The widespread and relatively inexpensive influx of high speed Internet technology has rendered the Cybersex pornographic industry a considerably profitable e-commerce business. This exploratory investigation attempts to delineate the intricacies and effects of such technology on individual well-being using ethnographic field research methodology. Although most individuals utilize the Internet for occupational, educational, recreational, and shopping purposes, a sizable male minority exists, known as Cybersex compulsives and at-risk users, who invest an inordinate amount of their time, money, and energy in the pursuit of Cybersex experiences with negative intrapersonal ramifications in terms of depression, anxiety, and problems with felt intimacy with their real-life partners. Such individuals find themselves in a compulsive Cybersex quest for the "perfect" sexual visualization that will match their "lovemap," only to get disappointed at its fleeting nature.
Keywords: Cybersex, sexual compulsion, obsession, flow, interactivity, love map
From Internet shopping to electronic bill pay to booking travel and lodging all the way to Cybersex, we, as individuals living in the 21st century, are becoming increasingly identified by online, virtual, and Cyber usernames, passwords, and code names (Lohse, 1998). Even though there does exist a lag between technology and culture, the sudden availability of inexpensive personal computer and Internet technology to mainstream consumers has changed our lives drastically and possibly irreversibly (Chen, Wigand, & Nilan, 1999). From the occasional to the everyday online user lies a spectrum along which we all find ourselves.
Psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, family therapists, social workers, and school counselors report a considerable number of complaints related to computer use. College and university authorities report that inappropriate and excessive computer use is increasingly associated with student rule breaking and academic failure. In addition, divorce attorneys find that compulsive computer use tends to be a leading factor in divorce (Orzack, 2004).
Social scientists at the University of Florida, who have been investigating the various facets of Internet compulsion, advise mental health professionals to use a simple five-point checklist -- abbreviated as MOUSE -- when dealing with individuals that may be affected by it (Colton, 2004). Specifically, patients ought to be encouraged to ask themselves: Do you find yourself spending considerable (More) amounts of time online? Are you intentionally or unintentionally neglecting your personal (Other) responsibilities that you (and your significant others) deem important for your everyday functioning? Do you find it difficult and futile (Unsuccessful) to reduce the amount of time that you spend online? Are you experiencing considerable (Significant) relational problems with your significant others as a result of your Internet use? Are you overwhelmed (Excessive) with anxiety and preoccupied with unrealistic thoughts when you are online? (Colton, 2004).
THE PRESENT STUDY
This paper represents an exploratory investigation into the Cyberspace world of sex and its impact on individual well-being. Cybersex has been likened to a kind of "sexual revolution" with more than 100,000 Web sites featuring all kinds of sexual content, such as erotic photos, videos, live sex acts, and Web-cam strip sessions (Carnes, 2001; Cooper, Boies, Maheu & Greenfield, 2001). Visits to pornographic sites doubled in the year 2000 with some sites reporting as many as 50 million hits (Worden, 2001). Although the majority of Internet users tend to be recreational or utilitarian in their usage orientation, some end up reported a compulsion to participate in Cybersex. According to a survey conducted by the Marital and Sexuality Center and MSNBC (2002), 6.5% of the male Internet population reported spending nearly six hours per week engaging in Cybersex. …