A Quarter of Americans Think a One-Night Stand Is Not Always Cheating

According to a national survey of attitudes about adultery, a full quarter of Americans do not consider a "one-night stand with someone other than your partner" to count as cheating. The survey tested attitudes about a wide range of behaviors that might be considered cheating or infidelity, many enabled by the digital age.

While the Deseret News/YouGov survey included behaviors like following an ex on social media, the most grabbing responses came from the quarter of Americans who did not consider one-night stands — or even regular sexual relations with someone else — as cheating.

A vast majority (76 percent) of Americans said they consider regular sex with someone other than a spouse or partner to "always" count as cheating, but six percent said it only "sometimes" was unfaithful, and 18 percent — almost one-fifth of all Americans — said it "never" counted as cheating.

More than a quarter of Americans (27 percent) said that "having a one-night stand with someone other than your partner" did not "always" count as cheating. At least 8 percent said a one-night stand "sometimes" counts as cheating, but 19 percent said it "never" does.

A majority of Americans considered five other behaviors to "always" count as cheating, including "romantically kissing" someone besides your partner (71 percent), "sending sexually explicit messages" to someone else (69 percent), keeping up an online dating profile (63 percent), "being emotionally involved" with someone outside the relationship (55 percent), and "sending flirtatious messages" to someone besides the partner (51 percent).

Only 37 percent of Americans said "going out to dinner with someone that you are attracted to" always counts as cheating, while 23 percent said going to a strip club without your partner does. About one-fifth (19 percent) said watching porn without your partner "always" counts as cheating, and 16 percent said cheating includes "following an ex on social media."

Mormons were more likely to consider each of these behaviors to count as cheating, and Roman Catholics were consistently less likely to do so. Women were also more sensitive to cheating, with more of them ranking each of the behaviors as infidelity.

Interestingly, only 69 percent of Catholics said a one-night stand "always" counted as cheating, and only 70 percent said the same about having regular sexual relations with someone else. The religiously unaffiliated, however, were more likely to say a one-night stand (74 percent) or regular sex with someone else (81 percent) counted as cheating. The unaffiliated were less likely than Catholics to rank flirtatious messages, dinners, going to a strip club, and watching porn without your partner as cheating, however.

The survey also broke down by generation. Contrary to popular belief, millennials were not the least likely to consider all of these behaviors cheating. More millennials (16 percent) than Gen-Xers (10 percent) said following an ex on social media counted as cheating, for example. The younger generation was also more likely (25 percent) than Gen-Xers (18 percent) or Baby Boomers (23 percent) to say that going to a strip club without your partner is cheating.