Cybersex Addiction: Internet Hook-ups, Online Sex, and Porn Addiction
The Internet is profoundly transforming our culture and our world in ways similar to the introduction of the telephone 100 years ago. In addition to its function as a source of information, the Internet, Smartphones, and iPads have led a revolution in the delivery of sexual connection and sexual content. Cybersex, which is any form of sexual expression accessed through the computer or the Internet, is now a major industry. Currently, over 60 percent of all Internet visits involve a sexual purpose.
These days, cybersex activities include not only viewing and/or downloading pornography, but also live web-cam sex with prostitutes or strangers met online, responding to ads to meet sexual partners, visiting sexually oriented chat rooms, and using Smartphones with GPS locators to find instant sexual partners. Many people allow themselves to engage in sexual behaviors online (such as S&M, child porn, bestiality, or presenting themselves as persons of the opposite gender) that they would not normally partake in. Spin-offs of cybersex activities are virtual world sex and sexual online affairs that progress to “real” or “offline” affairs.
For most cybersex participants, the Internet provides a fascinating new venue for experiencing sex. As many as 8-10% of users, however, become hooked on the intensity and accessibility of Internet-driven sex and experience significant life problems as a result.
Consequences for compulsive and addictive cybersex use include:
• The user’s life becomes constricted and lonely. Many hours are spent alone with the computer, involved in fantasy sexual activities, while real-life friendships and social contacts fall away.
• If the user is married or in a relationship, the partner feels lonely, ignored, unimportant, neglected, or angry because the user prefers to spend time on the Internet rather than with the partner and family.
• Children are neglected or ignored because of the parent’s involvement with the computer.
• If online sex leads to real-life sexual encounters, the user risks contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
• If the user downloads Internet pornography on his or her work computer or engages in cybersex while on the job, he or she risks job loss.
• Cybersex participants who view child porn risk arrest and imprisonment.
• Many users lie repeatedly about their sexual activities; in response, their partners feel distrust and betrayal.
“It’s just happening online, so how can it really hurt anyone?”
• The devastating emotional impact of an Internet-related romantic or sexual affair is described by many partners as similar or equal to that of an “offline” affair. This is equally true when the cybersex user has also had “real” affairs. The partner’s self-esteem is damaged; strong feelings of hurt, betrayal, abandonment, devastation, loneliness, shame, isolation, humiliation, and jealousy are evoked. Cybersex activities are considered particularly destructive in that they often take place right in the home or office and are so time-consuming, taking time away from the family.
• A couple’s sexual relationship suffers, not only because the addict spends so much time on the computer, but also because the spouse (and often the user) compares his or her body and sexual performance to that of the online men and women, and believes he or she can’t measure up. Often, the user loses interest in having sex with his or her partner. Many couples have no relational sex in months or years.
• Partners may retaliate or seek solace in extramarital affairs.
• Children may be exposed to pornography and sexual acts, which can have a devastating effect on their adult development.
Fortunately, help for cybersex addiction is available. Those whose use of Internet sex has become addictive or compulsive can benefit from counseling specific to Internet-related sexual problems. This type of therapy can help alleviate a crisis, set limits and structure around online activity, and restore life priorities and balance.