What counts as cheating these days?

In these sexually politically correct times, it’s a brave man who tried to steal a kiss under the mistletoe at the office party.

Which is a shame because a kiss is so innocent, right? A kiss means nothing. Certainly nothing you should be going home and confessing to your partner.

At this point, anyone reading this will have firmly stepped into one of two camps.

The first: She’s right! A kiss is nothing to get wound up about!

The second: Of course a kiss means something. It’s cheating!

We all might be hyper aware of what’s OK to do and what’s not in work situations but the lines of what’s considered cheating or not, remain as blurred as ever.

Which is why I thought it timely to revisit what most people consider cheating and what most people don’t. Here’s a (by no means exhaustible) list of possible emotional and physical betrayals – diving in at the deep end.

Full sex:

Have intercourse with someone else and you have well and truly cheated.

Game over. No arguments and not even a millimetre of wiggle room to get out of this one.

Some will fall back on the ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ line/excuse but once you’re rumbled having full sex with someone other than your partner, you’ll be hard pressed finding someone who thinks it’s nothing.

Receiving or giving oral sex:

Some people (men mostly) hide behind the Bill Clinton excuse that unless there’s penetration it doesn’t count, but most people (91 per cent) disagree.

It’s intimate sexual contact and in some ways even more intimate than penetration.

It’s cheating alright.

Touching the breasts or other intimate bits:

Touching the actual genitals rates almost as high on the cheating scale as oral sex (though not quite) but – interestingly – a guy touching her breasts during a “drunken snog” was rated more a betrayal by men than women.


Everyone’s very much ‘one rule for them, another for me’ on this topic.

In one study, 77 per cent of men and 89 per cent of women considered kissing cheating.

But when it came to drunken snogs with strangers in nightclubs that “didn’t mean anything”, they were “harmless” – when it was you doing the snogging!

Not so if it’s your partner – that’s cheating!

The verdict on kissing very much depends on where it was done, what state you were in and who it was you were kissing. Snogging someone you’ve have a crush on all year is, understandably and justifiably, more of a cheating crime than a clumsy clashing of lips when you’re legless in a club.


There’s a cuddle and there’s a sexy cuddle and most of us know the difference.

A friendly hug at the end of the night usually just signals affection but press your pelvises close, your breasts into their chest and snuggle your face into the nape of their neck, holding the cuddle for longer than truly necessary, and it moves into something else.

Again, it’s who it’s with that’s crucial.

Few would consider this a dumpable offence but plenty wouldn’t like it.

Doing nothing but talking to one person to the exclusion of everyone else:

This is ’emotional cheating’, something women consider cheating more than men do.

The first question women ask when they find out their partner has been unfaithful is, “Do you love her?”

The first thing men ask is, “Did you have sex with him?”

Women are far more threatened by men getting emotionally close to someone than men are – and the female instinct is dead right on this one.

Getting too close to a friend of the opposite sex is incredibly threatening to a relationship and often turns into an affair.

“Having eyes’ for the same person all night is actually more potentially damaging than physical contact, even though it looks innocent.


We’re walking contradictions with this one.

Only twenty six percent of us think sending a ‘flirty sexy’ text to someone is cheating but 75 per cent think it’s definitely cheating if our partner does it.

Again, telling someone you’d like to do rude things to them counts more as cheating for women; men tend to think it’s only if they actually arrange to meet up to do the desired deeds that it crosses the line.

Him going to a strip club:

Some women consider this cheating yet class them going to a male strip act for women as ‘different’.

There is a difference – one’s on stage, the other at a touchable distance, even if you’re not allowed to.

The concept is the same though – you’re both looking lustfully.

Most guys say strip club visits, especially those visited with a group of mates, are more about male bonding than anything dodgy.

It’s a place that has a bar that stays open late when all the pubs are closed – and there’s a view.

Lap-dancing clubs minus a personal lap dance, tend to be thought of the same: some women will go stark raving mad at the mere thought of their guy at one, others will shrug and not care that much.

Having a personal lap-dance pushes it much higher up the betrayal scale.

Some don’t mind seeing it as a bit of fun; others as a complete betrayal since it’s very up close and personal.

Going home and watching porn:

Six per cent of women consider watching porn to be cheating.

Not surprisingly (given 99% of men watch it), I doubt there’s a man on the planet who agrees.

Porn can be a huge problem if it’s too regular or being used to replace sex in real life but the odd viewing of garden variety porn once or twice a week is usual and common.

Women watch porn too, remember. It’s not just men!

It’s the level of interaction that changes how this scores on the cheating chart.

Watching a live web cam and making comments or requests is seen as much more of a betrayal and paying someone do things purely for them wasn’t OK with almost all women.

Sixty-six per cent of women in one study consider sexually explicit online chat as cheating.

Eighty-three per cent of men disagreed – their motto was “unless it’s physical it doesn’t count”.

Going home and getting the vibrator out:

About four per cent of women think they’re cheating if they masturbate with or without a vibrator.

There are no statistics for men on this one but, surprisingly, I do get emails from men saying they’ve found their partner’s vibrator and feel hurt and ‘betrayed’ that she’s using it solo.

But the majority of people believe masturbating simply relieves sexual tension and if she’s come home and used her vibrator, that generally means she didn’t act on any attractions.

Having sexual fantasies about someone:

Almost all men (98 per cent) and the vast majority of women (80 per cent) report having fantasised about someone other than their current partner at least occasionally.

Since nearly every does it, most people don’t classify it as cheating, though around 10 per cent do struggle if a partner admits to having fantasies about other people.

The moral to this one: what happens in your head is your business.

Keep it that way.


You’re more likely to stray if your parents, friends or workmates do or did. Their behaviour effectively gives you the thumbs up to do the same yourself.

Every person you sleep with before marriage increases your likelihood of cheating by one per cent. The ‘sow your wild oats’ theory turns out to be rubbish, according to one recent major study. Far from getting it out of your system, the more you slept around before you settled down, the more likely you are to have an affair.

Narcissists are ripe for affairs. If you’re focused on yourself and your own needs, rather than what’s best for the relationship you’re in, you’re more likely to indulge yourself and have a fling.

If you think you’re a better catch or better looking than your partner, you’re more likely to cheat, feeling you “deserve it” for staying with them.

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