Internet Pornography and Cybersex - Cybersex Counseling NYC, New York

Internet Pornography and Cybersex: Exploration or Confinement

The Internet is a ubiquitous presence in daily life. It has penetrated academic, work and family life, and to some degree, begun to lay foundations in shaping unique forms of human relating and attachment systems. Internet pornography and cyber sex, in its expanding and varied venues, provide almost instantaneous sexual gratification often in ways one may not feel comfortable enacting in non-virtual life.

Cybersex extends from passive watching to graphic visual interaction that may culminate in an actual in- person encounter. Sexting and sharing erotic visual images, voyeurism ,collective sex, gender bending or not knowing what sex one is interacting it with are just a few of the virtual stages now offered by internet theatre. Some view this “sex at your fingertips” as a method to release stress, to experience a quick high, to widen one’s sexual repertoire, to counterbalance a depressed or anxious mood or to toy with emotional contact. Adolescents may consider surfing in this terrain as fun and novel often encouraged by peer pressure.

However, the entertainment dimension of chronic usage of internet pornography and cybersex can reach a threshold where it is difficult to live without. So called “sexual addiction” or “sexual compulsion” refers to the uncontrollable and increasingly repetitive and ritualized use of the internet for sexual gain as well as inappropriate sexual aggression, possible serial infidelity and consistent need for increased sexual stimulation. This may include strip clubs, massage parlors, call girls or prostitutes. Substance abuse is often a biopsychological trigger for increased need for dopamine release provided by sexual arousal. This process creates an endless cycle of physiological and emotional dysregulation, often brought about by feelings of inadequacy, emptiness, and states of emotional overload. The yearning for emotional attachment is usually the disguised motivation for women who use sex as a means to become relationally connected frequently placing themselves in high risk situations involving threats to their safety.

The consequences of compulsive virtual sexual engagement veer from a diversionary motivation to permeating all aspects of life. Neglect of present relationships and job performance as well as possible excessive spending in order to acquire certain purchased partners and apps may ultimately develop. One can begin to experience a separate life hidden from family and friends. Sex with a partner may become non-stimulating due to heightened states of arousal with multiple partners in diverse sexual engagement. For a more isolated individual fantasy sex can further induce disengagement from the outside world.

Unfortunately, the terms sexual compulsion, addiction and obsession are often conflated and confused. This is especially problematic as the upcoming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of psychiatric disorders has not recognized “Hypersexual Disorder as an official diagnosis and situates it in the glossary in need of future empirical research involving neuroimaging , genetics and studies of possible withdrawal mechanisms. The definition of what is excessive sexual involvement does contain subjective elements including cultural, moral value judgments and the lure of expensive treatment programs that have expanded into a sexual addiction industry that casts a wide net as far as who is a "sex addict". Differential diagnosis and the role of sex within the broader context of self, family and culture need to be assessed.

For example, the psychological makeup of a man who engages in daily cybersex after a painful breakup as he is attempting to bolster self-esteem in order to re-enter the dating scene is very different from one who has been a victim of childhood sexual abuse and uses the venue to chronically avoid sex and intimacy with a spouse who has discovered the activity and cannot stop. Often, trauma is part of the history of chronic use of sexual stimulation used to avoid and dissociate from emotional pain engendering patterns of detachment from a partner. Without dealing with traumatic history, it is unlikely that behavior will stop in a sustained manner.

Support groups, usually based on the substance abuse model of AA, can be helpful in educating and sharing with others who are affected by sexual driven behavior that begins to takeover and destroy their lives. Psychotherapy and psychoanalysis can explore the meaning of the behavior in individual terms within the perspective of past, present and future, possible traumatic roots, struggles for intimacy, identity and self acceptance. In other words, treating the whole person not just the sexual dimensions, although first to be dealt with due to the critical influence it is having on one’s life, is the emphasis. When change takes place, ie. driveness of the sexual behavior is mastered, understanding the meaning of sex in relation to self, now no longer needed, can foster durable transformation and new ways of achieving intimacy and self-esteem.

Cybersex Confinement