Cybersex

Cybersex

[sahy-ber-seks]

Cybersex, computer sex, internet sex or net sex is a virtual sex encounter in which two or more persons connected remotely via a computer network send one another sexually explicit messages describing a sexual experience. It is a form of role-playing in which the participants pretend they are having actual sexual relations. In one iteration, this fantasy sex is accomplished by the participants describing their actions and responding to their chat partners in a mostly written form designed to stimulate their own sexual feelings and fantasies. Cybersex may also be accomplished through the use of avatars in a multiuser software environment.

Cybersex sometimes includes real life masturbation. The quality of a cybersex encounter typically depends upon the participants' abilities to evoke a vivid, visceral mental picture in the minds of their partners. Imagination and suspension of disbelief are also critically important. Cybersex can occur either within the context of existing or intimate relationships, e.g. among lovers who are geographically separated, or among individuals who have no prior knowledge of one another and meet in virtual spaces or cyberspaces and may even remain anonymous to one another. In some contexts cybersex is enhanced by the use of webcams to transmit real-time video of the partners.

Cybersex is sometimes colloquially called "cybering". Channels used to initiate cybersex are not necessarily exclusively devoted to that subject, and participants in any Internet chat may suddenly receive a message with any possible variation of the text "Wanna cyber?"

Characteristics

Cybersex is commonly performed in Internet chat rooms (such as IRC, talkers or web chats) and on instant messaging systems. It can also be performed using webcams, voice chat systems like Skype, or online games and/or virtual worlds like World of Warcraft and Second Life. The exact definition of cybersex--specifically, whether real-life masturbation must be taking place for the online sex act to count as cybersex--is up for debate.

Though text-based cybersex has been in practice for decades, the increased popularity of webcams has raised the number of online partners using two-way video connections to "expose" themselves to each other online--giving the act of cybersex a more visual aspect. There are a number of popular, commercial webcam websites that allow people to openly masturbate on camera while others watch them. Using similar sites, couples can also perform on camera for the enjoyment of others.

Cybersex differs from phone sex in that it offers a greater degree of anonymity and allows participants to meet partners more easily. A good deal of cybersex takes place between partners who have just met online. Unlike phone sex, cybersex in chat rooms is rarely commercial. In online worlds like Second Life however, internet sex workers engage in cybersex in exchange for both virtual and real-life currency.

One approach to cybering is a simulation of "real" sex, when participants try to make the experience as close to real life as possible, with participants taking turns writing descriptive, sexually explicit passages. Alternatively, it can be considered a form of role playing that allows a couple to experience unusual sexual sensations and carry out sexual experiments they cannot try in reality. Amongst "serious" roleplayers, cybering may occur as part of a larger plot - the characters involved may be lovers or spouses, or a character could be raped to initiate a plotline. In situations like this, the people typing often consider themselves separate entities from the "people" engaging in the sexual acts, much as the author of a novel often does not completely identify with his or her characters.

Cybersex is often ridiculed because the partners frequently have little verifiable knowledge (including gender) about each other. However, since for many the primary point of cybersex is the realistic simulation of sexual activity, this knowledge is not always desired or necessary.

Advantages and disadvantages

Advantages

Since cybersex can satisfy some sexual desires without the risk of sexually transmitted disease or pregnancy, it is a physically safe way for young people to experiment with sexual thoughts and emotions. Additionally, people with long-term ailments (including HIV) can engage in cybersex as a way to safely achieve sexual gratification without putting their partners at risk.

Cybersex allows "real-life" partners who are physically separated to continue to be sexually intimate. In geographically separated relationships, it can have an important function in sustaining the sexual dimension of a relationship in which the partners see each other only infrequently face to face.

Cybersex can also enhance the role playing aspect of MUDs or MMORPGs, as it can give the characters that people are playing a more lifelike quality. It can be difficult to portray a realistic relationship within a game without addressing the sexual aspects of the relationship for some roleplayers.

It is also fairly frequent in on-line role-playing games, such as rpol, MUDs and MMORPGs, though approval of this activity varies greatly from game to game. Some online social games like Red Light Center are dedicated to cybersex and other adult behaviors. These online games are often called AMMORPGs. Cybersex is sometimes called "mudsex" in MUDs. In TinyMUD variants, particularly MUCKs, the term "TinySex", abbreviated "TS", is very common. Cybersex can be utilised to write co-written original fiction and fanfiction by role-playing in third person. As a direct result the fanfiction is almost always more realistic and sexually arousing, thanks to two people being involved in the process.{ It can also be used to gain experience for solo writers who want to write more realistic sex scenes, by exchanging ideas.

It can enable participants to act out fantasies which they would not act out (or perhaps would not even be realistically possible) in real life through roleplaying due to physical or social limitations and potential for misunderstanding, such as extreme BDSM, incest, zoophilia or rape.

Cybersex has also been used in therapy to help those who are too shy or are unsure of how to (re)enter the dating and sexual scene. For example, some therapists have clients practice flirting skills and rehearse how to ask for what they want sexually in chat rooms.

Disadvantages and associated problems

Debate continues among moralists on whether cybersex is a form of infidelity. While it does not involve physical contact, critics claim that the powerful emotions involved can cause marital stress, especially when cybersex culminates in an Internet romance. In several known cases Internet adultery became the grounds for which a couple divorced.

Additionally, the anonymous nature of online chat permits rather cruel pranks. The intimate nature of cybersex may in some cases be rudely shattered by pranksters who solicit cybersex, but with the actual intention to post the logs in public. Many guides for netiquette warn against this.

Therapists report a growing number of patients addicted to this activity, a form of both Internet addiction and sexual addiction, with the standard problems associated with addictive behavior.

Sexual predators and law enforcement

The relative anonymity of Internet communication may provide encouragement to seek out underage cybersex partners. In the course of such conversations, such individuals sometimes try to send child pornography to others or arrange real-life meetings (see child grooming).

In the United States, police officers sometimes pose as minors in chat rooms in order to bait underage-sexual predators. On one occasion, an elderly man from Georgia flew into Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta to meet what he thought was an underage girl he had met online with whom to have sex, only to meet sheriff's deputies instead. Another time, a teacher from Minnesota was arrested by FBI agents in Yuma, Arizona's airport, after he had arranged online to meet and have sex with what he thought were two eight-year-old girls.

This practice is sometimes somewhat controversial, and in some cases may be considered a form of entrapment, especially if the accused can prove that they were not intentionally 'grooming' their target, that the enforcer was encouraging them to meet, or that the meeting's intention was non-sexual.

The prevalence of predatory paedophiles in some forms of online communication has attracted many civilians to mislead or troll those trying to groom underaged children. One example is the vigilante group Perverted-Justice.com.

Notes

References and further reading

  • Deuel, Nancy R. 1996. Our passionate response to virtual reality. Computer-mediated Communication: Linguistic, Social, and Cross-Cultural Perspectives, p. 129-146. Ed. by Susan C. Herring. John Benjamins Publishing Company, Philadelphia.
  • Godson, Suzi 2002. The Sex Book. Cassell Illustrated, London.

See also

External links

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