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Two virtual characters interacting sexually in Second Life.

Cybersex, also known as computer sex or internet sex, is when two or more people connected remotely via computer network are engaging in sexual activities through a virtual interaction which can happen via pictures, videos, or messages over the internet. Cyber sex can also be a simulation of sex performed either in a chat room, or online video game. There are many forms of cyber sex, including the type of sexual role-play in which the two applicants are pretending to have actual sex. This fantasy sex is accomplished by stimulating ones own sexual feelings and fantasies by describing actions and responding to the chat partner[1]. The crossover of physical intimacy and the internet creates ethical implications in the objectification of women, transparency, and technological determinism.


Cyber sex can include real life masturbation. The quality of cyber sex is normally determined by how well the partners can create a vivid sexual image in the other partners mind. Cyber sex is performed by either partners that are already in an intimate relationship that are separated geographically or by individuals that may not have any prior knowledge of one another and may not choose to remain anonymous with each other. It is frequently performed in online chat rooms and on instant messaging systems. Cybersex can also be performed using online simulations games with virtual worlds, such as The Sims or Second Life. Webcams and voice chat systems like Skype are very popular because they allow for more interaction and stimulation between partners.

Forms of cybersex


In text-based virtual environments, many participants have textual sexual encounters, especially in the MUD interfaces, which have been prevalent virtual environments since the early days of cyberspace. According to Harley Hahn, "The goal of mud sex is the same as the goal of regular sex (without the babies): to bond temporarily in a way that is physically and emotionally satisfying. To do so, two people will exchange messages so as to lead one another into a high level of sexual arousal, culminating in a well-defined resolution." [2]

Julian Dibbell, author of A Rape in Cyberspace, describes sexual encounters in a MUD called LambdaMOO as follows: "Netsex, tinysex, virtual sex--however you name it, in real-life reality it's nothing more than a 900-line encounter stripped of even the vestigial physicality of the voice. And's possibly the headiest experience the very heady world of MUDs has to offer. Amid flurries of even the most cursorily described caresses, sighs, and penetrations, the glands do engage, and often as throbbingly as they would in real-life assignation--sometimes even more so, given the combined power of anonymity and textual suggestiveness to unshackle deep-seated fantasies." [3]

Video games

While Cybersex is often thought of as digital contact between real people with the exchange of sexual content through pictures, text, or video feeds, it can also be translated to sexual behavior in video games via avatars.

The Sims is an example of a video game in which a user can make avatars engage in sexual relations. While the motivations of the Sims video game is to portray real life accurately, the ability to reproduce to make a family must be accounted for. Another example happens when Sims can engage in sexual activities in the hot tub. Specifically, Sims can choose to "go naked" and engage in various sexual and promiscuous behavior underwater. While in both examples, the sexual actions can be not explicit in nature, it is clearly understood what the avatars are participating in.

Video chatting

Many partners choose to engage in cybersex in the form of video chatting, where the sexual release is most often found through mutual masturbation. Partners may have a personal relationship and engage in cybersex through a number of video chat providers that exist for communicative purposes (Skype, Oovoo, iChat, etc.). Others may be strangers, meeting for sexual encounters through chat services sponsored by many porn sites such as RedTube, PornHub, or Playboy Live. Others still may encounter partners through random communicative chat services such as ChatRoulette or Omegle.

One partner pursuing external cybersex partners can affect both partners in real world relationships.

Cybersex and relationships

Partners in monogamous relationships engage in cybersex in addition to having sexual relations in the real world. Cybersex between partners can take text message form (sexting), chat room or instant message form, and video form. Skype and other video chatting services are used to facilitate mutual masturbation when partners are in different locations. Some partners in real life relationships engage in cybersex with individuals outside of the relationship. There is debate over whether or not this practice constitutes infidelity in the context of the real world relationship.


The majority of sex addicts used to be male and many times came from a background that included some form of sexual abuse in the past, sometimes from a family or friend. In today's world and age, cybersex addicts are about equal with males as well as females. The numbers are increasing and an abundance of people and populations can be vulnerable to the temptation and easy access of viewing explicit content online.

Usually men spend more time viewing pornography while women prefer more responsive and relationship oriented sex online. However, there is little understanding or statistics to back up who is more at risk for a cybersex addiction. It is also important to note that the numbers affected are higher because therapists that specialize in sexual addiction are reporting a dramatic increase in the numbers of the people seeking help or treatment.

Ethical implications

Technological Determinism

Critics of cybersex cite it as an example of a corrupting influence of technology in the sanctity of human interactions. By making it easier for people to access almost instantaneous pleasure with little transaction cost, the Internet allows people to do more activities, like cybersex, that have different moral standards than those found in the offline society. This conflict of moral standards leads to many questioning whether technology changes moral standards in society.

Is cybersex just another form of emotional cheating?

Objectification of Women

As with the criticism of pornography, people say many harmful stereotype and roles are propagated through cybersex, many relating to the degradation and objectifying of women. Cybersex categories often times portray the objectified female submitting to the dominant male in most acts. BDSM is another subject of pornography and cybersex that covers the bondage, domination, and submission of women to men through brutal acts of sex. This objectification not only promotes the stereotype of a male-dominant society, but reinforces the notion that females are by nature, inferior to men.

UrbanDictionary defines cybersex as "A simulation of sex performed in a chat room via role playing, between a male and a male pretending to be female." [4]. This definition, although it aims at satire, brings up ethical considerations about the identity of cybersexual partners.


Santana and Wood argue in their 2009 article about online transparency and credibility that "lack of identity transparency is a critical flaw in [an object's] value as a credible source of information."[5] This lack of credibility is most apparent in the ability to adopt a pseudonym for text-based cybersex, because the gender identity and attractiveness of either of the cybersexual partners cannot be directly determined as it can with video cybersex, even in the case where the people involved with the videos are anonymous to one another.

Anonymity here is not defined as "unknowability", and does not imply that the partners cannot be anonymous if they can see one another via Skype, Playboy Live, or other webcam sex services. Kathleen Wallace defines anonymity in her 2008 article as “nonidentifiability by virtue of noncoordinability of traits”[6] So even though the partners can see one another in an intimate fashion, can hear one another, and have an intimate exchange of information (even possibly their locations), they are anonymous to one another because the information may not be connected to their lives and identities outside of their online, cybersexual partnership.

See Also


  1. Strovny, David. Cyber Sex - AskMen AskMen - Men's Online Magazine. Retrieved 16 December 2011.
  2. Hahn, Harley (1996). The Internet Complete Reference (2nd ed.). Osborne McGraw-Hill. pp. 570. ISBN 0-07-882138-X.
  3. Dibble, J. A Rape in Cyberspace (1993)
  4. Cybersex. Urban Dictionary. Retrieved 18 December 2011.
  5. Santana, A. and Wood, D. "Transparency and social responsibility issues for Wikipedia," (2009)
  6. Wallace, K.A., "Online Anonymity," in Himma and Tavani (2008), pp. 165-190

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