Is Sex Cheating If It’s in the Metaverse?

The stickiest of not-actually-sticky situations.

Sorry, you digital lotharios intent on no-strings-attached side action: Metaverse affairs do real-world damage. If you’re in a traditional relationship, there-can-be-only-one Highlander-style exclusive one, porking someone else outside the material plane does not come recommended. Even virtual relationships can take on strong and ultimately destructive feelings. Channeling your emotions away from your partner is always going to be a problem.

Second Life sex wasn’t very hot, but it was a thing that people did because it was there to do. That’s fine, if that’s your thing. Where fine breaks down, though, is if you start ignoring your wife for a red-headed avatar. (Second Life addiction has cost at least one marriage.)

The idea of a metaverse — a theoretical future iteration of the VR-based Internet — dates back to Neal Stephenson’s early nineties novel Snow Crash. There’s no more popular approximation of Stephenson’s vision than Second Life, that game you booted up once in 2006 and then immediately shut down upon encountering flocks of giant flying dildos. Those who stuck around for a while (at one point roughly 8 million inhabitants had called that proto-Metaverse home) almost certainly stumbled across or participated in some digital mannequin crotch-rubbing. After all, you can take the human out of the human, but you can’t take the human out of the human.

For any committed people looking forward to hooking up in virtual reality without consequences, well, we’ve got bad news. Emotions work across platforms.

That old adage, “Look, but don’t touch” still has legs in the digital age. Look: Tinder profiles, walking around Second Life but keeping your virtual pants on, platonic Warcraft wedding ceremonies. Don’t touch (including keyboards): Sexts, porn chats, turning that Tinder profile into crotch-rubs. You get the idea.

Plus, there’s a Radio Shack’s worth of brave new teledildonic technologies to have virtual sex with the people you’re partnered with, even over a long distance. Better to have this version of sex, which involves bodies, with a consenting adult than to keep things fully online. And if you and your partner come to some extracurricular arrangement, well good for you. At least teledildonics allow for something closer to genuine cheating. Pure emotional cheating — and that’s what pure metaverse banging really is — feels almost worse.

Not in an exclusive relationship? Dock with those Furby-eyed robots to your heart’s content. We’re not going to judge you, but we might suggest reaching out (electronically of course) to a real person or a real sex machine located near a real person. If that’s not your thing, so be it, but give it a whirl. The one good thing about cheating is having someone to cheat on. If that someone is a bot, well, you’re going to have to talk ground rules.