Not sure if your online sexting with that hottie is cheating on your partner? Dorothy Black weighs in.

You’re sitting in a room opposite a person you find sexually attractive.

You’re engaged in a sex play, but you can’t touch each other since there’s a sheet of glass between you.

You communicate by either writing your messages on the glass or, if there are microphones and speakers, by talking to each other.

You’re in various states of dress or undress and you’re engaged in simultaneous self-stimulation, or mutual masturbation, bringing yourselves to orgasm based on each other’s input.

Your attention is focussed only on each other, sharing fantasies, getting off on what you’re seeing and reading; your body floods with sex hormones, and when you peak, you enjoy the rush of oxytocin and endorphins. When you’re done, you say your goodbyes and maybe make a plan to catch up later.

Then you close the door and go to your sleeping partner in the other room.

Did you just have sex with someone else? Or was it just a wank with an interesting prop? (Or are you just a wanker for using the other person as a prop?)

More to the point, did you just cheat?

You see, the only time the question of whether ‘cybersex’ is ‘really real’ sex is when it’s being framed in the context of affairs.

And if you set up the scenario as I have above, I think you’ll agree it’s obvious as to why some people would say ‘yes’ to all of those questions.

Some people … and me.

As more research is done into how we respond, physically and psychologically, to our online interactions – whether it’s with your Facebook ‘friends’ or the Twitter trolls – the more it becomes clear that our complex human minds don’t differentiate between the people we know in ‘real’ life and the people that occupy the black mirror.

We struggle to draw emotional distinctions between these and so we respond equally to both, strangers or not.

What information gaps we have (which are vast) our clever brains fill in with fantasy, projection and association.

And we experience all the physiological ramifications of this: stress and depression due to FOMO and bullying; adrenalin highs from ranting; oxytocin bumps when we’re valued with ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ … orgasms from a cybersex interaction.

Of course, if we’re playing outside the confines of a monogamous relationship, we try to wiggle through any loops we can find: ‘It was just sexting!’ ‘We never actually met!’

People lose their jobs over a tweet, because we understand the real-life intention behind the text. Why would we consider cybersex, in any of its forms, any differently?

Look, why affairs in any form happen is nuanced.

What an affair is, is not. Are you investing your intimacies with someone other than your partner and do you hide this interaction from them? Yes to both? Well it’s time to wake up, buttercup.

Unless your boo is a voyeur and sitting in that room with you or you’re in an open relationship, your cybersex fling is cheating.