Cyber Dos and Don'ts

Patricia King

If you only use your computer to type term papers, e-mail friends and family, and buy cheap airline tickets, you may not be aware of the biggest development in "getting off" since the rise of phone sex way back in the 1980s.

According to a study published in the American Medical News (a publication of the American Medical Asociation), more than 20 percent of the 60 million people on the web engage in sexually explicit chat or visit pornographic sites -- that's at least 1,200,000 people. Cybersex is defined as the erotic exchange of fantasies for the sole purpose of arousal. It takes place in chat rooms, via e-mail, and via Instant Messaging services.

"Cybersex is not a fad. It's here to stay. The Internet relationship phenomenon has exploded, and it's going to continue to grow, as millions of additional people log onto the Internet," says Michael Adamse, Ph.D., co-author of Affairs of the Net: The Cybershrink's Guide to Online Relationships (Health Communications, Inc. 1996).

A Safer Alternative?
Why look for love, or sex, online? For one thing, it's a relatively low-risk alternative to real world relationships. "People are cautious and paranoid today, with the growing occurrence of stalkers, AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases. The Internet is a safe outlet for many people," says Adamse.

Like certain types of real life sex, Internet sex is fast, cheap, and anonymous. The Internet offers immediate gratification and complete anonymity, so you can be whoever you want to be, without feeling self-conscious. It's cheaper than hiring a prostitute or going to a strip club. There are no physical barriers, no insecurities about physical appearance, and the action moves quickly from first I.M. to the chat room version of heavy petting and more.

Is Cybersex Cheating?
Interested in getting busy online? One caveat: it's not always a good idea for those who are already in a real life relationship. Cybersex relationships have the potential to ruin "real time" ones. Some partners don't mind. They may even feel it enhances your relationship, but others do object. Make sure you and your real life significant other are on the same page about whether or not cybersex with others constitutes a breach of fidelity before you start an online relationship.

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