Cybersex, also called computer sex, Internet sex, netsex, e-sex and, colloquially, cyber or cybering, is a virtual sex encounter in which two or more people have long distance sex via electronic video communication (webcams, VR headsets, etc.) and other electronics (such as teledildonics[1]) connected to a computer network.[2][3]

Cybersex can also mean sending each other sexually explicit messages without having sex, and simply describing a sexual experience (also known as "sexting").[4] Cybersex is a sub-type of technology-mediated sexual interactions.[5] In one form, this is accomplished by the participants describing their actions and responding to their chat partners in a mostly written form designed to stimulate their own sexual feelings and fantasies.[6] Cybersex often includes real life masturbation.[7] Environments in which cybersex takes place are not necessarily exclusively devoted to that subject, and participants in any Internet chat may suddenly receive a message of invitation.

Non-marital, adult, consensual paid cybersex counts as illegal solicitation of prostitution and illegal prostitution in multiple US states.[8] Non-consensual cybersex sometimes occurs in cybersex trafficking crimes.[9][10][11] There also has been at least one rape conviction for purely virtual sexual encounters.[12]


Cybersex is commonly performed in Internet chat rooms (such as IRC, talkers or web chats) and on instant messaging systems. It can also be performed using webcams, voice chat, or online games and/or virtual worlds like Second Life or VRChat.

The exact definition of cybersex—specifically, whether real-life masturbation must be taking place for the online sex act to count as cybersex—is up for debate.[13] It is also fairly frequent in online role-playing games, such as MUDs and MMORPGs, though community attitudes toward this activity vary greatly from game to game. Some online social games like Red Light Center are dedicated to cybersex and other adult behaviors. These online games are often called AMMORPGs.

Cybersex may also be accomplished through the use of avatars in a multiuser software environment. It is often called mudsex or netsex in MUDs. In TinyMUD variants, particularly MUCKs, the term TinySex (TS) is very common.[14][15]

Though text-based cybersex has been in practice for decades,[16] the increased popularity of webcams has raised the number of online partners using two-way video connections to "expose" themselves to each other online—giving the act of cybersex a more visual aspect. There are a number of popular, commercial webcam sites that allow people to openly masturbate on camera while others watch them.[17] Using similar sites, couples can also perform on camera for the enjoyment of others.

In online worlds like Second Life and via webcam-focused chat services, however, Internet sex workers engage in cybersex in exchange for both virtual and real-life currency.[18]


Cybersex provides various advantages:

Research reviews and surveys call for a balanced view of online sexual activities in general and cybersex in particular that acknowledges both advantages and disadvantages, positive and negative effects.[21][22]

Legality of consensual, paid cybersex

United States

Several US states use very broad language in their criminal code for prostitution and prostitution related crimes. For example, the criminal code in multiple US states does not necessitate physical presence to be an element of prostitution. The role of physical presence in states with broad prostitution definitions has at times been debated in court.[8]


California has one such broad law about prostitution, and the California supreme court ruled in Wooten v. Superior Court that physical contact is necessary for a prostitution conviction. However, this only protects long distance buyers of cybersex in that state and may not apply to all sellers of cybersex services.[8]

Sellers of cybersex in California may still be convicted under existing prostitution laws. Court cases such as Pryor v. Municipal Court and People v. Hill determined that touching of genitals, buttocks, or the female breast is essential to a prostitution conviction. As a result, physical touching between two sellers of during a live cybersex service "for the purpose of sexual arousal", and coupled with "money or other considerations", may in fact qualify as prostitution.[8]


Buyers of cybersex services have more criminal liability under solicitation of prostitution laws than act-of-prostitution laws. For example, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that illegal solicitation of prostitution can occur with a lack of physical contact. Wisconsin v. Kittilstad ruled that simply offering money to view people having in-person sex, even from a distance, counts as solicitation of prostitution.

Wisconsin also explicitly criminalizes offers or requests of non-marital sexual intercourse for anything of value. This allows for criminal prosecution of non-marital, paid cybersex acts where at least one party resides in Wisconsin and at least one party has physical sex as part of the cybersex act.[8]

Measures undertaken by cybersex sites to avoid criminal liability

To reduce the potential of criminal liability in cybersex selling,, implemented a "no sex on camera" policy.[23]

Non-consensual cybersex

Cybersex trafficking

Main article: Cybersex trafficking

Cybersex trafficking is the live streaming of coerced sexual acts and or rape.[9][10][11] Victims are abducted, threatened, or deceived and transferred to 'cybersex dens.'[24][25][26] The dens can be in any location where the cybersex traffickers have a computer, tablet, or phone with internet connection.[10] Perpetrators use social media networks, videoconferences, pornographic video sharing websites, dating pages, online chat rooms, apps, dark web sites,[27] and other platforms.[28] They use online payment systems[27][29][30] and cryptocurrencies to hide their identities.[31] Millions of reports of its occurrence are sent to authorities annually.[32] South China Morning Post has stated that new laws and police procedures are needed to combat this type of cybercrime.[33]


A man named Bjorn was the first person ever charged with rape-via-the-internet. This was because Bjorn blackmailed minors into performing sexual acts for him over a computer network, which would normally be prosecuted under other laws. He was charged by Swedish authorities and Swedish laws notably do not require physical penetration for a rape conviction.[12]


Cybersex often attracts ridicule because the partners frequently have little verifiable knowledge about each other.[34] For many the primary point of cybersex is the plausible simulation of sexual activity, and this knowledge of the other is not always desired, but this is also criticized as the emptying out of embodied relations.[35]

In the words of Carkeek and James:

Without continuing to draw off our historically ambivalent faith in embodied relations, techno-sex quickly becomes hollow, unsatisfying, no more erotic than collecting answers to what-are-your-measurements questions. And herein lies the rub, or so we will argue. By continuing to draw off that ambivalent faith, techno-sex and the many other practices of disembodying interaction contribute to a changing and increasingly abstracted dominant ontology of embodiment.[36]

Privacy concerns are a difficulty with cybersex, since participants may log or record the interaction without the other's knowledge, and possibly disclose it to others or the public.[37]

There is disagreement over whether cybersex is a form of infidelity. While it does not involve physical contact, critics claim that the powerful emotions involved can cause marital stress, especially when cybersex culminates in an Internet romance. In several known cases, Internet adultery became the grounds for which a couple divorced.[38] Therapists report a growing number of patients addicted to this activity,[39] a form of both Internet addiction and sexual addiction, with the standard problems associated with addictive behavior.[19]

See also


  1. ^ "Where Did the Word Teledildonics Come From?". Future of Sex. 2016-08-19. Retrieved 2020-10-20.
  2. ^ Bologna, Caroline (2 June 2021). "19 Expert-Backed Tips For Keeping Your Long-Distance Sex Life Hot". Retrieved 23 October 2022.
  3. ^ Steele, James (17 March 2021). "Pandemic Causes Boom in Virtual Reality Cybersex Tech". Audacy FM 101.9. Retrieved 29 October 2022.
  4. ^ a b Döring, Nicola (2000). "Feminist Views of Cybersex: Victimization, Liberation, and Empowerment". CyberPsychology & Behavior. 3 (5): 863–884. doi:10.1089/10949310050191845.
  5. ^ Courtice, Erin Leigh; Shaughnessy, Krystelle (2017). "Technology-mediated sexual interaction and relationships: a systematic review of the literature". Sexual and Relationship Therapy. 32 (3–4): 269–290. doi:10.1080/14681994.2017.1397948. S2CID 149040678.
  6. ^ Hahn, Harley (1996). The Internet Complete Reference (2nd ed.). Osborne McGraw-Hill. p. 570. ISBN 0-07-882138-X. 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.
  7. ^ Hahn, Harley (1996). The Internet Complete Reference (2nd ed.). Osborne McGraw-Hill. p. 570. ISBN 0-07-882138-X. To be blunt, most mud sex is also accompanied by the people sexually gratifying themselves in real life at the same time.
  8. ^ a b c d e Green, Matthew (2002). "Sex on the Internet: A Legal Click or an Illicit Trick?". California Western Law Review. 38. Retrieved 23 October 2022.
  9. ^ a b "IJM Seeks to End Cybersex Trafficking of Children and #RestartFreedom this Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday". PR Newswire. November 28, 2016.
  10. ^ a b c "Cybersex Trafficking". IJM. 2020.
  11. ^ a b "Cyber-sex trafficking: A 21st century scourge". CNN. July 18, 2013.
  12. ^ a b Cole, Samantha (December 2017). "In a First, a Man Is Charged for Rape Over the Internet". Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  13. ^ Ruberg, Bonnie (2007-05-18). "What Counts as Cybersex?". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on 2010-04-14. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
  14. ^ Hahn, Harley (1996). The Internet Complete Reference (2nd ed.). Osborne McGraw-Hill. p. 570. ISBN 0-07-882138-X. MUD SEX refers to the acting out of erotic feelings by two people while typing a series of sexually explicit messages. (Mud sex is also referred to as NET SEX or—on a TinyMud—TINYSEX.)
  15. ^ Busey, Andrew (1995). Secrets of the MUD Wizards. SAMS Publishing. p. 95. ISBN 0-672-30723-5. MUD sex is another MUD item that may seem a bit shocking to some. MUD sex (sometimes called TinySex—usually on TinyMUDs, MUCKs, and MUSHes) is a lot like phone sex. As you know, most MUDs have a high degree of flexibility when it comes to expressing oneself and communicating—and if you're a little creative, you can use these commands (such as say and emote discussed in Chapter 5) to have MUD sex (or TinySex, depending on the type of MUD it is).
  16. ^ Dibbell, Julian (1998). My Tiny Life. Henry Holt. ISBN 0-8050-3626-1. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
  17. ^ Ruberg, Bonnie (2007-07-27). "Do You Like to Watch?". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on 2010-04-14. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
  18. ^ Ruberg, Bonnie (2007-08-31). "Peeking Up the Skirt of Online Sex Work". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on 2010-03-29. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
  19. ^ a b c Grov, Christian, Brian Joseph Gillespie, Tracy Royce, and Janet Lever. 2011. “Perceived Consequences of Casual Online Sexual Activities on Heterosexual Relationships: A U.S. Online Survey.” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(2): 429-39.
  20. ^ Ito, Mizuko (1997). "Virtually Embodied: The Reality of Fantasy in a Multi-User Dungeon". In Porter, David (ed.). Internet Culture (paperback ed.). Routledge. pp. 95–96. ISBN 0-415-91684-4. She describes virtual sex as akin to an interactive romance novel. The metaphor is crucial. The fantasy "text" is paramount, the real bodies nonexistent. She explains: "It is how you describe yourself and how you act (on the Internet) that makes up the 'real you'.... real life persons' looks mean so little to me..."
  21. ^ Döring, Nicola (2009). "The Internet's Impact on Sexuality. A Critical Review of 15 Years of Research". Computers in Human Behavior. 25 (5): 1089–1101. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2009.04.003.
  22. ^ Döring, Nicola; Mohseni, Rohangis (2018). "Are Online Sexual Activities and Sexting Good for Adults' Sexual Well-Being? Results from a National Online Survey". International Journal of Sexual Health. 30 (3): 250–263. doi:10.1080/19317611.2018.1491921. S2CID 149940163.
  23. ^ Deane, Joel (October 1998). "Cyberporn King's Latest Headline Grabber". ZDNet.
  24. ^ "Senator warns of possible surge in child cybersex traffic". The Philippine Star. April 13, 2020.
  25. ^ "Duterte's drug war and child cybersex trafficking". The ASEAN Post. October 18, 2019.
  26. ^ "Norwegian national, partner nabbed; 4 rescued from cybersex den". Manila Bulletin. May 1, 2020. Archived from the original on July 29, 2020. Retrieved May 14, 2020.
  27. ^ a b "Cheap tech and widespread internet access fuel rise in cybersex trafficking". NBC News. June 30, 2018.
  28. ^ "Senate to probe rise in child cybersex trafficking". The Philippine Star. November 11, 2019.
  29. ^ "Global taskforce tackles cybersex child trafficking in the Philippines". Reuters. April 15, 2019.
  30. ^ "Webcam slavery: tech turns Filipino families into cybersex child traffickers". Reuters. June 17, 2018.
  31. ^ "How the internet fuels sexual exploitation and forced labour in Asia". South China Morning Post. May 2, 2019.
  32. ^ "Philippines Makes More Child Cybersex Crime Arrests, Rescues". VOA. May 12, 2017.
  33. ^ "Cybersex trafficking spreads across Southeast Asia, fuelled by internet boom. And the law lags behind". South China Morning Post. September 11, 2019.
  34. ^ Hahn, Harley (1996). The Internet Complete Reference (2nd ed.). Osborne McGraw-Hill. p. 571. ISBN 0-07-882138-X. Finally, don't forget that the characters on a mud will not correspond exactly to the people in real life. In particular, what looks like a woman may really be a man. HINT: If you are a guy, and you go up to a female character on a mud and say, "Hi, wanna have sex?", and she says yes right away, chances are she is another guy playing a female role.
  35. ^ Carkeek, Freya; James, Paul (1992). "This Abstract Body". Arena (99–100): 66–85.
  36. ^ Carkeek, Freya; James, Paul (1992). "This Abstract Body". Arena (99–100): 68.
  37. ^ Carton, Sean (1995). Internet Virtual Worlds Quick Tour. Ventana Press. p. 180. ISBN 1-56604-222-4. TinySex Simulated sexual activity done on a virtual world. Like the text equivalent of phone sex. It should be entered into with caution because you never know who's who online, and some people love enticing a person into an extended TinySex session and then posting a log of the activity to various newsgroups.
  38. ^ Siemaszko, Corky (2006-02-02). "Cybersplit Online Affair Spurs Off-Line Divorce". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on August 31, 2009. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
  39. ^ Godson, Suzi (2002). The Sex Book. Cassell Illustrated. p. 258. ISBN 0-304-35991-2.

Further reading