Virtual sex is sexual activity where two or more people (or one person and a virtual character) gather together via some form of communications equipment to arouse each other, often by the means of transmitting sexually explicit messages. Virtual sex describes the phenomenon, no matter the communications equipment used.

These terms and practices continuously evolve as technologies and methods of communication change.

Increases in Internet connectivity, bandwidth availability, and the proliferation of webcams have also had implications for virtual sex enthusiasts. It is increasingly common for these activities to include the exchange of pictures or motion video. There are companies which allow paying customers to watch people have live sex or masturbate and at the same time allow themselves to be watched as well. Recently, devices have been introduced and marketed to allow remote-controlled stimulation.[citation needed]


An important part of partaking in virtual sex, or sexual acts, would be consent.[3] The ethics of sexting are already being established by young people for whom consent figures as a critical concept. Distinctions between positive and negative experiences of sexting are mostly dependent on whether consent was given to make and share the images. As of 2015, it is illegal for any person under the age of 18 to consent to any form of virtual sex (only if nude pictures are sent), because images of minors are considered child pornography.[4]


There are approximately one half to 2 million sex addicts[5] in the world that have access to the Internet and the prospectives of virtual sex on the Internet are appealing to them. The internet opens up a world where people can reinvent themselves and try on a completely different online persona; they can freely experiment with and explore a variety of new, hidden or repressed sexual behaviors, fetishes and sexual fantasies.[6] This can feel liberating, but can also be extremely dangerous as it has the potential of becoming addicting and have adverse effects on cybernauts' other aspects of life. What attracts people to sex via the Internet can be explained by the “Triple A”[7] engine of Affordability, Accessibility, and Anonymity. The "Triple A" engine represents the risk factors for people that are already susceptible to sexual compulsivity or psychological vulnerability related to sexual compulsivity.

Affordability is about the cheap price of virtual sex. Pornography magazines and videos used to have a price of $20 or more per individual piece, while today anyone can have access to unlimited amount of pornographic content at the price of a $20 monthly subscription to the internet. Accessibility is a person's capacity to have access to the Internet - a service that is virtually accessible to anyone in the world. Finally, Anonymity references the ability to have access to sexual content without disclosing your true identity; this can feel empowering and make it that much easier to have sex, as one would not have to risk being seen by someone they know and feel ashamed or worried of possible gossips and rumors about them.[7]

When does healthy virtual sex become a pathology? Addiction[8] is defined by 3 main characteristics: compulsivity (not being able to freely choose when to stop or continue a behavior), continuation of the behavior despite adverse consequences, and obsession with the activity. When one losses control and lets virtual sex impact negatively at least one aspect of their life, this is when it stops being healthy. According to clinical studies, the main adverse consequences of virtual sex addiction are about the damage it causes in marital and other romantic relationships, disrupted due to online affairs and online sexual compulsivity.[9] In a research study,[9] it was found that online affairs and sexual compulsivity were reported by 53% of the virtual sex addicts interviewed to be the cause of disruption of their romantic relationships.

Virtual sex can become a coping mechanism to temporarily escape real life problems.[9] However, it is not an effective one and even potentially harmful, as the underlying issues will go on unaddressed and only become more complex with time. Generally, there are a couple of patterns explaining why one can become addicted to virtual sex and the ways one can use it as a coping mechanism. Often, it is used to cope with emotional problems.[9] Virtual sex can serve as a distraction from painful emotions, such as loneliness, stress, and anxiety, as consuming online pornographic content makes the addict feel more confident, desirable, and excited, creating a numbing effect. Another pattern involves young, insecure, socially awkward or emotionally troubled people who use internet to interact with others online rather than in person in order to avoid rejection from a real person. In the Internet they can find a virtually unlimited number of people who seem interesting and interested in them. They find the online world more comforting and safe, as it is harder to pick on social clues of disapproval or judgement. Gradually online friends can become more "real" than offline friends and an online friend can become an opportunity for online affair and cybersex. Partners that are cheated on through online affairs feel that online affairs are just as painful as offline ones - it is a significant source of stress, makes them feel betrayed as they were lied to, and feel insecure as they will negatively compare themselves with the online women or men. Virtual sex can become an escape and a new addiction for recovering sex addicts that are going through a stressful period in their life. Feeling triggered by life problems, prior sex addicts can find themselves using online pornographic content as a quick and easy, but temporary fix to help them soothe themselves, forget about life's problems, and feel better about themselves. Another pattern is when an individual takes advantage of the online sexual content to explore forbidden, hidden, and repressed sexual fantasies, which can become addicting and completely absorb the person into this virtual space.[9]

Long-distance relationships

Approximately 14 million people in the United States are in a long distance relationship.[10] Among young adults, 40% to 50%[11] are in a long distance relationship at any given time, as well as 75% of college students at least at one given moment during their studies.[12] It is expected that the number of long distance relationships will be increasing due to the globalized nature of today's world.[13] Hence, the internet might be a useful tool to make long distance relationships work. One way couples in long distance relationships engage in a sexual activity online is through sexting. Self-expression through sexting between partners can create a feeling of intimacy and closeness between partners even at a distance.[14] Long distance relationships may be more susceptible to sexual boredom,[14] hence sexting can be an effective way of keeping partners sexually engaged at a distance.[10] In a study,[10] the associations between sexting and feelings of closeness were studied. It was found that more sexting more often in a long distance relationship was not predictive of higher interpersonal closeness between the partners. However, there was found a correlation between sexting and sexual satisfaction, as well as relationship satisfaction.

See also


  1. ^ Zucker Saltz, Lizzie (2009). Crafting Romance. Athens: Athens Institute for Contemporary Art. p. 5. Cindy Hinant's telephone sculptures tease out the sexually suggestive language of telephone services that insist on denying the separation of the speakers...Here the objects of communication-the now outdated landline telephones-take on the physicality of human relationships, not against technology's domination but by and through it. As we shift over to cellular phones, Hinant's sculptures are both nostalgic for the materiality of older devices and instructive as to the ways in which we might preserve for our modern age what Jean Baudrillard called the 'ecstasy of communication.'
  2. ^ Gray, Kate (27 February 2018). "This VR Girlfriend Simulator Is About More Than Cybersex". Kotaku. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  3. ^ Lunceford, Brett (2010). "Sex in the Digital Age: Media Ecology and Megan's Law". Explorations in Media Ecology. 9 (4): 239–44. doi:10.1386/eme.9.4.239_1. S2CID 256482517.
  4. ^ Kath Albury & Kate Crawford (2012): Sexting, consent and young people's ethics: Beyond Megan's Story, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 26:3, 463-473
  5. ^ Delmonico, David L.; Carnes, Patrick J. (October 1999). "Virtual Sex Addiction: When Cybersex Becomes the Drug of Choice". CyberPsychology & Behavior. 2 (5): 457–463. doi:10.1089/cpb.1999.2.457. ISSN 1094-9313. PMID 19178218.
  6. ^ Young, Kimberly S.; Griffin-shelley, Eric; Cooper, Al; O'mara, James; Buchanan, Jennifer (January 2000). "Online infidelity: A new dimension in couple relationships with implications for evaluation and treatment". Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity. 7 (1–2): 59–74. doi:10.1080/10720160008400207. ISSN 1072-0162. S2CID 143786655.
  7. ^ a b Cooper, Alvin; Scherer, Coralie R.; Boies, Sylvain C.; Gordon, Barry L. (1999). "Sexuality on the Internet: From sexual exploration to pathological expression". Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. 30 (2): 154–164. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.30.2.154. ISSN 1939-1323.
  8. ^ Schneider, Jennifer P. (January 1994). "Sex addiction: Controversy within Mainstream Addiction Medicine, Diagnosis Based on the DSM-III-R, and Physician Case Histories". Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity. 1 (1): 19–44. doi:10.1080/10720169408400025. ISSN 1072-0162.
  9. ^ a b c d e Young, Kimberly S. (September 2008). "Internet Sex Addiction: Risk Factors, Stages of Development, and Treatment". American Behavioral Scientist. 52 (1): 21–37. doi:10.1177/0002764208321339. ISSN 0002-7642. S2CID 143927819.
  10. ^ a b c Kafaee, Nazanin; Kohut, Taylor (2021-04-01). "Online sexual experiences and relationship functioning in long distance relationships". The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality. 30 (1): 15–25. doi:10.3138/cjhs.2020-0038. ISSN 1188-4517. S2CID 234772169.
  11. ^ Cionea, Ioana A.; Wilson Mumpower, Stacie V.; Bassick, Megan A. (2019-01-01). "Serial Argument Goals, Tactics, and Outcomes in Long-Distance and Geographically Close Romantic Relationships". Southern Communication Journal. 84 (1): 1–16. doi:10.1080/1041794X.2018.1531915. ISSN 1041-794X. S2CID 149613341.
  12. ^ Crystal Jiang, L.; Hancock, Jeffrey T. (2013-05-11). "Absence Makes the Communication Grow Fonder: Geographic Separation, Interpersonal Media, and Intimacy in Dating Relationships". Journal of Communication. 63 (3): 556–577. doi:10.1111/jcom.12029. ISSN 0021-9916.
  13. ^ Stafford, Laura (2004-12-13). Maintaining Long-Distance and Cross-Residential Relationships (0 ed.). Routledge. doi:10.4324/9781410611512. ISBN 978-1-135-60797-5.
  14. ^ a b Reis, Harry T. (2018). Relationships, well-being and behaviour : selected works of Harry T. Reis. Milton: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-203-73249-6. OCLC 1037818083.