November 7, 2008
Is Cyber Sex Making You Sad?

I’m not sure what to make of this recent study that indicates about one third of cyber sex participants suffer from depression and anxiety. (Apparently, “the more heavily they engaged in online sexual activity[,] the higher their level of depression and anxiety”. I suppose heavily refers to the amount of time devoted?)

What gives me pause is my confusion over what exactly the researchers classified as cyber sex. It seems that sending “erotic” emails counts-does that include flirting?-as does downloading content, although the type and source of content isn’t specified. Are they conflating attempts at online dating with membership to a non-interactive “fetish” site? Do messages on Adultfriendfinder fall into the parameters of cybersex if those emails are orchestrating a sexual encounter to take place in “real” life?

Maybe this group of participants is depressed because they were lonely or sexually frustrated before they got online.  It may be why they got online in the first place. Maybe some people on Okcupid have comparable levels of stress, with or without dirty talk. It makes sense to me that when it comes to attempts at dating or just getting some (on or offline) the harder you try, the more stressed you’ll be. It takes a lot of misses before you get a hit, and bad experiences can make good ones seem even further out of reach. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything.

Or maybe I’m just unfairly suspicious of claims that seem to mirror the 90s mentality of “computer facilitated relationships, especially sexual ones, are perverse and damaging.” What do you all think?

[Via Asylum, photo by simonpais]

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  • Isil says :

    Boobies look better outdoors.

  • Paul says :

    I guess the causality is the other way around. Anxious or depressive people tend to be more alone, more often at home or have more problems connecting to people. Cybersex offers them an easy way for social and especially sexual contacts. Might be a good thing or not…but those studies are actually useless except for reinforcing stereotypes.

  • JAdams says :

    I’m with Paul. Depressive, anxious people (myself being one) turn to online activities mostly because real-life activities scare the bejeebus out of them. For better or worse, the Web offers them a “safer” alternative to getting a social and sex life.

  • Shashank says :

    Well, a lot of the people who turn to cybersex are somewhat depressed to start with. Then when you do turn to cybersex, the first thing that hits the unexperienced is the load of crap that most of it is - the HNGs, the seemingly random Quits, things of that sort. Its just downhill from there, except, of course, for a few incidents of sheer delight.

    Of course, here I assume cybersex to mean something along the lines of a relatively anonymous and purely virtual interaction between people… not the sexual arms of true long distance relationships. Just my $.02

  • sixtwohk says :

    i was once trapped in the compulsive use of the internet for sex. and i mean all kinds: real time, cyber sex, phone sex, porno, webcamming. before i got a computer in my home in 1997, i was in a really good place with my sexuality and its expression. i can testify first-hand that 10 years of cyber sex left me wasted, depressed, and only barely able to interact with flesh-and-blood people. i’m clean now, and only now can see the corrosive effects it had for me. i’m not saying that everyone will have this experience, but i sure did.

  • Is there a link between c… says :

    [...] number of issues here: as Boinkology points out, what are we counting as “cybersex”? As Ars Technica points out, what are we calling cause and effect? And as I’d like to point [...]

  • Oubliette says :

    I only cyber when there’s a guy I like who lives far far away. It’s a fun way to communicate your interest and how much you miss them, but in the end there’s still that gulf of distance and no cuddling X-p

    So yeah I find I’m more prone to being depressed after.

  • Azfar says :

    I would like to say about cybersex and viewing pornography that it is spreding large day by day.It is very unhealthy approach to sit on computer only for watching porn effects ones routine timing and relations.some times this attitude disturbs people.this is not any constructive we should avoid it and try to spent a healthy and purposeful life.

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