A Qualitative Study of Cybersex Participants: Gender Differences, Recovery Issues, and Implications for Therapists

Jennifer P. Schneider
2000 Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity  
In a companion study to one previously published on the effects of cybersex addiction on the family, a new, brief online survey was completed by 45 men and 10 women, aged 18-64 (mean, 38.7) who self-identified as cybersex participants who had experienced adverse consequences from their online sexual activities. Nearly all the respondents (92% of the men and 90% of the women) self-identified as current and/or former sex addicts. Significantly more men than women reported downloading pornography
more » ... s a preferred activity. As in previous studies on gender differences in sexual activities, the women tended to prefer sex within the context of a relationship or at least e-mail or chat room interactions rather than accessing images. However, in the present small sample, several women were visually-oriented consumers of pornography. Two women with no prior history of interest in sadomasochistic sex discovered this type of behavior online and came to prefer it. Although a similar proportion of men (27%) and women (30%) engaged in real-time online sex with another person, significantly more women than men (80% versus 33.3%) stated that their online sexual activities had led to real-life sexual encounters. Some respondents described a rapid progression of a previously existing compulsive sexual behavior problem, whereas others had no history of sexual addiction but became rapidly involved in an escalating pattern of compulsive cybersex use after they discovered Internet sex. Adverse consequences included depression and other emotional problems, social isolation, worsening of their sexual relationship with spouse or partner, harm done to their marriage or primary relationship, exposure of children to online pornography or masturbation, career loss or decreased job performance, other financial consequences, and in some cases, legal consequences. Although some therapists were very helpful, others were uninformed about the nature and extent of sexual activities available online and reportedly (1) minimized the significance of the cybersex behavior and did not accept it for the powerful addiction it was, (2) failed to make it a priority to stop illegal or self-destructive behaviors, and (3) did not consider the effect of the cybersex involvement on the spouse or partner.
doi:10.1080/10720160008403700 fatcat:5c3l5ir3xrgwni2eugprog6km4