Being ‘Sexy’



Focusing on the consensual use of the internet for sexual pleasure and enjoyment among adults, this chapter explores cybersex as a reciprocal sexual interaction mediated by the internet. Technological affordances such as anonymity, disembodiment, and non-proximate intimacy are examined in relation to two key related questions: Is cybersex ‘real sex’? and Does cybersex transcend the body? The chapter argues that cybersex can offer new opportunities to play with, experiment or try out sexualities in relatively risk-free ways, but also evoke new obligations and requirements. Virtual spaces can operate as liminal spaces, as spaces betwixt and between reality and fantasy which users can exploit to their own satisfaction.


Cybersex LifeSecond Life Real lifeReal Life Online Sex (OSA) fantasyFantasy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Adams, M., Oye, J., & Parker, T. (2003). Sexuality of older adults and the internet: From sex education to cybersex. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 18(3), 405–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Albury, K., & Crawford, K. (2012). Sexting, consent and young people’s ethics: Beyond Megan’s Story. Continuum, 26(3), 463–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anisimowicz, Y., & O’Sullivan, L. F. (2017). Men’s and women’s use and creation of online sexually explicit materials including fandom-related works. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46(3), 823–833.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ashford, C. (2006). The only gay in the village: Sexuality and the net. Information and Communications Technology Law, 15(3), 275–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Attwood, F. (2009). Deepthroatfucker’ and Discerning Adonis’ men and cybersex. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 12(3), 279–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Badal, H. J., Stryker, J. E., DeLuca, N., & Purcell, D. W. (2018). Swipe Right: Dating Website and App Use Among Men Who Have Sex With Men. AIDS and behavior, 22(4), 1265–1272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bardzell, J., Bardzell, S., Zhang, G., & Pace, T. (2014, April). The lonely raccoon at the ball: Designing for intimacy, sociability, and selfhood. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 3943–3952).
  8. Barker, M., & Gill, R. (2012). Sexual subjectification and Bitchy Jones’s Diary. Psychology and Sexuality, 3(1), 26–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bloustien, G., & Wood, D. (2016). Visualising disability and activism in Second Life. Current Sociology, 64(1), 101–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Boies, S. C., Knudson, G., & Young, J. (2004). The internet, sex, and youths: Implications for sexual development. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 11(4), 343–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Browne, J., & Russell, S. (2005). My home, your workplace: People with physical disability negotiate their sexual health without crossing professional boundaries. Disability and Society, 20(4), 375–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Burkett, M. (2015). Sex (t) talk: A qualitative analysis of young adults’ negotiations of the pleasures and perils of sexting. Sexuality and Culture, 19(4), 835–863.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cabecinha, M., Mercer, C. H., Gravningen, K., Aicken, C., Jones, K. G., Tanton, C., et al. (2017). Finding sexual partners online: Prevalence and associations with sexual behaviour, STI diagnoses and other sexual health outcomes in the British population. Sexually Transmitted Infections, 93, 572–582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carvalheira, A., & Gomes, F. A. (2003). Cybersex in Portuguese chatrooms: A study of sexual behaviors related to online sex. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 29(5), 345–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Choi, E. P., Wong, J. Y., Lo, H. H., Wong, W., Chio, J. H., & Fong, D. Y. (2016a). The association between smartphone dating applications and college students’ casual sex encounters and condom use. Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, 9, 38–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Choi, E. P. H., Wong, J. Y. H., & Fong, D. Y. T. (2016b). An emerging risk factor of sexual abuse: The use of smartphone dating applications. Sexual Abuse, 30.
  17. Choi, E. P. H., Wong, J. Y. H., & Fong, D. Y. T. (2017). The use of social networking applications of smartphone and associated sexual risks in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations: A systematic review. AIDS Care, 29(2), 145–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cockayne, D., Leszczynski, A., & Zook, M. (2017). #HotForBots: Sex, the non-human and digitally mediated spaces of intimate encounter. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 35. Scholar
  19. Cooper, A., Delmonico, D. L., & Burg, R. (2000). Cybersex users, abusers, and compulsives: New findings and implications. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention, 7(1–2), 5–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cooper, A. L., Delmonico, D. L., Griffin-Shelley, E., & Mathy, R. M. (2004). Online sexual activity: An examination of potentially problematic behaviors. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 11(3), 129–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Couch, D., & Liamputtong, P. (2008). Online dating and mating: The use of the internet to meet sexual partners. Qualitative Health Research, 18(2), 268–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Cravens, J. D., & Whiting, J. B. (2016). Fooling around on Facebook: The perceptions of infidelity behavior on social networking sites. Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy, 15(3), 213–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Cypress Valkyrie, Z. (2011). Cybersexuality in MMORPGs: Virtual sexual revolution untapped. Men and Masculinities, 14(1), 76–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Daneback, K., Cooper, A., & Månsson, S. A. (2005). An internet study of cybersex participants. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 34(3), 321–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Dombrowski, S. C., LeMasney, J. W., Ahia, C. E., & Dickson, S. A. (2004). Protecting children from online sexual predators: Technological, psychoeducational, and legal considerations. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 35(1), 65–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Döring, N. (2000). Feminist views of cybersex: Victimization, liberation, and empowerment. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 3(5), 863–884.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Döring, N. (2014). Consensual sexting among adolescents: Risk prevention through abstinence education or safer sexting? Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 8(1) (article 9).
  28. Döring, N. M. (2009). The internet’s impact on sexuality: A critical review of 15 years of research. Computers in Human Behavior, 25(5), 1089–1101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Döring, N., Daneback, K., Shaughnessy, K., Grov, C., & Byers, E. S. (2017). Online sexual activity experiences among college students: A four-country comparison. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46(6), 1641–1652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Downing, L. (2012). Reading Bitchy Jones’s diary: Sex blogging, community-building and feminism (s). Psychology and Sexuality, 3(1), 5–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Dowsett, G. W. (2015). ‘And next, just for your enjoyment!’: Sex, technology and the constitution of desire. Culture, Health and Sexuality, 17(4), 527–539. Scholar
  32. Drouin, M., Vogel, K. N., Surbey, A., & Stills, J. R. (2013). Let’s talk about sexting, baby: Computer mediated sexual behaviors among young adults. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, A25–A30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Gies, L. (2008). How material are cyberbodies? Broadband internet and embodied subjectivity. Crime, Media, Culture, 4(3), 311–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gilbert, R. L., Gonzalez, M. A., & Murphy, N. A. (2011). Sexuality in the 3D internet and its relationship to real-life sexuality. Psychology and Sexuality, 2(2), 107–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Grov, C., Gillespie, B. J., Royce, T., & Lever, J. (2011). Perceived consequences of casual online sexual activities on heterosexual relationships: A US online survey. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(2), 429–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hall, M., & Hearn, J. (2017). Revenge pornography: Gender, sexuality and motivations. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  37. Henderson, L., & Morgan, E. (2011). Sexting and sexual relationships among teens and young adults. McNair Scholars Research Journal, 7, 31–39.Google Scholar
  38. Hester, H., & Walters, C. (2016). Fat sex: New directions in theory and activism. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  39. Hillier, L., & Harrison, L. (2007). Building realities less limited than their own: Young people practising same-sex attraction on the internet. Sexualities, 10(1), 82–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Jones, R. H. (2005). ‘You show me yours, I’ll show you mine’: The negotiation of shifts from textual to visual modes in computer-mediated interaction among gay men. Visual Communication, 4(1), 69–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Karaian, L. (2012). Lolita speaks: Sexting, teenage girls and the law. Crime, Media, Culture, 8, 57–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kargbo, M. (2013). Toward a new relationality: Digital photography, shame, and the fat subject. Fat Studies, 2(2), 160–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kibby, M., & Costello, B. (2001). Between the image and the act: Interactive sex entertainment on the internet. Sexualities, 4(3), 353–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Kosenko, K., Luurs, G., & Binder, A. R. (2017). Sexting and sexual behavior, 2011–2015: A critical review and meta-analysis of a growing literature. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 22(3), 141–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Koskela, H. (2004). Webcams, TV shows and mobile phones: Empowering exhibitionism. Surveillance and Society, 2, 199–215.Google Scholar
  46. McKee, A., & Randall, R. S. (2017). 15 Becoming BDSM in an online environment. In P. G. Nixon & I. K. Düsterhöft (Eds.), Sex in the digital age. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  47. McLelland, M. (2005). Queer Japan from the Pacific war to the Internet age. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  48. Meerkerk, G. J., Eijnden, R. J. V. D., & Garretsen, H. F. (2006). Predicting compulsive internet use: It’s all about sex! CyberPsychology and Behavior, 9(1), 95–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Mitchell, K. J., Finkelhor, D., & Wolak, J. (2003). The exposure of youth to unwanted sexual material on the internet: A national survey of risk, impact, and prevention. Youth and Society, 34(3), 330–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Moorman, J. D., & Harrison, K. (2016). Gender, race, and risk: Intersectional risk management in the sale of sex online. The Journal of Sex Research, 53(7), 816–824.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Muise, A. (2011). Women’s sex blogs: Challenging dominant discourses of heterosexual desire. Feminism and Psychology, 21, 411–419. Scholar
  52. National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. (2008). Sex and tech: Results from a survey of teens and young adults.
  53. Powell, A., & Henry, N. (2017). Sexual violence in a digital age. London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ringrose, J., Gill, R., Livingstone, S., & Harvey, L. (2012). A qualitative study of children, young people and ‘sexting’: A report prepared for the NSPCC. London: NSPCC. Retrieved from
  55. Ringrose, J., Harvey, L., Gill, R., & Livingstone, S. (2013). Teen girls, sexual double standards and ‘sexting’: Gendered value in digital image exchange. Feminist Theory, 14(3), 305–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Robinson, L. (2007). The cyberself: The self-ing project goes online, symbolic interaction in the digital age. New Media and Society, 9(1), 93–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Ross, M. W. (2005). Typing, doing, and being: Sexuality and the internet. Journal of Sex Research, 42, 342–352. Scholar
  58. Ross, M. W., & Kauth, M. R. (2002). Men who have sex with men, and the internet: Emerging clinical issues and their management. In A. Cooper (Ed.), Sex and the internet: A guidebook for clinicians (pp. 47–69). New York: Brunner-Routledge.Google Scholar
  59. Ross, M. W., Rosser, B. S., & Stanton, J. (2004). Beliefs about cybersex and internet-mediated sex of Latino men who have internet sex with men: Relationships with sexual practices in cybersex and in real life. AIDS Care, 16(8), 1002–1011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sanders, T., Scoular, J., Campbell, R., Pitcher, J., & Cunningham, S. (2018). Introduction: Technology, social change and commercial sex online. In Internet sex work (pp. 1–21). Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  61. Saraswati, L. A. (2013). Wikisexuality: Rethinking sexuality in cyberspace. Sexualities, 16(5–6), 587–603.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Sawyer, A. N., Smith, E. R., & Benotsch, E. G. (2017). Dating application use and sexual risk behavior among young adults. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 15(2), 183–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Schneider, J. P. (2000). Effects of cybersex addiction on the family: Results of a survey. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention, 7(1–2), 31–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Schneider, J. (2003). The impact of compulsive cybersex behaviours on the family. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 18(3), 329–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Seal, D. W., Benotsch, E. G., Green, M., Snipes, D. J., Bull, S. S., Cejka, A., et al. (2015). The use of internet chat rooms to meet sexual partners: A comparison of non-heterosexually identified men with heterosexually identified men and women. International Journal of Sexual Health, 27(1), 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Seymour, W., & Lupton, D. (2004). Holding the line online: Exploring wired relationships for people with disabilities. Disability and Society, 19(4), 291–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Shaughnessy, K., Byers, S., & Thornton, S. J. (2011). What is cybersex? Heterosexual students’ definitions. International Journal of Sexual Health, 23(2), 79–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Solvang, P. (2007). The amputee body desired: Beauty destabilized? Disability re-valued? Sexuality and Disability, 25(2), 51–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Tiidenberg, K. (2013). How does online experience inform our sense of self? NSFW bloggers’ identity narratives. In A.-A. Allaste (Ed.), Changes and continuities of lifestyles in transforming societies (pp. 177–202). Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  70. Tiidenberg, K. (2014). Bringing sexy back: Reclaiming the body aesthetic via self-shooting. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 8(1).
  71. Tikkanen, R., & Ross, M. W. (2000). Looking for sexual compatibility: Experiences among Swedish men in visiting internet gay chat rooms. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 3(4), 605–616.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Tziallas, E. (2015). Gamified eroticism: Gay male “social networking” applications and self-pornography. Sexuality and Culture, 19(4), 759–775.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. van Oosten, J. M., Peter, J., & Vandenbosch, L. (2017). Adolescents’ sexual media use and willingness to engage in casual sex: Differential relations and underlying processes. Human Communication Research, 43(1), 127–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Vandenbosch, L., van Oosten, J. M., & Peter, J. (2018). Sexually explicit internet material and adolescents’ sexual performance orientation: The mediating roles of enjoyment and perceived utility. Media Psychology, 21(1), 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Waskul, D. D. (2002). The naked self: Being a body in televideo cybersex. Symbolic Interaction, 25, 199–227. Scholar
  76. Waskul, D. D., & Martin, J. A. (2010). Now the orgy is over. Symbolic Interaction, 33(2), 297–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Waskul, D., Douglass, M., & Edgley, C. (2000). Cybersex: Outercourse and the enselfment of the body. Symbolic Interaction, 23(4), 375–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Weiss, B. R. (2018). Patterns of interaction in webcam sex work: A comparative analysis of female and male broadcasters. Deviant Behavior, 39(6), 732–746.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Wéry, A., & Billieux, J. (2017). Problematic cybersex: Conceptualization, assessment, and treatment. Addictive Behaviors, 64, 238–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Whitty, M. T. (2003). Pushing the wrong buttons: Men’s and women’s attitudes toward online and offline infidelity. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 6(6), 569–579.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Whitty, M. T., & Carr, A. N. (2006). Cyberspace romance: The psychology of online relationships. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Wolak, J., Finkelhor, D., Mitchell, K. J., & Ybarra, M. L. (2008). Online “predators” and their victims: Myths, realities, and implications for prevention and treatment. American Psychologist, 63(2), 111–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Wood, E. A. (2008). Consciousness-raising 2.0: Sex blogging and the creation of a feminist sex commons. Feminism and Psychology, 18(4), 480–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Wurtele, S. K., & Kenny, M. C. (2016). Technology-related sexual solicitation of adolescents: A Review of prevention efforts. Child Abuse Review, 25(5), 332–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Young, K. S. (2004). Internet addiction: A new clinical phenomenon and its consequences. American Behavioral Scientist, 48, 402–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Applied Social ScienceUniversity of BrightonBrightonUK

Personalised recommendations