Human sexuality is an enormous part of a human life and people are constantly faced with sexuality challenges. As the world evolves, ideas and inventions are voiced and created to make life better for everyone and the internet is one of these creations becoming an essential part of many lives all over the world. Cybersex is a growing form of sexual expression over a computer where people get arousal through typed text, video, images and spoken voice (Waskul : 2003). Because cybersex is so wholly person, yet so wholly impersonal creates many interesting qualities in the phenomenon (Waskul: 2003).
With the internet rapidly becoming one of the most used tools in the world, it seems only an easy and curiousity driven progression that relationships arousal is experienced via technology. The underlying question of this innovation is whether or not cybersex will transform human sexuality or is it merely a backward step for society? In an investigation performed of online users, three types of cybersex participants were established.
Firstly, there were the recreational users who perform cybersex for curiosity and entertainment.
Secondly, the sexual compulsives who use it for sexual desires and lastly the at –risk users who rely on internet interaction, have a definite addiction which leads them to becoming isolated, living solely from this fantasy world (Cooper:2000). Cybersex is a virtual environment with convincing representations that become real through their outcomes (Waskul:2003). The manifestations of cybersex allows people to react to them as if they were real which is how we come to the conclusion of Cybersex having the three types of users, the level of addiction depending on how deeply persuaded someone is.
Cybersex used in control is healthy and no different to watching pornography. However, it can grow from transforming human sexuality to being very problematic and as we can tell from above, if not done in moderation it will have harmful effects. The vast number of sexually- oriented online chat rooms is a huge reflection of the immense ranging sexual interests that are now spreading throughout cyber space. New forms of identity as well as intimate liaisons are being created all the time.
Be it “sexually active women, men, teenage and adult homosexuals, closeted and open bisexuals, people with multiple sex partners, part-time or full-time sex workers” or trans genders, all have found a new means to build their solidarity through the internet (Castells:1996). The internet mediated environment has become a very important channel through which individuals are freeing their embodiments which help to further pronounce their sexual practices. People always try and find ‘closure’ amongst feelings or ideas which are not settled.
People tend to feel more clear headed if they can pin theirs, or someone else’s sexuality down to a label. The qualities of cyber space liaisons make it possible for identities to be truly “fluid”(Castells:1996). Identities are no longer fixed but instead taken up, created and explored, mixed and matched, and eventually given up only to try out a series of other sexual identities (Castells:1996). Nowhere else is this identity formation process more actively carried out then on the internet.
What leads someone into a potentially dangerous and addictive area is when they do not give up their online identity and pursue the one that is true to them in the real world. They resort to the online cyber space to free themselves from the fake persona they have created outside this fantastical world. Cybersex is an escapist method for some people, diverting their sexual struggle away from the focus of society. The cyberspaces’ anonymity allows a person to freely follow their sexual desires and curiosity without the pressure and possibility of ridicule from society.
This could go two ways. Either this expression will help them become more comfortable in their own skin which in turn, helps them be honest in the real world, or it could have the opposite affect with it becoming counterproductive to an individual (Cooper:2000) Someone could get so used to this gratification away from the public eye that it becomes an addiction. However for those individuals who don’t use it as an escapism and purely to connect with the sexual minorities it could potentially transform sexuality.
There is now an application on the i-phone called ‘grinder’ in which a gay boy can sign up and it will search for all the other same orientated people within a five kilometre radius of you. You can chat with someone and see if you like talking to them, and if so, this progresses to meeting up in person if both parties are willing. It seems to be of great advantage to those looking to connect with other like minded sexual beings. Cybersex is extremely accessible, and anyone can sign on practically anywhere, anytime.
It could be argued that this is a brilliant innovation where bodies, sex and society are interrelated for the first time that it is transforming people and their sexuality through its availability (Waskul:2003). One does no longer have to wait to have sexual interaction by relying on someone else, it is all on your terms. If this is just as exciting to someone having the absence on a real body, opposed to actually having one, then it’s hard to argue against there being a problem because you are causing no direct harm to anyone else if you use cybersex safely.
If an individual is confused about their sexuality, the internet is very accessible and affordable where they can seek experience to try and come to a realization of their orientation within themselves. But is this always healthy? As I mentioned before, it can help someone to become more open, but on the flip side, it is very negative. If someone is faced with a situation where they are actually gay but married to the opposite sex and have a job where their boss is a homophobic, it seems almost incomprehensible that they could ‘come out’ and live a happy life.
Driven by their distress and/or unhappiness, they resort to online arousal with the same sex. Cybersex could just be an avoidance of sexual issues someone is facing. It is important to consider whether cyberspace is a new virtual world? Which is merely a progression and natural development from the outside, physical world, or is it purely a fantastical world which makes it impossible to ever look at it with objectivity as a transformation of modern physical world. People tend to modify and refine their values and actions in response to what society views as acceptable (Cooper:2000).
An individual could pose as anyone they wanted. In a sense, most people do this in some form every now and then, whether it be them sending a text as someone else or they are an actress so take on the role of another individual. The difference is over the internet they don’t have the conscience of others judging them so are more likely to get more deeply involved in their false personality. With the anonymity one receives online, they no longer have the force and influence of society helping them guide them in a suitable direction.
The characteristics of online interaction could potentially make someone act in a harmful way. They begin to not be considerate of other people’s needs and wants, and instead go about cybersex in a very egotistical manner. On the flip side, it could help someone to grow as an individual, allowing them to change their opinion with the click of a mouse and explore different areas of themselves and ways on interacting with another being (Castells:1996). This can shift boundaries f the rigid ideas society has of what a relationship should and shouldn’t be, developing ones sexuality greatly. Sex is a big part of sexuality, but there are so many more components to discovering ones sexuality such as mental, emotional and spiritual which cybersex seems to ignore. Does cybersex just boil down to the pure physical side? Sex is a very important part of any relationship but cybersex full emphasis is on sex (Waskul:2003). It seems to stray away from the enormity of the subject of sexuality and only be for physical arousal.
I’m sure this can develop sexuality, but it is hard to see it transforming if it ignores these other important areas of the subject. As people pursue pseudo intimate relationships, will this have an effect on their ability to have a real world relationship? They are satisfied from this online experience so don’t feel the desire to try and make a real life one work which is much more difficult. But satisfaction is probably the extent of happiness one would get from cybersex, where a real life person could exceed this satisfaction.
In an interview I did of one of my friends who takes part in cybersex, she comments in response to this paragraph “well you may think that real life relationships are better, but I don’t see it that way. There is a detachment from emotions so I don’t need to fear being hurt. Its all very practical, I get my excitement but there is never any down side to it for me. Im just as happy as anyone else”. It is important to make a distinction between people who do it for get rid of the ache or longing for real physical sex, and ones who merely want a good time and fun experience.
It’s a tough debate to see if people who are against cybersex are because they are conventional and have a set idea of the meaning of sex or because they see it merely as a commodity where the negative effects rule out every positive one and the commodity is a terrible backwards step for the progression of sexuality in society. Cybersex relies on accessibility, so what does this mean for third world countries? It can only transform sexuality with those countries that have access to internet. In a sense, cybersex is completely dependent on region, and something that is going to have transforming effects needs to be available to everyone.
This phenomenon may have begun with good intentions, but society has perverted it. It does enhance sexuality but only within a definite circle (Cooper:2000). As soon as you move outside these lines its side effects overwhelm its positive potential. It is an individual’s free choice to par- take in cybersex. It is very important to step back and think about the meaning of “sex” and perhaps it should be something that goes beyond momentary gratification or is this once again, a view which has been socially constructed?
Cybersex is a topic which has many opposing arguments and it is hard to reach a settled opinion on the matter. Like I have stated throughout this essay, there are many negative effects to the internet sensation but there are negative effects to anything in life. I don’t think it has the potential to transform sexuality as due to the characteristics of it most people would be uncomfortable. All it really boils down to an individual’s personal choice and if they can use it wisely and approach it with wariness.