What Is Cheating?

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By Julia Fuino

Have you ever heard someone say, “My ex cheated on me” and thought, “I wonder what he or she did exactly?” Whether or not it is a person’s intention to cheat on the one they claim to love, it seems like the word “cheat” can be thrown around for the most innocent of things, like texting someone else, or even casual flirting.

Cheating, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, means “to violate rules and regulations of a relationship” or “to be sexually unfaithful.” Being sexually unfaithful is a pretty straightforward indicator of cheating, but “rules and regulations” can be a huge gray area in most relationships. This likely varies from couple to couple, or even from the perspectives of men and women.

Out of the 20 students I surveyed—12 female and eight male—75 percent felt that women throw the word “cheat” around more than men. The majority of women said that men and women could just be friends but men, however, felt differently, saying that such a relationship couldn’t exist. When it came to defining “cheating”, many women said that anything sneaky like grinding while dancing, hanging out alone, exchanging numbers, or any sexual act, were the first things they thought of. Men’s answers were much narrower, with anything physical or even spending more time with someone other than their partner considered to be cheating.

Kyrie Kirn, like most responders to my survey, agreed that men and women think of cheating differently. “I definitely think guys and girls have different definitions of cheating. I think girls are more likely to say “talking” to someone else, or anything involving emotions is cheating; whereas, guys will think that cheating has to just be something physical,” she said.

Of the two male students I spoke to, both talked about how they barely see romantic couples on campus and, thus, wondered, “How could a person cheat without being in a relationship?”

If you’re a student at SU, you’re probably aware of how small the population of romantic couples is. It seems these days that students have done away with the old method of courtship and chivalry and instead are choosing to cut straight to the chase, even if that means the act is meaningless. It’s almost second nature to have a casual relationship instead of a romantic one.

Carol Faulkner, professor of the History of American Sexuality, agrees that students these days are much more casual with their sex lives than students in the past. “Today, I do think that college students are much more casual, maybe even experimental, about dating and sexuality. In this environment, I think it is harder to say what constitutes cheating. How can you cheat if you are not ‘going steady’ with someone?” she said. “But I don’t think the ‘hook up’ culture is necessarily bad. In part, it shows that women don’t feel social pressure to have a steady boyfriend and, perhaps, don’t feel their reputations are harmed by casually dating or hooking up with different men.”

My question is: Does the ‘hook-up culture’ affect our perceptions of what cheating is once we do get into a relationship, regardless of whether we’re male or female?

SU is full of people who are career-oriented and driven first and foremost by landing their dream jobs and settling first for themselves, rather than having to follow a partner. And there’s nothing wrong with that! In fact, it’s liberating. But with just these goals in mind, it’s easy to get caught up in flings and casual hook ups in college, which makes the lines of cheating even blurrier once a person does eventually find themselves in a relationship.

It’s important to know your own definition of cheating and to properly define the rules and regulations of the relationship you choose to have with someone. Know where you draw the line and where you don’t. The last thing you want to do is have that gray area you never talked about get you caught in a sticky situation.

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