What is Cybersex?
Cybersex can be described in three general categories:
|Accessing pornography on the Internet|
|Engaging in real-time sexual conversations with |
|Accessing multimedia software|
(not necessarily online)
Regardless of the mode of sexual behavior, each cybersex
category can lead to spending inordinate amounts of time
engaging in sexual fantasy and sexual behavior online.
People who do spend high amounts of time engaged in
such activities are known as cybersex compulsives.
Likewise, the therapeutic community is facing an increasing
amount of issues related to cybersex in patients and clients.
Anecdotally, therapists report increasing frequency of such
issues in all male client groups, including adolescent young
men, accomplished professionals, homosexual clients,
teenagers, and college-age men with private Internet access
— many for the first time — and clients in every other part of
society. Therapists are looking for ways to address these
issues, and Hermes' Web provides an excellent approach.
What is Compulsive Online Sexual Behavior?
Compulsive online sexual behavior exhibits similar characteristics to other compulsive disorders. Time spent online is one factor.
Indeed, Cooper, Delmonico, and Burg (2000) reported that those who spend 11 or more hours per week engaging in online sex reported
more consequences in their lives than those spending less than 11 hours per week. However, Delmonico & Griffin (2004) identify a
wider array of factors that should be assessed to determine if a client has a compulsive problem, including:
|Preoccupation with sex on the Internet|
|Frequently engaging in sex on the Internet in increasing amounts of time|
|Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut-back, or stop online sexual behavior|
|Restless or irritable mood when attempting to cut down or stop online sex|
|Using sex on the Internet to escape from feelings or life problems|
|Returning to sex on the Internet to find a more intense or higher risk experience|
|Lying to family members, therapists, or others to conceal involvement|
|Committing illegal sexual acts online (or related to online behavior)|
|Jeopardizing or losing a relationship, job, or educational opportunity|
|Incurring significant financial consequences as a result of online sexual behavior|
Why is Cybersex Such a Unique and Formidable Problem?
Delmonico and Griffin (2004) identify the unique powers of the Internet as the source of the unique cybersex problem. They call it the
“Cyberhex” — six factors that make the Internet “such a powerful and attractive force for online sexual behavior.” The Cyberhex reflects
that Internet sex is:
No other media has all six powers. It is the unique combination of these factors in Internet sex that captures people.
What are the Roots of Cybersex and Compulsive Online Sexual Behavior?
The Two Levels — The Two Worlds
Ego and core, conscious and unconscious, visible and hidden, left hand and right hand. The ego — the conscious, visible world — is
the day world, the activities of which we are proud, where we take the right positions, and what we prefer to show others. But the core is
hidden. The core is the part where we place our unsavory aspects that never found acceptance in the world. We hide the core from the
world, and we hide it from ourselves. One's psychological age exists on the core level — usually about 2 or 3 years old — as well as
the need, quite often, to be like a small child, to be fed right now, immediately, with no waiting (unless of course someone were
watching). It is unhealthy for the two levels to be disconnected, for such a disconnect creates a lack of consciousness and often drives
The Role of Mirroring
Mirroring provides the basic affirmations and attention humans need to feel whole, accepted, and full. Many people, especially those cut
off from their core, experience a shortage of mirroring in their lives. The Internet is an incredible place to get mirrored, especially in one’
s more crippled and needy places — the most embarrassing and powerful places in one’s hidden world. For example, there are
single-performer pornographic movies in which the actress looks right into your eyes doing whatever she does, or live sex sites where
an attractive woman will do anything you want (as long as your credit card isn’t over drawn). Hence, on that core level, you get mirrored
on the Internet even when your marriage partner is distant, uncaring, and emotionally unavailable. The compulsion is driven because
that mirroring feels so great, especially when it’s otherwise absent in other aspects of life.
An Expanding World of Perpetration
The Internet provides an expanded world of perpetration or participation. The power of its isolation empowers perpetrators who would
otherwise avoid or shun participation. But the Internet provides cover of darkness and inspires courage in those who normally would
lack it. Via the Internet, the compulsion is allowed to become worldwide, like the World Wide Web. Through this technology, the
compulsive’s addiction, fever, and vampiric hunger can search the ends of the earth while those sleeping in his or her bed and those in
the rest of the house know nothing and suspect nothing.
So, underlying the compulsion is the expansion of a closed world that is highly negative, contaminated, or predatory. For cybersex
compulsives, that world is foreign or out of control. When the compulsive crosses the border into that world, it opens rapidly, through the
entire World Wide Web, in a sort of electronic explosion.
Attachment and Parents
Children who grow up without sufficient attachment and who have a negative self-image on a deep level are more likely to seek
temporary attachments via the Internet. One can feel attached to a moving video, a live sex chat, or a prostitute while it is happening, but
it doesn’t last long. Nonetheless, the underlying need for attachment finally is met, even though it is temporary.
The male Toad wants nothing more in life than a warm, wet hole to crawl into and never come out of. The Toad is instinctual sexuality.
Sex is the Toad’s primary interest – whatever he/she has to do, say, or lie about in order to get good sex is OK with the Toad. The Toad
has no morals, values, or ethics in the conventional sense. If a person wants the Toad to operate with a sense of values, to honor his
or her marital or relational commitments, the person will have to bring the morals and ethics to the Toad. If one leaves the decision up
to the Toad, the Toad will always choose sex and leave a mess to clean up. Women often joke about men having two brains – the big
one and the little one. The Toad is the little brain — the penis brain. In some men, the big brain clicks off when the Toad brain clicks in.
Burying the Toad is dangerous. Some men have "Toad farewell" parties just before they marry, essentially bachelor parties. Some men
never introduce their wives or girlfriends to the Toad. The Toad needs to be included in relationship or it will create its own separate,
often invisible world where it has its way and finds freedom.
Cybersex is all about the Toad of the psyche. Cybersex is the Toad’s playground. But the Toad can be very nasty when he has been
kept hidden. The deeper he’s been pushed down and the more separated the ego is from the core, the less that attachment, caring,
heart, compassion, or empathy are likely to be involved in his activities. The Toad has the possibility of finding TOTAL freedom on the
Internet. The Toad has no values, no morals, and often no limits. The Internet easily provides a place where all those lacks can be
thoroughly and immensely enjoyed — but usually for a price, and usually with deep costs for the associated victims.
The Core Whore
Every person has a core whore. The core whore is that sexual facet, object, or act that person would do anything for. For example, a
man can be a "breast man" or a "leg man." Not many men and women are married to their core whore. As such, if the core whore is not
identified and managed, it can ruin relationships. The Internet offers a whole world of core whores. Whatever your flavor, you'll find it
What are the Challenges in Treating Cybersex Compulsives?
The treatment of cybersex compulsives is challenging. Cybersex is hidden, intoxicating, and meets powerful core-level needs for those
driven by it. Successful treatment cannot begin with ethical or moral considerations, because the participant, at the time they engage
cybersex, is not operating from the moral or ethical part of themselves. Hence, treatment must originate within a framework that takes
all aspects into account. Hermes' Web offers such a framework.