Online dating is one of those things that the Internet was made for: People trying to meet people for love and sex in the supposed privacy of their homes. Cyber Infidelity is a book by Dr Eve, who’s real name is Dr Marlene Wasserman based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s South Africa’s answer to the American Dr Laura, and is known for her regular radio talk shows.
We first met when I conducted my second survey about online dating and online sexuality in 2006.
Recently she sent me a copy of her book, Cyber Infidelity ISBN 978-0798171182. It’s my pleasure to review this book.
Cyber Infidelity is very readable, perhaps because of the topic of infidelity which usually sparks curiosity across the gender lines. It’s also a good read because of the personal stories it contains, which provide deep insight into the motivations why people choose to find lovers and sexual partners online in this day and age.
The first three chapters lay a very good base for modern relationships. The Internet has transformed the way we conduct ourselves not only in business but also in the most intimate spaces of our bedrooms. As a couples therapist, Dr Eve shares insights into the rapid changes in behaviour.
Chapter 5 describes the triple A engine: affordable, anonymous, accessible. This is the pivotal factors differentiating online infidelity from offline infidelity. You can say it’s the difference between cheating before the Internet and after the Internet and mobile phones became so easily accessible.
Sometimes it feels like Dr Eve is encouraging the infidelity. On page 169 she reveals a shocking statistic: over 75% of relationships that begin through an affair end in divorce. The chapter on porn habits is eye-opening. A few surprises may be learned from the porn watching habits of women, which is not commonly discussed as the stigma sees porn as the problem of (lonely) men.
The stories in this book reminds me of those I first read in Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden. They are at once confessions, revelations and sometimes sad. They show what’s missing from the relationships and why the myth of “settling down” is so unsatisfactory.
The topic of infidelity raises curiosity our own personal natures. To what extent are we still living in a monogamous society with the rise of the Internet, social media and mobile phones?
One of my favourite aphorisms in this book is that “shame and blame are the twin sisters of guilt.” The Ashley Madison website is where the author collected much of her first hand accounts of cyber infidelity. The customers of this website are not ashamed to share their innermost fantasies. So do you blame them for choosing to engage in cyber infidelity, which many times does not lead to an offline meeting? [After this book was published, AshleyMadison.com was hacked and some shocking facts about the female users were released.]
One of the radical facts emerging from the book, is that women are much more sexually liberated than before the rise of the Internet.
There are few surprises in in the statistics because they are all from English speaking countries. Perhaps a sequel may include comparison with China and India, which together account for probably half the Internet users in the world, and vastly different cultural norms. It would be fascinating to evaluate how the Internet has changed the sexual behaviour of these nations.
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