Education too is another positive. Nearly 13 per cent of the survey respondents
said greater sexual knowledge, whether to learn a new sexual position or to find
out how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, was the reason for their sexual surfing.
Most of the survey sample were in relationships, yet women were far less likely
than men to view online sexual activity as cheating.|
For all the plus points there are researchers who believe that for some people
internet sex can do more harm than good. Coralie Scherer a Stanford University
psychologist says that using internet sex as a distraction from the everyday can be a
double-edged sword. What’s important, she says, is whether the escapism is
decreasing or ultimately increasing the very anxiety, stress or other
emotion from which it is diverting us. But it can work against us, on the other hand,
if we have a big deadline looming and we get involved in some very long Internet
downloads or chat. In these cases, our short-term solutions for allaying anxiety
will result in bigger and more intense anxiety down the line, she says, noting
that erotic material can be immensely absorbing.
And are the fears of those who believe that the current freedoms of the internet
are resulting in an unhealthy boom in pornography justified? Psychologist Al Cooper,
who's clinical director of the San Jose Marital and Sexuality Centre and author
of one of the largest studies on online sexuality, would argue no.
His research found that going online for sexual pursuits does not lead
to compulsive use for the majority of people.
The problem with online porn lies in its easy accessibility to those who are at
risk of developing sexual compulsions -- and who might not have discovered their
tendencies had they not been so easily able to view porn online. According to
Cooper, only 8.5 percent of those who visit adult sites have had a
problem with it, such as compulsivity, with only 1 percent indicating a
severe addiction. What's more, his research indicates that 80 to 90 percent of
those who visit online adult sites find that it actually enhances their real- life sex
There are other positives to online sex, says psychologist Kimberly Young,
executive director of the Center for Online Addiction and author of 'Tangled in the Web:
Understanding Cybersex From Fantasy to Addiction.' "Cybersex is the ultimate in
safe sex," she says. "It intensifies self- stimulation, offers immediate gratification,
provides an escape for stress and tension and reduces performance anxiety."
ADDICTED TO CYBERSEX
But while there may be some positive aspects to online porn, sex experts warn that
trouble may arise if a preoccupation with it begins to isolate you from your real-life sex
life and relationships.
Young says that the warning signs of a cybersex addiction are a preoccupation with
adult sites, lying about or hiding the behaviour, losing interest in other
activities, experiencing withdrawal signs when forced to go without viewing and
using sex as a form of escape. You can self-test your internet use on the website
Like everything, it seems that whether cybersex is good or bad depends on how you
use it. One counsellor says that e-mail is a great way of adding spice to a relationship.
Sending notes to a partner from early in the day is a wonderful way of stoking up
the fire for the night ahead. And an internet affair needn't necessarily be harmful.
The same counsellor maintains that for most people they're no more dangerous than a
steamy erotic or romantic novel, except they're interactive, and bringing them to
an end can be no more difficult that changing your e-mail address.
The problem comes when you take it all a stage further. Using chat rooms to find
partners carries great risks. The anonymity of the initial experience makes you
more likely to trust, to lower your guard, whilst the interaction in a chat room
can lull you into a false sense of security. And there's no doubt that the ease
of internet sex can lead to addictive behaviour in a few people. American performance
artist and sex activist Annie Sprinkle, who recently earned a doctorate
in Human Sexuality, believes it's not the erotic material that's the problem. She
thinks addiction to porn is a symptom not the cause of an underlying difficulty.
"Some people escape by watching football or playing golf or tinkering
in the garage.
Others find escape through sexual release or pleasure, and that's OK,"
she says. "Problems in relationships aren't caused by porn. They're caused by
problems in the individual or problems in the relationship."