Ask Dr. Nerdlove

What Counts As Cheating?


I’ve been dating my girlfriend for a year now and things are going great. My girlfriend doesn’t have a problem with watching pornography and vice versa.

The problem is that recently when I was on a particular chatroom, I ended up having a conversation with a random stranger. They started giving me compliments and it lead to us sexting (without webcams, just text). Now I have no plans on talking to this person ever again, so it was just a one off masturbation session in front of my pc, but is this worse than watching a porn, or even a form of cheating?

One Free Hand

DEAR ONE FREE HAND: Well I will give you this much: what you did is definitely not the same as watching porn. Porn is a one-sided event. You watch the video, maybe interact a little if it’s a Japanese eroge, but ultimately it’s a solo endeavor. There’s you and a box of tissues, that’s it. Porn doesn’t care about getting you off specifically. It’s tossed out to the world for whomever buys it. 

Striking up a sexting session with a stranger, on the other hand, is interactive. There’s another person involved, even when it’s just text back and forth. It’s the difference between watching April O’Neil in a Naughty America video and paying for a one-on-one webcam show where she performs specifically for you.  

It’s not just masturbating, it’s an assisted play session. Someone else is directly contributing to your resulting orgasm.

So no, this isn’t the same as a solo session with the Brazzers site open in a tab with your mouse in one hand and your junk in the other.

Is this a form of cheating? Well that’s where you get into a questionable area.

Some people – and you’ll be hearing from them in the comments – will tell you that yes, that is unequivocally cheating. Some would argue that it’s not that different from going to a strip-club and getting some high-contact lap-dances.  Some will say that because there was no actual contact involved, it’s not quite the same; at the very least, it’s a lesser offense than actually going out and getting a hand-job by somebody in person.

Ultimately it comes down to the arrangement you have with your girlfriend. Some people have complete monogamy – no kissing anyone but your partner, no touching of boobs, butts or genitals, no outside help getting any orgasms at all. Some are more monogamish, where there is somewhat more leeway in what is or isn’t cheating – maybe hands are ok but not oral. Or oral’s cool but no penetration. Some are completely open – not quite anything goes, but within certain restrictions.

Now someone call Sir Mixx-A-Lott because there’s a big but coming…


The key to all of these is that they are negotiated in advance. Going outside those agreed-upon rules means that yes, you’re totally cheating.

Now my recommendation when it comes to issues of “what counts as cheating” is that you discuss this when you have your Defining The Relationship talk. Laying out what you each consider to be within bounds and out of bounds helps ensure that everyone is actually on the same page instead of each party having completely different ideas about what does or doesn’t count.

You didn’t do that.

So what do you do now? Well, let’s put it this way: do you feel that if you were to tell your girlfriend about this, she’d be upset? If so, then yeah, she’s going to consider it cheating and your a

is going to be in trouble.

And to be perfectly honest, it’s not an unreasonable thing to be upset about. It’s not what I would consider a relationship-destroying event, but it’s definitely something that would put you in the doghouse until your girlfriend decided to forgive you. Now, maybe she wouldn’t consider it cheating. You don’t know until you’ve talked with her. Maybe it could be a way of firming up relationship rules and boundaries.

So ultimately, if you want a definitive answer: ask your girlfriend.

Good luck.

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE:  Some background before I get onto the playground: I’m a sophomore in college, wrapping up my second year. I’m fairly heavily introverted, and I tend to relegate my free time to online gaming, which is more socially manageable. At least that’s what I tell myself.

About three years ago, I was introduced to a female gamer, “Player X,” by a male online acquaintance of ours, “Player Y.” Unfortunately, it was at a time when I was headed out the door as far as online activity goes. I had just finished high school and gotten a crummy full time job until college. For all intents and purposes, I dropped off of Player X’s radar for two years. During that time, she developed a close friendship with Player Y, although they don’t call it more than that.

At the start of my sophomore year, I got back into the gaming scene with the release of the sequel to the popular MMORPG that we played. I reconnected with Players X and Y, and we’ve been doing online activities together almost daily for the past nine months or so. I’ve really taken a liking to her, and I awkwardly let them both know, individually, in December. Player X didn’t confess a reciprocation or flat out reject me in the moment, and she seems to have taken it well. However, Player Y finally admitted to me that he also has feelings for her; he’s apparently been patiently waiting for her to turn to him in a romantic sense all this time. My relationship with Player Y has been strained since then.

In the past months, Player X and I have become somewhat closer at the expense of my friendship with Player Y. He’s somewhat jealous and controlling, which has led to the formation of a certain distance between the two of them. They recently “patched things up” after a lengthy ordeal that hasn’t fully resolved. I’m worried that their relationship is unhealthy, but I went out of my way to support her by letting her know that I was ok with him being around if that’s what she wants. It’s difficult because I can be passive aggressive about these things.

In June, Player X graduates from college. I don’t know how available she will be for online activities, and I’m guessing that she probably doesn’t either. She’s got her whole life ahead of her, after all. Nevertheless, I feel like I’m approaching this unfathomable cliff as time rolls on. She’s shared a decent amount of her personal life with me up to this point, but she’s held onto her anonymity this entire time. Somewhere along the lines, it got into my head that I could blink and she’d be gone. I’ve asked about contact information previously on a similar matter (I was going to be away for work for a couple of weeks), and she gave me an email address associated with her online pseudonym, keeping her identity on the quiet side. Neither of which were comforting but accepted.

Lately, I’ve been wanting to talk to Player X about slowly moving our friendship from online to offline. I want to meet her someday for lunch, drinks, a concert, dancing, etc. I don’t know where to begin to communicate any of this with her without potentially pushing her away. I’ve been working on building trust and stability between the two of us, but it hasn’t been easy with her attention divided between Player Y and me. The whole thing seems like a mess when you get down to the details, and there’s days when I feel like walking away from it all. However, spending time with her has become an integral part of my life, and it I don’t want to give it up. Any advice you have would be welcome.

Thanks for your time,

Ready Player None

DEAR READY PLAYER NONE: I hate to say it, but you’re not playing the game you think you are.  You think you’re on the road to romance with the mysterious Player X. You’re working under the idea that every time Player Y comes into the chat room with the two of you, somebody’s just stepped up, slapped down his quarters and he’s competing with you for the hand of Player X.

In reality… not so much.

You and Player Y aren’t in competition here because a) women aren’t a prize to be won and b) she doesn’t want to take things offline.


I hate to be the one to tell you this but if X was interested in getting in contact with you out in the real world, she wouldn’t still be holding off on giving you her real name or a burner email account that’s not connected to her real-world identity. You’ve been hanging out with her and your buddy/rival Y for the last 9 months – that’s more than enough time for her to get comfortable enough with you to at least give you her first name, which she hasn’t. This should be your big clue as to where this is all going. She has made the conscious decision to keep you at a few steps removed from her real life. You’re not Facebook friends, you don’t follow each other on Twitter or Spotify. You just have the game. And that’s where she wants to leave it.

Maybe she has reasons. Maybe the Player X you know is a fiction, a persona. Maybe she’s had a bad experience with stalkers. Or maybe she doesn’t want to encourage your crush but doesn’t want to hurt you by outright rejecting you either.

This has nothing to do with her relationship – platonic or otherwise – with Player Y; this has everything to do with the fact that you’re a gaming buddy, maybe a Guild-y but that’s it. Even if Player Y were to suddenly disappear in a cloud of logic and sulfur, Player X just isn’t into you. If she were even slightly interested in being more than a gaming bud – even just platonic friends –  you’d know more than her handle. But you don’t. And that, ultimately, is that.

(And as an aside: Player Y isn’t exactly covering himself in glory by waiting for her feelings to turn romantic. He’s likely going to be waiting a long, long time.)

The best thing you could do is accept this and move on. There will be other women – women who want to actually get to know you in real life and actually go do date-type things out in the real world instead of in the Searing Gorge.

Good luck.

Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (; or to his email,

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