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Several studies have focused on the “AAA engine” that drives online affairs, namely accessibility, affordability and anonymity.

“The Internet is extremely accessible no matter where you are,” Hertlein says.

If there is no physical contact or actual sex, is it still an affair?

“It’s not just that you’re communicating with someone online but that there is a sexual or emotional nature,” says Katherine Hertlein, Ph D, an associate professor at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas who studies online affairs.

“You could be at home or at work or sitting on the couch with your partner chatting to someone online.” As costs for Internet access have dropped, online affairs are also very affordable.

They can be easy to conceal, as long as the cheating partner deletes the Web browser history and any incriminating e-mails.

Young sees more women who are online cheaters, in part, she says, because women gravitate toward erotic chats and webcam sessions while men often are drawn to pornography.

“On the Internet, you can be whoever you want to be. You don’t have to be this constrained person you think you should be.” Fantasy also is a huge factor in online affairs, and fantasy always trumps reality.

It starts right under your roof,” says Elaine Ducharme, Ph D, a psychologist in Glastonbury, Conn., who specializes in cybersex addictions.

“You can’t usually get rid of your computer in the house.

While men traditionally have been the more unfaithful sex, gender roles are reversing in some cases as more women experience cybersex.

“I think there is this bias that women don’t cheat for sexual reasons at all,” Hertlein says.

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