Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 419–427 | Cite as

Online Sexual Activity Experience of Heterosexual Students: Gender Similarities and Differences

  • Krystelle Shaughnessy
  • E. Sandra ByersEmail author
  • Lindsay Walsh
Original Paper


This study compared male and female university students’ experiences with online sexual activity (OSA) and tested a model explaining gender differences in OSA. OSAs were categorized as non-arousal (e.g., seeking sexuality information), solitary-arousal (e.g., viewing sexually explicit materials), or partnered-arousal (e.g., sharing sexual fantasies). Participants (N = 217) completed measures of OSA experience, sexual attitudes, and sexual experience. Significantly more men than women reported engaging in solitary-arousal and partnered-arousal OSA and doing so more often. However, the men and women who reported having engaged in partnered-arousal activities reported equal frequencies of experience. There were no significant gender differences for engaging in non-arousal OSA experience. These results support the importance of grouping OSAs in terms of the proposed non-arousal, solitary-arousal, and partnered-arousal categories. Attitude toward OSA but not general attitudes toward or experiences with sexuality partially mediated the relationship between gender and frequency of engaging in arousal-oriented OSA (solitary and partnered OSA). This suggests that attitude toward OSA specifically and not gender socialization more generally account for gender differences in OSA experience.


Online sexual activity Gender difference Sexual attitudes Sexual socialization Sexually explicit material 



Parts of this research were conducted with the support of funding from a Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada Doctoral Fellowship to the first author and under the supervision of the second author. The data for this study were collected by the third author in partial fulfillment of her Honours thesis under the supervision of the second author. The authors would like to thank members of the Human Sexuality Research Group at the University of New Brunswick, particularly Susan Voyer and Hillary Randall, for their help with data collection and data entry.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Krystelle Shaughnessy
    • 1
  • E. Sandra Byers
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lindsay Walsh
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of New BrunswickFrederictonCanada
  2. 2.Department of KinesiologyUniversity of WindsorWindsorCanada

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