Vancouver
6 min

Reworking Fidelity

The path to true love

ITS THE DECEPTION THAT'LL GET YOU DUMPED: Author Michael Harris eschews the standard Valentine's Day romance in search of the true meaning of fidelity and love. The answer, in part: love lies in truth-not monogamy. Credit: Ken Boesem

HornyJock: Sucking those big balls!

Me: Yes!

HornyJock: Reaching up and tugging on yur nips!

Me: Yes!

HornyJock: You want me to suck your cock, man?

Me: OK!

HornyJock: MmmÂ… tasting that fucking rock hard dick. So good!

Me: Thanks!

If my repartee, here, is less than a string of witticisms, I can only plead disinterest. While my virtual partner, a hugely endowed soccer player from Ohio, I am to understand, labours away at his (by now, surely, callused) member, I meanwhile have donned a terrycloth housecoat and put the water on for tea. I came 20 minutes ago.

Thing is, I feel beholden to HornyJock.

It’s just a matter of manners, I tell myself, whilst puzzling out what to do with his “eight throbbing inches of man meat.”

He’s a stranger, true. And, honestly, it doesn’t effect me whether he cums or not. The guy lives in Ohio. He’s nobody.

Still, if HornyJock really is nobody, then why am I sitting here, dutifully typing, to help him get off? Even more disturbing: how do I know HornyJock isn’t doing the same? He could be waiting for me to finish, his own teapot whistling in the kitchen? Theoretically, the bluff could go on for hours.

A key in the door, however, heralds the too-early arrival of Nicholas and cuts short the waiting game.

Me: Gotta go! Boyfriend’s back.

HornyJock: Wait!

But now I’ve snapped shut the lid on my pretty, white iBook, only the slightest whiff of regret playing across my mind, and I’m smiling up at Nick, all innocent. “How was your day?” he asks.

“No, I didn’t,” I reply.

***

“The sex itself wouldn’t be a reason to break up with you,” says Nick when I ask him what the rules are a few days later. “It’s the deception that’ll get you dumped.”

He’s looking over his bank statement as he tells me this, which makes me unsure how seriously to take him.

“Just don’t you dare ever lie,” he adds.

And he looks me in the face.

So I tell him about my Internet tricks now-if that’s what we can call them. “But why is it okay?” I still wonder.

And if Internet sex is okay because of its anonymous quality, then why are other forms of anonymous sex still off limits? What’s keeping me from having sex in the park and laughing about it with Nick later that night?

For Riley, a friend whose past relationships have been shadowed by the pitfalls of virtual sex, “chat would lead to physical sex, and maybe something more.”

“Something more” meaning the eventual dumping of the poor libertine cuckold who let things get so out of hand.

But Internet sex doesn’t have to exist in a vacuum outside of relationships.

Two friends and I have teamed up in the past to go online as a single personality (not unlike Captain Planet), combining our creative forces as a kind of tag-team effort. We’d holler suggestions to make a scene the wildest experience we could for a stranger who always had trouble keeping up.

Invariably, someone wound up typing “now bend over and shit for daddy,” which, sadly, only received a response in the positive on one occasion. Mostly the other team would sign off abruptly when our efforts became too gregarious. Perhaps they would tap a “sorry, man” into the ether before leaving us to our laughter.

And then we were certain: no one was there, on the other end of the line.

***

Rhon22 and I have been chatting for about five minutes, while I explain this piece I’m writing on Internet fidelity. I tell him I’m surprised that so many people see sex chat as cheating.

Ron sends a series of periods to my inbox thingy, which I take to signify that he is thinking. Thinking about how awful I am, it turns out. Ron believes that “you shouldn’t want to have sex in any venue with other people.”

Ron22: You wouldn’t want to do that in a restaurant or a friend’s place. It’s the same for any two people meeting somewhere. It isn’t appropriate. It’s still gaining sexual pleasure outside the proper relationship.

Eschewing an argument over what constitutes a “proper relationship,” I elect, instead, to ask Ron whether cheating can take place if two chatroom personalities aren’t “really real” to each other.

Ron22: You are real.

Patently so. And yet I persist.

Me: The guys in a porn magazine are real, too. Is that cheating?

Ron22: If a wife finds a man with a Playboy she won’t be happy either.

Me: My boyfriend and I share porn all the time.

Ron22: Well, I don’t know about all that. I come more from the straight side of things.

Now it is my turn to send an ellipsis, stalling for time.

Me: Then why are you on a gay chat line?

Ron22: I like to understand other people. Walk a mile in the other person’s shoes. It makes me more well-rounded.

Silly me, to have assumed that late at night on a gay chatline I would be talking to a fag. How could I have forgotten all the straight guys out there who use the Internet to become “more well-rounded.”

“You aren’t gay at all?” I type, offering him another chance.

Ron22: Maybe a little.

Me: Can I ask where you’re from?

Ron22: I’d rather stay anonymous.

Me: I understand completely.

I wake up when Nick comes home; it’s 3 am and I’ve been asleep for hours. I hear him in the bathroom, brushing alcohol and cigarettes off his breath. He comes to bed with cold legs.

***

T hat chatrooms allow for all sorts of untruthful behaviour should surprise no one.

Fear of paedophilic wolves deceiving children on the Internet has created a panic that surpasses, but is related to, more domestic worries around infidelity.

In a sense, the Internet allows for a global invasion of the middle-class, conventional household. And that invasion, or, conversely, that opening out onto society, frightens the political right.

The Baptist website Way of Life, insists that “Internet chat rooms are becoming more of a problem” than even “television, movies” and, (good God!) “rock music.”

Linda Harvey, head of the popular group Mission America, gravely points out that “homosexual indoctrination programs,” facilitated by a similar chink in society’s moral armour, “are invading America’s classrooms, starting in kindergarten.”

Paedophiles and gays are both characterized as invaders by those who fear them. If popular opinion is anything to go by, they are also the two groups most likely to use chatrooms to bolster their sex lives.

The paedophile threatens with his goal to “seduce” the child; the faggot threatens by secretly plotting to undermine the sanctity of marriage and by daring to have more sex than is necessary.

If paedophiles and homosexuals have once more been linked in the public conscience by a common paranoia that supposes the Internet is an “invasion,” not a tool, then what will the gay flank of this invasion look like? To whose lives, if not our own, do we play the barbarian?

Among techno-savvy queers, we might expect a more level-headed response to the ins and outs of cybersex. But have gay men used gay.com to better reach out to each other?

Does a sex-chat Valentine mean anything?

And where does that outdated concept of fidelity abide when a relationship is virtual and lies are a chatroom given?

Back in the physical world, two years of monogamy have made Nick and I prudes in the eyes of our more enlightened friends. Plus, it’s true that we dampen our desires on occasion, in order to play by the rules.

Maybe it was the newness of chatrooms, then-the fact that those rules weren’t so engrained-that sparked an examination of our monogamy. The Internet invasion insisted on a reworking of old ideas.

***

Saturday night in Victoria, and Prism nightclub is chugging along at a mediocre rate. Over in the corner, two women enjoy a pot of tea. A plume of smoke is exhaled from a vent on the dance floor every few minutes. The crowd watches each other, faceless as chatroom identities.

Nick takes a swig of Pale Ale and purses his lips. He mumbles into my ear, “happy anniversary, baby.” For our anniversary, we’ve decided to take a (hardly brave) baby step and flirt with other men.

Later that night, I’ve got my hand on a stranger’s thigh and my boyfriend is doing likewise. I lean in to whisper something rude. A large guy who calls everyone his bitch suddenly pulls up Nick’s shirt.

“You look better without it. Trust me!” he’s shouting. I’m searching Nick’s face without getting involved to be sure he’s okay with this. To be sure flirtation hasn’t been nudged over to some other, unwanted, arena.

I think how stupid I am to criticize the Internet as an impersonal medium. I don’t even know what the person I live with is thinking.

Nick flashes me a silent smile, pulls his Goonies top back over his head. The four of us around this table play off the multiple advances. We play off each other like billiard balls.

At last call, I forget the guy I’m flirting with for a moment, and watch my boyfriend again. And he, grinning slyly, returns the look.

It seems to me, then, that fidelity is so much more than a peevish keeping to one’s self. So much more than a strict code of monogamy-it has become a unique pact we keep, arranged to fit our changing desires.

Fidelity is faithfulness, not monogamy. And only we decide the scriptures of that faith.