The Unscratchable Itch

September 14, 2007 at 1:59 am (Love, Marriage, Polyamory, Relationships, Second Life, Sex)

The question on whether it can be called cheating for a married person to enjoy Second Life (SL) relationships with people other than their partners has been tossed around the internet airwaves nearly ad nauseam. Articles in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and even a recent blog post in Wired tackle the subject of fantasy vs. real romances in SL. All this chatter points to the fact that, despite what Dr. Laura might like to believe, SL sex and romance is a persistent and pervasive practice.

I’ve written openly about my own professed penchant to cultivate love affairs with men online while enjoying a loving, committed, and completely open relationship with my real life (RL) my husband of 11 years. Most of my SL relationships grew organically, sprouting from the seeds of mutual fascination, sexual curiosity, and palpable attraction to the way that person made me feel about myself. Never did I embark on these journeys with the intent to meet and marry my next man.

So what then is the destination that I, and the thousands of others like me, traverse toward? When we jump on this train to tryst town, just where do we expect to get off (Freudian pun intended)?

Sadly, many of the married friends I know who pursue SL relationships are merely groping for a happiness that does not exist in their real life marriages. Several feel obligated to stay in these unfulfilling relationships to provide a comfortable and secure environment for their children. Others simply haven’t made the effort to fix what’s broken and turn to SL to give them what they’re missing instead.

Interestingly, most SL friends I know don’t realistically aspire to meet their online lovers in real life, given the myriad constraints that exist. This is especially true of those who foster flames from afar, as I did when I cherished a beau from Europe who lived a minimum of nine hours’ time difference away. And sure, we may all fantasize about taking our erotic avi sex to the realm of the Hilton at that conference in Halifax. But few of us actually do it. So you gotta wonder, why do we willingly–vociferously, I might add–engage in the pursuit of a plan that prompts us to feel an itch that will never be scratched?

The only explanation that exists for us to find friends we’ll never physically feel, love online partners we’ll never pursue, and make virtual marriages we’ll never consummate is that the adventure in itself feels so damn good. Because we all know in the backs of our minds that these relationships rarely have a chance at surviving beyond a certain point. I argue, it’s not their survival we strive for. It’s just the joyous journey that we seek. And, when that trip is over, we’re first in line to take the next tour.



  1. Daxiong Ling said,

    I believe this is called, “the thrill of the hunt.”
    Also, it’s quite possible that in SL, people rediscover themselves somewhat. Finding pieces of themselves that have long been forgotten–which helps them remember why their partner fell in love with them in the first place.

  2. Trow said,

    I have to say I agree with many of the points made by both of you…while the journey or “chase” is thrilling, so is the common bond between friends with shared experiences…and these take many forms in SL…sometimes a humorous moment, or the discovery of a new place…it might just be the bonding…the connection to the person behind the av…those shared experiences between strangers that makes them no longer so strange.

    Mix in the taboo of “sex” outside a RL marriage (tempered with the safety of knowing your marriage is in no real jeopardy), and these experience take on an added emotional intensity, and consequently, personal rediscovery and rejuvination.

  3. VJ Shojo said,

    I can also speak as a devoted husband of 11 years about the distance and the closeness of SL. My RL wife is an adventuress in SL and spends many more hours than me there. We both are are builders and entrepenures , but she has her fantasy life spent with tinys and in Victorian sims and I spend my time around Music and Racing in SL. We love each other and our sex life has improved dramatically since we took up SL. We both have had our SL partners of the other sex and in fact she was briefly officially partnered in SL.
    I have a close female friend in SL that I converse with about RL but mostly play and adventure with in SL.
    My RL wife has her dance partners and I have mine. Do we we both have sexual fantasies ? I presume so by her behaviour in RL after an evening out in SL and I’m sure I project SL fantasies into the RL bed. That said, Is my mairrage in danger…No. We know that our RL together is real, and ultimately we must answer to the laws of physics and society we’ll grow old together and share each others faults and virtues. In SL it’s nice to be young and beautiful and yet have the wisdom and skills as a lover and otherwise to make yours and others fantasies a little more real.

  4. Howard MacKinnon said,

    Great article, and Blog! I found you doing some research and looking for some very good blogs that are dealing with relationships and marriage, but especially all the aspects of divorce… Because, I believe that it has and will always be a factor of communication that is the key to any good relationship and that the lack of it, is where the trouble starts for every marriage… Whether it be money, alcohol and drugs, adultery, pornography or and abuse in every form of mental, spiritual, and yes physical will all lead back to one thing, and that is no real communication, especially after reading this post it reminds me how important it really is…Keep up the good work on all of our behalf’s. Thank you, Howard M.

  5. Adell Aukeela said,

    Having intimate relationships mentally or physically that takes you away from the real world and real people who love you is a seriously, selfish sickness!! I think unless you are in it together, than the other person is deceiving you!SL has totally ruined my life,by ruining my marriage.My husband is a ghost! As an addictive personality he has no real sense of reality since SL has been the priority in his life.He has no job but he has his virtual women.But he no longer has me. I hope that he will at least make it all worth it and meet her and she shapes up to be every bit the fantasy women of his dreams and his SL addiction.People have long distance relationships and they have to fufill themselves with emails ,ichat and webcam intamacey ,but they are real!So why do people not think that doing this with someone in second life just because they are a false virtual character of themselves, while they are married….isn’t cheating!! Ive been 100 % loyal to my husband for 16 yrs and over those years i have had a healthy love life and fantasies with him until SL came in to our life! And I say our life because believe me if your partner takes it up it will take over your life too by ruining it!

  6. neptunesmusings said,

    Wow, ain’t that a kick? Adell wants to blame the symptom so badly, because the root cause is too distasteful to face. Before SL, it would’ve been strip clubs, or personal ads, or bath houses, or penpals. Why get so excited by *how* he scratches the itch, and focus no attention on why? The “addictive personality” is a clue, but it’s not the cause. How did he avoid all the other ways to scratch that itch outside of Adell’s affections for so many years, if he’s always had the addictive personality (which don’t tend to just “appear” overnight)? I hope Adell’s made peace with the troubles that she feels/felt in her marriage, ’cause I’ve got a feeling that playing the victim here wasn’t getting her any further towards the happiness she sounds like she once had and now misses.

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