Virtual Sex (cont.)

Like any technology, though, virtual sex comes with its risks. Kimberly Young, PhD, who is the founder and director of the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery in Bradford, Pennsylvania, agrees that virtual worlds can allow individuals to explore new types of sexual behavior. But problems arise, she says, when users "lose their ability to control" that behavior.

Young says addictive cybersex behavior appears more common among males. She estimates that men comprise 60% of the clients who come to her center seeking help for sexual online compulsivity issues.

Moreover, Young says, the sheer variety of sexual experiences offered by the Internet can present a challenge to monogamous relationships. "Having sex with the same person can become routine, boring," she says. "Online sex adds a certain level of variety. But if you're married and keeping it a secret, it's a problem."

Regina Lynn defines the issue this way: "Does your partner know, and does your partner consent? Lying is cheating."

"Everyone's always interested in where the line [with cheating] lies," says Cory Silverberg. "An interest in what constitutes infidelity isn't new. It's been on people's minds forever in real life. In virtual life, everyone wants to push those boundaries a little bit."

Which brings me back to my wife. I click over to, "the official videogame of Jenna Jameson," where paying users can have their way with a digital embodiment of the porn star. "Would you consider this cheating if I were playing this game?" I ask, pointing to the trailer on the home page, where Jameson's digital image appears to be competing in some kind of timed, multi-partner sex decathlon. This is a little unfair, I realize, this testing of my spouse's reactions to my exploration of Internet sex, all in the name of journalism.

My wife looks back at digital Jenna. "Yeah. I'm not so sure," she says. "But we can talk about it more over dinner." And with that we're back in the "real" world, leaving a vast population in the virtual universe to chat and caress their way into the night.

SOURCES: Cory Silverberg, AASECT-certified sex educator, founding member of Come As You Are, a co-operatively run, education-based sex store in Toronto; co-author of The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability; sexuality guide for Regina Lynn, author, The Sexual Revolution 2.0; sex and technology columnist for Kyle Machulis, "teledildonics" expert; Second Life developer. Brenda Brathwaite, video game designer, consultant, professor at Savannah College of Art and Design; author, Sex in Video Games. Kimberly Young, Phd, expert on Internet addiction and online behavior; founder, Center for Internet Addiction Recovery.

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Last Editorial Review: 4/30/2008