What Is Virtual Sex? (And Is It Cheating?)

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When 28-year-old Amy Pollard divorced her husband, she raised eyebrows. Not because her grounds for divorce were unconventional—infidelity—but it was Pollard's definition of cheating. She caught her ex having sex with another woman in the online world of Second Life. Or, specifically, she caught her husband's character having sex with another woman's character in the virtual game.

Pollard is also an avid Second Lifer. And the SL community had words for her. In fact, so many nasty ones that she disabled her IM in Second Life. Hundreds of SLers criticized and chastised Pollard for taking the virtual world into the real one.

And what a virtual world it is. Second Lifers socialize, flirt, cuddle, date—even marry. CNN.com recently reported on a Second Life bridal expo. Yes, for those who are planning a virtual ceremony. More than 800 attendees showed up.

And what comes naturally with marriage? Divorce. Second Life divorces happen, too. A Japanese woman was arrested on charges of manipulating electronic data (hacking into a computer) after, in a fit of anger, she logged on as her ex's character in the virtual game Maple Story and killed him. What caused her fury? The ex's character divorced hers in the game.

It's clear that the emotions that result from the online world boil over into real life. With sex comes jealousy—and not the virtual kind. So, the question we must ask: Is Second Life sex really sex? And is virtual infidelity as wrong as real-world cheating?

Wired columnist and sexpert Regina Lynn can't—or more accurately, won't—define fidelity. Even when we prompted her. "What constitutes cheating is defined by two people in a relationship, and I would not presume to dictate that to anyone else," she explains. "However, SL attracts imaginative, creative people who want to engage in interactive storytelling, and erotic play is a powerful facet of that."

Here, we get inside the head of a five-year Second Life veteran, who reveals what virtual sex is really like—and whether it's truly crossing the line. Kevin Alderman, aka Stroker Serpentine (his SL alias), has been married to his real-life wife for 16 years. He's been married to his Second Life wife for three, "which is two lifetimes in online years," he adds. Here, he opens up about virtual relationships, in his own words:

I have a loving family both in real life and virtual life. Are they "traditional" marriages? But then what is? My perceptions of the "perfect" marriage falls somewhere between "Ozzie Nelson" and "Ozzy Osbourne." Marriage is about mutual respect, support and honesty. I am not willing to discard the years of investment I have put into any of my relationships over an orgasm.

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