Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 939–947 | Cite as

Love 2.0: A Quantitative Exploration of Sex and Relationships in the Virtual World Second Life

  • Ashley John CraftEmail author
Original Paper


This study presents the quantitative results of a web-based survey exploring the experiences of those who seek sex and relationships in the virtual world of Second Life. The survey gathered data on demographics, relationships, and sexual behaviors from 235 Second Life residents to compare with U.S. General Social Survey data on Internet users and the general population. The Second Life survey also gathered data on interests in and experiences with a number of sexual practices in both offline and online environments. Comparative analysis found that survey participants were significantly older, more educated, and less religious than a wider group of Internet users, and in certain age groups were far less likely to be married or have children. Motivations for engaging in cybersex were presented. Analysis of interest and experience of different sexual practices supported findings by other researchers that online environments facilitated access, but also indicated that interest in certain sexual practices could differ between offline and online environments.


Sex Cybersex Internet Virtual worlds Online relationships Love Second Life 



This research was undertaken in partial fulfillment of the M.Phil. in Modern Society and Global Transformations at the University of Cambridge in 2008–2009. The author is now a Statistics and Policy Analyst at the Department for International Development but is publishing this research independently of his professional affiliation. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the Department for International Development, the Government Statistical Service, or the UK Civil Service.


  1. Au, W. J. (2008). The making of Second Life: Notes from the new world. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  2. Bardzell, S., & Bardzell, J. (2007). Docile avatars: Aesthetics, experience and sexual interaction in Second Life. In Proceedings of the 21st British HCI group annual conference on people and computers (Vol. 1). Swinton, UK: British Computer Society.Google Scholar
  3. Bauman, Z. (2003). Liquid love: On the frailty of human bonds. Cambridge, England: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  4. Beck, U., & Beck-Gernsheim, E. (1995). The normal chaos of love (M. Ritter & J. Wiebel, Trans.). Cambridge, England: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  5. Beck, U., & Beck-Gernsheim, E. (2006). Individualization (P. Camiller, Trans.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  6. Boellstorff, T. (2008). Coming of age in Second Life: An anthropologist explores the virtually human. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bogaert, A. F. (1996). Volunteer bias in human sexuality research: Evidence for both sexuality and personality differences in males. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 25, 125–140.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brookey, R. A., & Cannon, K. L. (2009). Sex lives in Second Life. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 26, 145–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Castells, M. (1996). The information age: Economy, society and culture (Vol. 1). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  10. Cooper, A., Delmonico, D., & Burg, R. (2000). Cybersex users, abusers, and compulsives: New findings and implications. In A. Cooper (Ed.), Cybersex: The dark side of the force (pp. 5–29). Philadelphia: Brunner Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Cooper, A., & Griffin-Shelley, E. (2002). The internet: The next sexual revolution. In A. Cooper (Ed.), Sex and the internet: A guidebook for clinicians (pp. 1–15). New York: Brunner-Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Cooper, A., Scherer, C., Boies, S., & Gordon, B. (1999). Sexuality on the Internet: From sexual exploration to pathological expression. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 30, 154–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cooper, A., Scherer, C., & Mathay, R. (2001). Overcoming methodological concerns in the investigation of online sexual activities. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 4, 437–447.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Daneback, K., Cooper, A., & Månsson, S. (2005). An Internet study of cybersex participants. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 34, 321–328.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. de Nood, D., & Attema, J. (2006, December 1). Second Life, the second life of virtual reality (S. van Everdingen, Trans.). Paper presented at the electronic highway platform (EPN). Retrieved from
  16. DiMarco, H. (2003). The electronic cloak: Secret sexual deviance in cybersociety. In Y. Jewkes (Ed.), Dot.cons: Crime, deviance and identity on the Internet (pp. 53–67). Portland, OR: Willan Publishing.Google Scholar
  17. Giddens, A. (1992). The transformation of intimacy: Sexuality, love and eroticism in modern societies. Cambridge, England: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  18. Gilbert, R. L., Gonzalez, M. A., & Murphy, N. A. (2011a). Sexuality in the 3D Internet and its relationship to real-life sexuality. Psychology & Sexuality, 2, 107–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gilbert, R. L., Murphy, N. A., & Ávalos, M. (2011b). Communication patterns and satisfaction levels in 3D versus real life intimate relationships. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14, 585–589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Griffiths, M. (2001). Sex on the Internet: Observations and implications for Internet sex addiction. Journal of Sex Research, 38, 333–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gunter, B. (2008). Internet dating: A British survey. Aslib Proceedings: New Information Perspectives, 60(2), 88–98.Google Scholar
  22. Ludlow, P., & Wallace, M. (2007). The Second Life Herald: The virtual tabloid that witnessed the dawn of the metaverse. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  23. Morris, S. (2008, 14 November). Second Life affair leads to couple’s real-life divorce. The Guardian. Retrieved from
  24. Ondrejka, C. (2004). Escaping the gilded cage: User created content and building the Metaverse. Social Science Research Network. Retrieved from
  25. Ortiz de Gortari, A. (2007, September). Second Life survey: User profile for psychological engagement & gambling. Paper presented at the virtual 2007 conference, Stockholm, Sweden.Google Scholar
  26. Partala, T. (2011). Psychological needs and virtual worlds: Case Second Life. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 69, 787–800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ross, M., Daneback, K., Månsson, S.-A., Tikkanen, R., & Cooper, A. (2003). Characteristics of men and women who complete or exit from on-line Internet sexuality questionnaire: A study of instrument dropout biases. Journal of Sex Research, 40, 396–402.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Salter, A. (2011). Virtually yours: Desire and fulfillment in virtual worlds. Journal of Popular Culture, 44, 1120–1137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Saunders, D. M., Fisher, W. A., Hewitt, E. C., & Clayton, I. P. (1985). A method for empirically assessing volunteer selection effects: Recruitment procedures and responses to erotica. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 1703–1712.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Smith, T.W., P. Marsden, M. Hout, & J. Kim. (2011). General social surveys, 19722010 [Data file and code book]. Retrieved from
  31. Terdiman, D. (2007, January 3). Counting the ‘real’ Second Life population. CNet. Retrieved from
  32. Therborn, G. (2004). Between sex and power: Family in the world. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. Turkle, S. (2011). Alone together. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  34. Weiderman, M. W. (1999). Volunteer bias in sexuality research using college student participants. Journal of Sex Research, 36, 59–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Politics, Psychology, Sociology and International StudiesUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  2. 2.LondonUK

Personalised recommendations