayal.”

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Below, both experts go through common ways people interact in a digital space and put an end to this common question: Could this be considered cheating?


“Sexting someone other than your partner is cheating,” Spira said. “The physical and emotional intimacy you have with your partner if you’re not in an open relationship belongs just between the two of you.”

If you sext someone, you’re on a “slippery slope” before it becomes physical, she said.

Sharma agreed and added if the partner does find out you are sexting someone else in a flirtatious way, they will most likely feel betrayed.

Sliding into someone’s DM

This could possibly be cheating, Spira said, depending on the nature of the conversation. “Once you move past public comments, views, and likes, and move to chatting privately in a series of DMs, your messages are private and could become more intimate,” she explained.

READ MORE: Overlooked reasons why people in happy relationships still cheat

“If you think you could share your digital activity with your partner, then you’re not hiding behind his or her back, but that’s rarely the case, so if the subject of your DMs is sexual, and not business oriented, it’s a prelude to cheating.”

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Sharma said it is all about intent. “If the intention is to strike up flirtatious or sexually-oriented conversation — even if there is no actual intention or possibility of meeting IRL — then I think the answer with sexting applies here as well.”

Following attractive people on social media

Following men or women you find attractive on social media is not considered cheating, Spira said.

“Following hot models or those you’re attracted to and don’t know them in person is very common these days. I don’t consider that cheating, as it’s no different than buying a magazine, reading a sexy article, or smiling at an attractive person you see walking by.”

Sharma explained following people isn’t considered cheating, but you should ask yourself why you’re following them in the first place.

“Are you open about it with your partner, or internet-ogling behind their back? What are you getting out of looking at these photos? It’s human to appreciate other attractive humans. But becoming obsessed with them, or using them as a substitute for stimulation or time in your actual relationship, will likely lead to problems and hurt feelings with the other party.”

Watching porn on your own

Watching porn without your partner knowing does not count as cheating, Spira said.

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“But if your partner doesn’t know you watch porn and they find out, it will make them feel uncomfortable and insecure,” she continued. “They’ll wonder why they can’t satisfy you sexually, and if you’re heading in the direction of cheating.”

READ MORE: Signs of a serial cheater — Why some people can’t stop being unfaithful

Sharma agreed and added again, intentions matter. “If watching becomes a substitute for sex or stimulation by your own partner, this is where this is likely to become a problem, if not actual cheating.”

Looking up exes online

Most of us have past lovers or romantic history with people we’re still connected with online. “There’s a difference between feeling nostalgic and going down memory lane to see what your ex looks like and how they’re doing,” Spira explained.

“It can lead to cheating if you’re unhappy about your existing relationship and feel the need to call and meet them without your partner knowing.”

Sharma said if you regularly do this, you need to ask yourself if it’s more than just curiosity. “If you do this regularly, it would suggest you have some unresolved feelings or issues, and perhaps are not ready for your current relationship. And doing this behind your partner’s back is almost sure to cause hurt and feelings of betrayal.”

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Going on someone’s dating app and scrolling

This could possibly turn into cheating, Spira argued. “The most frequent question I receive from people who have found their boyfriend or girlfriend on Tinder or a dating app, asking what they should do,” she said. “If someone is curious and is scrolling on a friend’s app once to see photos of other singles, but they aren’t writing to them, setting up dates, or creating their own profile, I’d let it go.”

However, if they take it a step further and create their own dating profile to view photos of potential dates or even communicate with them (without meeting them), it’s a sign the relationship is in trouble. “Plus, it’s a dating app and not a social network. If a mutual friend sees your profile up on a dating app, and they know you’re in a relationship or are married, you should plan on getting busted or dumped.”

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