The Internet can be a powerful tool for everyday people to explore thoughts and emotions without inhibition. Since the Internet provides us with great anonymity, we can explore and share deep feelings and ideas without fear of judgment and retribution. This can facilitate very positive outcomes; especially for people with otherwise quite acceptable sexual feelings and desires, but who feel impeded and couldn’t or wouldn’t act them out in real life (such as is often the case with young people exploring sex and homosexuality).
Arguably, cybersex is also perfectly safe. Cybersex provides people with a physically safe environment, since the nothing physical ever occurs (other than possible self-masturbation, which often accompanies cybersex). However, sharing and exploring sexual feelings and desires online, is accompanied with strong and intense emotions. It’s these feelings and emotions that are significant to infidelity and therefore any sexual activity, regardless of whether it is merely flirting, seeking arousal or orgasm, could reasonably be considered betrayal by most romantic partners. Indeed, the Fortino Group reports “one-third of all divorce litigation now involves one partner’s online infidelity”.
We live in a world where the Internet is becoming a pivotal and sometimes pervasive component of our everyday lives. Our physical bodies are exposed to stimuli that transcend our own thoughts and views of the world and we’re exposed to more than we can imagine. We can participate, or contribute as much or as little of ourselves as we desire. Because of this the line between the real world and the virtual-world is becoming increasingly difficult to define. Since we carry ourselves into the virtual-world, it has become a mere extension of our physical selves.
If we define physical acts of sexuality to be foremost the emotional connection between two people sharing a sexually arousing experience, than Cybersex is just a real as intercourse. The Internet has also adapted to make Cybersex as real as possible, further blurring the line. The social game Second Life, grants players great control to ensure that players can highly customize their game avatar; designed to be the player’s representation in the Second Life digital world. Player’s can then control their avatars, much like a puppeteer would control a puppet, and as such can enact any activity the player can imagine. Second Life is known for player avatars being able to enact and enhance sexual activities, augmented by text chat or voices using a microphone . It’s easy to trivialize Cybersex as harmless fun, but doing so also trivializes illegal sexual activities such as the computer depiction of adults having sex with children . While people should feel free to explore Cybersex as part of normal and healthy sex life, normal real world social rules and expectations need to still apply.
This post is a slightly modified version of a piece I wrote for a University assignment for the Curtin University Subject Internet Studies 102/502: The Internet and Everyday Life, answering the question: How far would a partner/spouse have to go online before it is considered cheating? Up to what point is flirting online acceptable? How ‘real’ is cybersex?