Sex on the Internet: Observations and Implications for Internet Sex Addiction
Griffiths, Mark, The Journal of Sex Research
The Internet is altering patterns of social communication and interpersonal relationships. This is nowhere more true than in the field of sexuality (Cooper, Delmonico, & Burg, 2000). Furthermore, sex is the most frequently searched-for topic on the Internet (Freeman-Longo & Blanchard, 1998). Young, Griffin-Shelley, Cooper, O'Mara, and Buchanan (2000) claim that the convenience of online pornography and adult chat sites provides an immediately available vehicle to easily fall into compulsive patterns of online use.
Sexually Related Uses of the Internet
Pornographers have always been the first to exploit new publishing technologies (e.g., photography, videotape, Internet etc.). It is estimated that the online pornography industry will reach $366 million by 2001 (Sprenger, 1999) although other estimates suggest it is already worth $1 billion ("Blue Money," 1999). In addition, the research company Datamonitor reported that over half of all spending on the Internet is related to sexual activity ("Blue Money," 1999). This includes the conventional (e.g., Internet versions of widely available pornographic magazines like Playboy), the not so conventional (e.g., Internet versions of very hardcore pornographic magazines), and what can only be described as the bizarre (e.g., discussion groups on almost any sexual paraphilia, perversion, and deviation). There are also pornographic picture libraries (commercial and free-access), videos and video clips, live strip-shows, live sex shows, and voyeuristic Web-Cam sites (Griffiths, 2000a).
Before any examination of the addictiveness potential of the Internet and its relationship to sex addiction, Griffiths (2000a) has argued that the first step is to examine all the different ways that the Internet can be used for sexually related purposes. The reasoning behind this is that only some of these activities may be done to excess and/or be potentially addictive. Griffiths (2000a) goes on to outline that the Internet can (and has) been used for a number of diverse activities surrounding sexually motivated behavior. These include the use of the Internet for seeking out sexually related material for educational use, buying or selling sexually related goods for further use offline, visiting and/or purchasing goods in online virtual sex shops, seeking out material for entertainment/masturbatory purposes for use online, seeking out sex therapists, and seeking out sexual partners for an enduring relationship. Other sexually motivated uses of the Internet include seeking out sexual partners for a transitory relationship (i.e., escorts, prostitutes, swingers) via online personal advertisements/"lonely hearts" columns, escort agencies, and/or chat rooms; seeking out individuals who then become victims of sexually related Internet crime (online sexual harassment, cyberstalking, pedophilic "grooming" of children); engaging in and maintaining online relationships via e-mail and/or chat rooms; exploring gender and identity roles by swapping gender or creating other personas and forming online relationships; and digitally manipulating images on the Internet for entertainment and/or masturbatory purposes (e.g., celebrity fake photographs where heads of famous people are superimposed onto someone else's naked body).
It is evident from these types of sex-related Internet behavior that very few of these are likely to be potentially excessive, addictive, obsessive, and/or compulsive. The most likely behaviors include the use of online pornography for masturbatory purposes, engaging in online relationships, and sexually related Internet crime (e.g., cyberstalking). Before examining the implications of these behaviors, the next section briefly overviews the concept of Internet addiction more generally.
Internet Addiction: A Brief Overview
Although there is opposition to the general concept of behavioral (i.e., nonchemical) addictions, there is a growing movement (e. …