Obesely Speaking

The brain and obesity

Internet Sex: Infidelity or Practicality

200 married couples answer questions about Internet sex with other people.
Kelly Campbell, Ph.D.
This post is a response to Why People Cheat by Kelly Campbell, Ph.D.

Internet technology has changed life as we know it, and in doing so opened a vortex of sexual freedom. For the once isolated klukaphile (sexually aroused by action figures), other klukaphiles are just a Google search away. However, one of the most profound influences the Internet is having on human sexuality is redefining infidelity. I did some casual research. Do not ask me why, I am in some kind of phase. They probably need to adjust my meds. Anyway, I asked 200 married couples about Internet Sex.

All of the participants had been married for at least ten years. All were employed, and they all had children. They were upper-middle-class and at least one member of every couple was a professional (MD, PhD, Lawyer, Screenwriter, Director, Producer, or Engineer). I asked the following questions about Internet sex:

Have you ever had a sexual chat with another person on the Internet?

  • Men: Yes 193; No 7 / Women: Yes 87; No 113

Have you ever had an Internet sexual encounter involving a live cam?

  • Men: Yes 134; No 66 / Women: Yes 41; No 159

Have you ever had an extra marital sexual encounter with a prostitute?

  • Men: Yes 0; No 200 / Women: Yes 0; No 200

Have you ever had an extra marital affair with someone other than a sex worker?

  • Men: Yes 0; No 200 / Women: Yes 0; No 200

Would you ever cheat on your spouse?

  • Men: Yes 0; No 200 / Women: Yes 0; No 200

Have you ever had Internet Sex without a camera with a member of your same sex?

  • Men: Yes 79; No 121 / Women: Yes 23; No 177

Have you ever had Internet sex with a same-sex person with a camera?

  • Men: Yes 61; No 139 / Women: Yes 11; No 189

Have you ever had sex with a person of the same sex in real life?

  • Men: Yes 0; No 200 / Women: Yes 0; No 200

Is your spouse aware of your Internet sexual activity?

  • Men: Yes 0; No 200 / Women: Yes 0; No 200

Do you think your spouse participates in Internet sexual activity?

Granted, this is not the Kinsey study, but for casual inquiry the data is vocal. These people are not promiscuous beyond their Internet sexual engagements. It is reasonable to presume because of their profession and parental status that they are somewhat responsible individuals. Their willingness to participate in the survey suggests their behavior does not shame them, on one hand. On the other hand, the fact that the spouses are unaware suggests some secrecy or clandestine behavior. 

I deliberately left the last question blank to see what people would write in. Very few (less than 20) answered yes or no definitively. Most said in essence, “As long as I never find out about it, it is fine.” This suggests that they do have some issue with it. Therefore, I found that curious.

The common theme that continually popped up in my private chats with these individuals was that Internet sex was a “quick,” “easy,” “safe,” “harmless” way to alleviate marital boredom and explore curiosities.

One of the men, a surgeon, volunteered, “I don’t do cam2cam. I’d rather just chat because then the other person can be whoever I want them to be. Hell, I am sure half of the women I cyber with that claim to be 19-year old girls are probably middle-aged men, but what do I care, it’s just fantasy. When we’re cybering they’re a 19 year-old hottie.”

This was particularly telling coming from a surgeon, because surgeons tend to insist on being in control at all times. Maybe the lack of control was the appeal. Who knows?

Many pointed out that Cyber sex is not much different from masturbation, which is not infidelity. However, if this is true, why do they not want to know that their spouses are doing it, or want their spouses to know they are doing it? After making this point, they all eventually conceded that online sexual encounters were a type of infidelity, but better than the alternative, which was an actual extramarital affair. 

Some said the problem with monogamy is that it is counterintuitive for humans, especially for men, or so biology tells us. Supposedly, men are biologically predisposed to spread as much seed as possible to preserve their gene pool and the proof is in the vasopressin receptors. Well, let’s get real, most men today are more concerned with their hair lines, tan lines, and lap pools than blood lines and gene pools. However, reproductive biology is a convenient excuse for the man or woman on the prowl with a wallet full of condoms—just saying. The real reason men are interested in multiple sexual partners is that sex with same person gets boring after awhile. More and more women are boarding that train, as well, it seems. It takes a lot of effort to keep marital sex interesting, much less effort than having a quick cyber encounter. People are busy; the quick fix has its appeal.

Some people spoke very candidly, because they know I am judgment free zone. They said they hook up with men or women of different races that they would never marry, date, or even have a drink with in a bar. Therefore, as in the night, on the Internet, all cats are gray. They also cited the Internet as a prime opportunity to explore something that they have always been curious about, but would never actively pursue. Hence, Internet sex is safe.

In terms of the brain, it is a great neurochemical gig. Dopamine encodes on the anticipation of reward, so the chat-room hunt is dopamine rich. There is bound to be some adrenaline and noradrenalin as well, in the forbidden taboo aspect of it. I certainly see why it would have its appeal. Bottom line, “it is not my circus and not my monkeys” as the Polish proverb goes, so it is not mine to judge. However, if it is something that you have to hide from your spouse, there is something curious. It would seem to involve trust, which is like an egg, once you break it, you can never put it back together again. Therefore why toss it around? 

Personally, I choose not to relate to other humans in the way that cyber sex does. It is not a moral issue, or a value judgment, per se, because my morals have been lower than the price of pork in Jerusalem at various points in my life. Hence, I have no right to judge. I am just not in that place anymore. I cannot say whether it is right or wrong, even if that were my place, and it is not. I can say this: marriage is about communication, and when you start hiding things, (other than drinking milk out of the carton and Grecian formula for men—don’t judge me) communication is breaking down, and there is reason for concern. Remain Fabulous and Phenomenal.

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Billi Gordon, Ph.D., is Chair of the Advisory Committee for Collective Concerns in Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

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