Sex and the Internet

By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the diversity of sexual activity to be found on the Internet was both immense and still growing. There were many ways in which the Internet is impacting and influencing sexuality and sexual practices in society. Online sexual activity is defined as the use of the Internet for any activity that involves sexuality for purposes of recreation, entertainment, exploration, support, education, commerce, or finding or meeting sexual or romantic partners.

The three primary factors of online sexual activity are referred to as the Triple-A-Engine. The factors include accessibility, brought about by high number of websites, all available 24 hours a day, affordability, or the availability of ways to engage in free sexual activity, and anonymity, or the possibility of keeping your identity a secret while surfing the net.

These three core factors can be invaluable in enhancing sexuality. The Internet can be a useful tool for improving sexual education and spreading information. It can be of great help to sexually disenfranchised and alternative communities. Online relationships offer new possibilities, but they could also be very dangerous.

Combined, the three factors can grant people access to information on human sexuality and facilitates education by eliminating concerns of fear, shame and humiliation. The Internet can be viewed as a fertile field for people who want to safely educate themselves about sexuality, contraception and changes associated with puberty, pregnancy, menopause and aging. There are many websites where experts readily respond to questions, which is an ideal opportunity for people seeking short answers, simple solutions and quick advice.

But at the same time, the ability of children and teenagers to access the Internet readily raises concerns about the possibility of young people being exploited or distressed while online.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people can avoid feeling outcast or marginalized by society by taking advantage of the numerous websites, message boards and chat rooms. In addition, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses as well as elderly people are enabled to escape the confines that limit their possibilities for sexual activities. But while many are welcoming this new way of establishing and joining a community, there are critics who point to some disturbing cases in which websites advocate rape, sexual mutilation and sexual contact between adults and minors.

The Internet is said to have made the search of romantic or sexual partners easier because online users of chat rooms and dating sites often feel free to provide more additional personal information than they do in face-to-face situations. According to a study by Dr Jeff Gavin of the University of Bath, online dating is much more successful way of finding long-term romance and friendship. The study found that 94 percent of the couples who had built up a significant relationship by e-mailing or chatting went on to see each other again.

However, Internet relationship do not always have a happy ending. Deception is common, with many online users apt to lie about their appearance by providing false pictures. Some paedophiles have been known to use Internet chat rooms to forge online relationships with young children, not revealing their true age or intentions to the child until the grooming process is well advanced.

Research indicates the majority of people engaged in online sexual activity profit from positive effects, but there is a sizable minority who complain about negative effects. What is more, there are concerns that those who engage in online sexual activities may be more likely to engage in high-risk sexual behaviors. There are also concerns that some who have no sex problems might develop such following exposure to the Internet.

The Internet is revolutionizing sexuality by providing more opportunities for sexual expression and relationships.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Emotional and Sexual Infidelity Offline and in Cyberspace
Whitty, Monica T.; Quigley, Laura-Lee.
Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, Vol. 34, No. 4, October 2008
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Pornography, Community and the Internet - Freedom of Speech and Obscenity on the Internet
Kamiel, Yuval; Wismonsky, Haim.
Rutgers Computer & Technology Law Journal, Vol. 30, No. 1, Spring 2004
Sex Trafficking Via the Internet: How International Agreements Address the Problem and Fail to Go Far Enough
Kunze, Erin I.
The Journal of High Technology Law, Vol. 10, No. 2, July 2010
The Role of Sexual Compulsivity, Impulsivity, and Experiential Avoidance in Internet Pornography Use
Wetterneck, Chad T.; Burgess, Angela J.; Short, Mary B.; Smith, Angela H.; Cervantes, Maritza E.
The Psychological Record, Vol. 62, No. 1, Winter 2012
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Cybersex: The Impact of a Contemporary Problem on the Practices of Marriage and Family Therapists
Goldberg, Peter D.; Peterson, Brennan D.; Rosen, Karen H.; Sara, Mary Linda.
Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, Vol. 34, No. 4, October 2008
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Sexual Addiction and the Internet: Implications for Gay Men
Dew, Brian J.; Chaney, Michael P.
Journal of Addictions & Offender Counseling, Vol. 24, No. 2, April 2004
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
MySpace, Yourspace, but Not Theirspace: The Constitutionality of Banning Sex Offenders from Social Networking Sites
Wynton, Jasmine S.
Duke Law Journal, Vol. 60, No. 8, May 2011
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator