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Cybersex Addition Spreading

By Erin McClam The Associated Press

ATLANTA - Online sex addiction is a growing epidemic that is tearing partners apart and creating a dangerous new compulsion affecting everyone from housewives to gay men and corporate executives, psychologists said Friday.

The Internet's anonymous and instant gratification is surprisingly appealing to women, who prefer chat rooms to leering at pornographic pictures, experts said during a seminar on cybersex at a conference of the National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity.

"The Internet is revolutionizing sexuality," said Al Cooper, clinical director of a sexuality clinic in San Jose, Calif. He told psychologists that cybersex is changing the definition of sexual compulsion "like crack cocaine changed the field of substance abuse."

Research shows that an estimated 15 percent of Internet users have visited online sex chat rooms or pornographic sites. A study presented at the conference found that almost 9 percent of people who use the Internet for sex spend more than 11 hours per week surfing for erotic content.

The numbers were nearly equal for men and women, countering the widely accepted view that an overwhelming majority of cybersex participants are men.

That may be because women feel they can safely use the Internet to satisfy curiosity and express themselves sexually, Cooper said.

"Women still have to be afraid of violence, sexually transmitted diseases and people's attitudes," he said. "Whatever you want, whatever kind of sexual charge you're into, you can find it on the Internet."

But the Internet's anonymity and the wide range of fetish and fantasy sites also create "hypersexuality" - a compulsive need for cybersex that can choke the life out of marriages and partnerships.

"The pain that this can tear through a relationship is deep, and it's profound," said Kimberly Young, a psychologist at the Sierra Tucson clinic in Arizona. "And relapse is really just a click away."

The lure of cybersex, speakers at the conference said, is in its anonymity. Shy women, closeted gay men, and image-conscious corporate executives believe acting out fantasies online is safe.

Almost half the women in Cooper's study said chat rooms - were their favorite forum for cybersex, compared to just 23 percent who said they preferred pictures. The numbers were almost exactly reversed for men.

"Women are more auditory. They like to have conversation and talk," said Robert Freeman-Longo, a Vermont psychologist specializing in sexual abuse. "Men will just get naked and do it."

The danger is that partners in relationships often think of cybersex as within the rules - more morally acceptable than acting out fantasies in real life or renting porn videotapes, let alone having sex outside the relationship.

That leads to a growing wall of secrecy between partners, Cooper said. Partners may lie to each other about which sites they visit or even wait until the middle of the night to surf for sex.

For gay men, hesitant to date openly or too young to be sure of their sexuality, the Internet provides an outlet for sexual exploration, said psychologist Ron Burg, who worked with Cooper on the study.

But that desire often drives homosexuals to cybersex compulsion, he said. More than 16 percent of people labeled addicted to cybersex were gay or lesbian, while homosexuals made up just 7 percent of the study sample.

"They're repressed all their lives," Cooper said. "When they get to the Internet - boom! - it's like an explosion."

Speakers at the conference said cybersex addiction should be treated seriously and requires therapy - the same as eating or personality disorders. They recommend telling patients to delete their Internet bookmarks and schedule limited appointments to go online.

Above all, they said, cybersex participants must be honest with their partners.

"The key is whether they're talking about it," Cooper said. "If it's a secret, that's a problem."

On the Net:

National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity

-- Observer (, May 09, 2000


"Shy women, closeted gay men, and image-conscious corporate executives believe acting out fantasies online is safe."

"They're repressed all their lives," Cooper said. "When they get to the Internet - boom! - it's like an explosion."

This reminded me of some statistics I read once on the folks who visited the "Hedonism" resorts. Of course IRL, at least one can see what one gets. My cousin's 230-lb, 5'1" wife of 18 years got involved with cybersex. She ended up leaving my cousin to seek out her cyberlover, who erased all traces of his identity when he learned of her plans. When my cousin found some ICQ messages his wife had sent her cyber-lover, he forwarded them and we all had a good laugh imagining her legs wrapped around this man's waist as they "made love" while walking around the room. He married a cute little thing a year after their divorce was final, and his ex-wife is STILL doing the cybersex thing.

-- Anita (, May 09, 2000.

(Not that I'm thinking about doing it......)

Here is a question for the entire group...

Do you believe that having cybersex is being faithful to your partner?

-- (Sheeple@Greener.Pastures), May 09, 2000.


"Do you believe that having cybersex is being faithful to your partner?"

NO. I'd be more inclined to agree with the author of this article who suggests that folks are looking for fulfillment that they're not getting IRL. In my cousin's wife's case, she had fantasies that were physically outside her reach. She could LIVE those fantasies in cyber-space. She didn't have to lose weight. She could simply PRETEND.

-- Anita (, May 09, 2000.

count me in also. Cybersex is being unfaithful. Why substitute a counterfeit for the real thing?

Sex with a screen name? ROFL

-- (, May 09, 2000.

maybe some of the appeal is because the cybersex is not with your spouse, but with someone new... it is not a question of choosing between counterfeit sex with someone else and counterfeit sex with your spouse. (not much point in doing cybersex in a chatroom with your own spouse...)

it is not sex with a screen name... the practice can be enormously creative... from what i hear.

-- (, May 09, 2000.

Do you believe that having cybersex is being faithful to your partner? It's not being unfaithful. Fantasy is fantasy is fantasy... until it isn't, that is. Pursuing a relationship in real life could probably be considered "unfaithfulness". (Is that a word?)

-- aqua (aqu@fin.a), May 10, 2000.

Like a lot of other things, it's a matter of balance. If cybersex is pursued in a reasonable manner it can be stimulating. If it begins to harm a relationship then it should be curtailed.

I know a guy who's wife left him for a cyberlover. In this case she married the guy, and I understand that they are happy. The guy I know was pretty devastated at first, but now has a knock-out, long-term girlfriend who appears a much more desirable than his ex-wife and he is now VERY happy. Of course, there are kids involved, which always complicates the issue.

-- Observer (lots@to.observe), May 10, 2000.

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