You've asked yourself this question 1000 times. When you put on your virtual dolphin suit and do terrible things to that giant squid in your favorite virtual world, does your spouse have the right to be angry? At last, we have the definitive answer.
But before we give you the definitive answer, you need to take this quiz.
1. When you enter a virtual world, do you try to look sexy? When answering, consider the following: Do you care about how your avatar's hair looks? Do you spend money on outfits in your virtual world? Have you ever purchased genitals in a virtual world? Do you sometimes change the color of your avatar's eyes (blue is so dreamy)?
2. Have you ever had an argument with someone about how you should act in your favorite virtual world? This might include debates over politeness, " invading other people's space," how certain comments fit or don't fit into the game's terms of service, or whether certain avatars are allowed to exist at all. In addition, if you have ever attended a town hall meeting about proper behavior in a virtual world, you have no choice but to answer yes to this question.
3. Do you identify people that you know outside the virtual world as your "friends in real life"?
4. Have you ever had a strong physical reaction to something happening on your screen while in a virtual world? This would include sweating, heart palpitations, screaming, laughing loudly, and, of course, getting that tingly sensation in your special place.
5. Has your spouse/special friend/partner/sweetie ever referred to your favorite virtual world as "the other woman/man"?
6. Have you ever thought it would be a good idea to dress as your avatar in real life?
7. Do you spend time pondering what it would really mean to have sex in a virtual world? Do you tell yourself, "Well, if it's text, it doesn't really count." Or have you decided that your octopus/crustacean/dolphin ménage is not really sex because your avatar couldn't take its clothes off? Alternatively, have you come up with an elaborate system of rules that determine which avatar is sexually connected to another avatar, and in addition which avatar is a top or bottom?
8. Do you think that Angelina Jolie looks hotter as the CGI mother of Grendel from Beowulf than she does in real life?
9. Have you ever read a book with "cyber dating" in the title? What about a book with "love online" in the title? You must answer an emphatic yes to this question if you actually paid for the books rather than just reading them for free online.
10. Do you think it would be a good idea to bring your sweetie into your favorite virtual worlds to "show them your true self"?
If you answered yes to only two or less of these questions, then you have never had sex online even if you bought yourself some genitals in Second Life and moved to Gor Island. There is no need for any one in your life to be jealous of what you're doing online.
If you answered yes to three to five of these questions, then it's obvious that you take the idea of online sex seriously. Maybe you're not having sex, but you're thinking about it. The fact is that you probably consider your online self a part of you. If somebody is hitting that virtual ass, it probably means something.
If you answered yes to 6 to 8 of these questions, you have probably considered buying some virtual birth control or lube because you're ready to get down and dirty in the digital world. You've thought about virtual sex and you've researched it too. Plus, your avatar is your special secret self. When somebody touches your avatar, they are touching you. Watch out, real world spouse or sweetie - sex online is potentially equivalent to sex with you.
For those of you who answered yes to nine or 10 of these questions, let's get real. You didn't even need to take this quiz, because you know your sex life online is not only important to you, but just as real as your sex life offline. Don't even try to tell me that it's not cheating when you do it with that dolphin, unless you and your spouse have a special open arrangement. In fact, if you don't have an open arrangement, it's time to have an honest talk with your real world sweetie about your online shenanigans.
Here's the thing. When it comes to virtual worlds, sex is what we believe it to be. If you are truly invested in the reality of your virtual experience, and you have strong emotional reactions to it (or physical ones), then what happens there is pretty real. That's what makes the virtual world so different from the real world - your beliefs and feelings determine what's happening. Of course that doesn't make something "real" online just because you choose to make it real or not. Don't give me any guff about how you chose for that dolphin sex not to be real the morning after. If you got off on it, sorry, but it was real.
So consider this handy quiz to be one way of answering that crucial twenty-first century question, "Was it real for you too?"