Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 46, Issue 6, pp 1641–1652 | Cite as

Online Sexual Activity Experiences Among College Students: A Four-Country Comparison

  • Nicola Döring
  • Kristian Daneback
  • Krystelle Shaughnessy
  • Christian Grov
  • E. Sandra Byers
Original Paper


The purpose of this study was to compare male and female college students in four countries (Canada, Germany, Sweden, and the U.S.) on their lifetime experiences (prevalence) and frequency of recent experiences with six types of online sexual activities (OSA): sexual information, sexual entertainment, sexual contacts, sexual minority communities, sexual products, and sex work. Participants (N = 2690; M age, 24.65 years; 53.4 % women, 46.6 % men) were recruited from a university in each of the countries to complete an online survey that included background and demographic questions, and questions about OSA. Most participants reported experience with accessing sexual information (89.8 %) and sexual entertainment (76.5 %) online. Almost half (48.5 %) reported browsing for sexual products, and a substantial minority reported having engaged in cybersex (30.8 %). Very few participants (1.1 %) paid for online sexual services or received payment (0.5 %). In general, participants showed relatively infrequent experience with all types of OSA within the last 3 months. Men showed both higher prevalence and frequency of use of sexually stimulating material online than did women. However, this gender gap was smaller than in previous studies. Country and gender by country effects were (with one exception) either very small or non-existent, suggesting that, overall, students in the four countries were similar in their OSA experiences. Results are discussed in light of an emerging global net generation and globalized sexual culture.


College students Cybersex Internet Online sexual activity Sexual experience 



We would like to thank the following individuals who helped with this study: Linda Agyemang, Susan Voyer, and Sarah Vannier. Finally, a special thanks to our participants. Without them, this study would not have been possible.


  1. Albright, J. (2008). Sex in America online: An exploration of sex, marital status, and sexual identity in Internet sex seeking and its impacts. Journal of Sex Research, 45, 175–186.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Ballester-Arnal, R., Castro-Calvo, J., Gil-Llario, M. D., & Giménez-García, C. (2013). Relationship status as an influence on cybersex activity: Cybersex, youth, and steady partner. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 40, 444–456. doi: 10.1080/0092623X.2013.772549.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Baumeister, R. F., Catanese, K. R., & Vohs, K. D. (2001). Is there a gender difference in strength of sex drive? Theoretical views, conceptual distinctions, and a review of relevant evidence. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5, 242–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boies, S. C. (2002). University students’ uses of and reactions to online sexual information and entertainment: Links to online and offline sexual behaviour. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 11, 77–89.Google Scholar
  5. Buhi, E. R., Daley, E. M., Oberne, A., Smith, S. A., Schneider, T., & Fuhrmann, H. J. (2010). Quality and accuracy of sexual health information web sites visited by young people. Journal of Adolescent Health, 47, 206–208. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2010.01.002.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Byers, E. S. (1996). How well does the traditional sexual script explain sexual coercion? Review of a program of research. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 8, 7–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Byers, E. S., & Shaughnessy, K. (2014). Attitudes toward online sexual activities. Cyberpsychology. doi: 10.5817/CP2014-1-10.Google Scholar
  8. Byers, L. J., Menzies, K. S., & O’Grady, W. L. (2004). The impact of computer variables on the viewing and sending of sexually explicit material on the Internet: Testing Cooper’s “Triple-A engine”. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 13, 157–170.Google Scholar
  9. Cooper, A., Månsson, S.-A., Daneback, K., Tikkanen, R., & Ross, M. (2003). Predicting the future of Internet sex: Online sexual activities in Sweden. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 18, 277–291. doi: 10.1080/1468199031000153919.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cooper, A., Morahan-Martin, J., Mathy, R. M., & Maheu, M. (2002). Toward an increased understanding of user demographics in online sexual activities. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 28, 105–129. doi: 10.1080/00926230252851861.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Cunningham, S., & Kendall, T. D. (2011). Prostitution 2.0: The changing face of sex work. Journal of Urban Economics, 69, 273–287. doi: 10.1016/j.jue.2010.12.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Daneback, K., Cooper, A., & Månsson, S.-A. (2005). An Internet study of cybersex participants. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 34, 321–328. doi: 10.1007/s10508-005-3120-z.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Daneback, K., Månsson, S.-A., & Ross, M. W. (2007). Using the Internet to find offline sex partners. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 10, 100–107. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2006.9986.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Daneback, K., Månsson, S.-A., & Ross, M. (2011). Online sex shops: Purchasing sexual merchandise on the Internet. International Journal of Sexual Health, 23, 102–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Daneback, K., Månsson, S.-A., Ross, M. W., & Markham, C. M. (2012). The Internet as a source of information about sexuality. Sex Education, 12, 583–598. doi: 10.1080/14681811.2011.627739.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Döring, N. (2009). The Internet’s impact on sexuality: A critical review of 15 years of research. Computers in Human Behavior, 25, 1089–1101. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2009.04.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Döring, N. (2012). Internet sexuality. In Z. Yan (Ed.), Encyclopedia of cyber behavior (pp. 807–827). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Eleuteri, S., Tripodi, F., Petruccelli, I., Rossi, R., & Simonelli, C. (2014). Questionnaires and scales for the evaluation of the online sexual activities: A review of 20 years of research. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace,. doi: 10.5817/CP2014-1-2.Google Scholar
  19. Esmer, Y. R., & Pettersson, T. (2007). Measuring and mapping cultures: 25 years of comparative value surveys. Leiden: Brill.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Goodson, P., McCormick, D., & Evans, A. (2001). Searching for sexually explicit materials on the Internet: An exploratory study of college students’ behavior and attitudes. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 30, 101–118. doi: 10.1023/A:1002724116437.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Griffin, C. (2001). Imagining new narratives of youth: Youth research, the “new Europe” and global youth culture. Childhood, 8, 147–166. doi: 10.1177/0907568201008002002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Grov, C., Breslow, A. S., Newcomb, M. E., Rosenberger, J. G., & Bauermeister, J. A. (2014). Gay and bisexual men’s use of the Internet: Research from the 1990s through 2013. Journal of Sex Research, 51, 390–409. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2013.871626.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  23. Grov, C., Gillespie, B. J., Royce, T., & Lever, J. (2011). Perceived consequences of casual online sexual activities on heterosexual relationships: A U.S. online survey. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 429–439. doi: 10.1007/s10508-010-9598-z.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Helsper, E. J. (2010). Gendered Internet use across generations and life stages. Communication Research, 37, 352–374. doi: 10.1177/0093650209356439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hillier, L., & Harrison, L. (2007). Building realities less limited than their own: Young people practising same-sex attraction on the Internet. Sexualities, 10, 82–100. doi: 10.1177/1363460707072956.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Inglehart, R., & Baker, W. E. (2000). Modernization, cultural change, and the persistence of traditional values. American Sociological Review, 65, 19–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Inglehart, R., & Welzel, C. (2005). Modernization, cultural change, and democracy. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kunnuji, M. (2011). Risk-bearing sexuality within the context of internet use among young people in Lagos metropolis. Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 3, 111–121.Google Scholar
  29. Lever, J., Grov, C., Royce, T., & Gillespie, B. J. (2008). Searching for love in all the “write” places: Exploring Internet personals use by sexual orientation, gender, and age. International Journal of Sexual Health, 20, 233–246. doi: 10.1080/19317610802411532.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  30. Lunney, G. H. (1970). Using analysis of variance with a dichotomous dependent variable: An empirical study. Journal of Educational Measurement, 7, 263–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. MacDonald, P. L., & Gardner, R. C. (2000). Type I error rate comparisons of post hoc procedures for i j chi square tables. Educational Psychological Measurement, 60, 735–754. doi: 10.1177/00131640021970871.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Minichiello, V., Scott, J., & Callander, D. (2013). New pleasures and old dangers: Reinventing male sex work. Journal of Sex Research, 50, 263–275. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2012.760189.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Mondin, A. (2014). Fair-trade porn + niche markets + feminist audience. Porn Studies, 1, 189–192. doi: 10.1080/23268743.2014.888251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mustanski, B. S., Newcomb, M. E., Du Bois, S. N., Garcia, S. C., & Grov, C. (2011). HIV in young men who have sex with men: A review of epidemiology, risk, and protective factors, and interventions. Journal of Sex Research, 48, 218–253. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2011.558645.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  35. Nip, J. Y. M. (2004). The relationship between online and offline communities: The case of the queer sisters. Media, Culture and Society, 26, 409–428. doi: 10.1177/0163443704042262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Petersen, J. L., & Hyde, J. S. (2010). A meta-analytic review of research on gender differences in sexuality, 1993-2007. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 21–38. doi: 10.1037/a0017504.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Podlas, K. (2000). Mistresses of their domain: How female entrepreneurs in cyberporn are initiating a gender power shift. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 3, 847–854. doi: 10.1089/10949310050191827.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schauer, T. (2005). Women’s porno: The heterosexual female gaze in porn sites “for women”. Sexuality and Culture, 9, 42–64. doi: 10.1007/s12119-005-1007-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schneider, A. (2005). A model of sexual constraint and sexual emancipation. Sociological Perspectives, 48, 225–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Shaughnessy, K., & Byers, E. S. (2013). Seeing the forest with the trees: Cybersex as a case study of single-item versus multi-item measures of sexual behaviour. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 45, 220–229. doi: 10.1037/a0031331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Shaughnessy, K., & Byers, E. S. (2014). Contextualizing cybersex experience: Heterosexually identified men and women’s desire for and experiences with cybersex with three types of partners. Computers in Human Behavior, 32, 178–185. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2013.12.005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Shaughnessy, K., Byers, E. S., Clowater, S. L., & Kalinowski, A. (2014). Self-appraisals of arousal-oriented online sexual activities in university and community samples. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 1187–1197. doi: 10.1007/s10508-013-0115-z.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Shaughnessy, K., Byers, E. S., & Walsh, L. (2011). Online sexual activity experience of heterosexual students: Gender similarities and differences. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 419–427. doi: 10.1007/s10508-010-9629-9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Simon, L., & Daneback, K. (2013). Adolescents’ use of the Internet for sex education: A thematic and critical review of the literature. International Journal of Sexual Health, 25, 305–319. doi: 10.1080/19317611.2013.823899.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Smith, M. D., & Grov, C. (2011). In the company of men: Inside the lives of male prostitutes. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.Google Scholar
  46. Velezmoro, R., Negy, C., & Livia, J. (2012). Online sexual activity: Cross-national comparison between United States and Peruvian college students. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41, 1015–1025. doi: 10.1007/s10508-011-9862-x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Wells, B. E., & Twenge, J. M. (2005). Changes in young people’s sexual behavior and attitudes, 1943–1999: A cross-temporal meta-analysis. Review of General Psychology, 9, 249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wiederman, M. W. (1999). Volunteer bias in sexuality research using college student samples. Journal of Sex Research, 36, 59–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wiederman, M. W. (2005). The gendered nature of sexual scripts. The Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families, 13, 496–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Zheng, L., & Zheng, Y. (2014). Online sexual activity in mainland China: Relationship to sexual sensation seeking and sociosexuality. Computers in Human Behavior, 36, 323–329. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2014.03.062.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicola Döring
    • 1
  • Kristian Daneback
    • 2
  • Krystelle Shaughnessy
    • 3
  • Christian Grov
    • 4
  • E. Sandra Byers
    • 5
  1. 1.Institute of Media and Communication ScienceIlmenau University of TechnologyIlmenauGermany
  2. 2.Department of Social WorkUniversity of GothenburgGöteborgSweden
  3. 3.School of PsychologyUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  4. 4.Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of CUNYThe Center for HIV/AIDS Educational Studies and TrainingNew YorkUSA
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyUniversity of New BrunswickFrederictonCanada

Personalised recommendations