Cybersex, also called computer sex, Internet sex, netsex and, colloquially, cyber or cybering, is a virtual sex encounter in which two or more people connected remotely via computer network send each other sexually explicit messages describing a sexual experience. In one form, this fantasy sex is accomplished by the participants describing their actions and responding to their chat partners in a mostly written form designed to stimulate their own sexual feelings and fantasies.[1] Cybersex often includes real life masturbation.[2] Environments in which cybersex takes place are not necessarily exclusively devoted to that subject, and participants in any Internet chat may suddenly receive a message of invitation. The quality of a cybersex encounter typically depends upon the participants' abilities to evoke a vivid, visceral mental picture in the minds of their partners. Imagination and suspension of disbelief are also critically important. Cybersex can occur either within the context of existing or intimate relationships, e.g. among lovers who are geographically separated, or among individuals who have no prior knowledge of one another and meet in virtual spaces or cyberspaces and may even remain anonymous to one another. In some contexts cybersex is enhanced by the use of a webcam to transmit real-time video of the partners.


Cybersex is commonly performed in Internet chat rooms (such as IRC, talkers or web chats) and on instant messaging systems. It can also be performed using webcams, voice chat systems like Skype, or online games and/or virtual worlds like Second Life or VRChat. The exact definition of cybersex—specifically, whether real-life masturbation must be taking place for the online sex act to count as cybersex—is up for debate.[3] It is also fairly frequent in online role-playing games, such as MUDs and MMORPGs, though approval of this activity varies greatly from game to game. Some online social games like Red Light Center are dedicated to cybersex and other adult behaviors. These online games are often called AMMORPGs.

Cybersex may also be accomplished through the use of avatars in a multiuser software environment. It is often called mudsex or netsex in MUDs. In TinyMUD variants, particularly MUCKs, the term TinySex (TS) is very common.[4][5]

Though text-based cybersex has been in practice for decades,[6] the increased popularity of webcams has raised the number of online partners using two-way video connections to "expose" themselves to each other online—giving the act of cybersex a more visual aspect. There are a number of popular, commercial webcam sites that allow people to openly masturbate on camera while others watch them.[7] Using similar sites, couples can also perform on camera for the enjoyment of others.

In online worlds like Second Life and via webcam-focused chat services, however, Internet sex workers engage in cybersex in exchange for both virtual and real-life currency.[8]


Cybersex provides various advantages:

  • Cybersex allows real-life partners who are physically separated to continue to be sexually intimate. In geographically separated relationships, it can function to sustain the sexual dimension of a relationship in which the partners see each other only infrequently face to face. Also, it can allow partners to work out problems that they have in their sex life that they feel uncomfortable bringing up otherwise.[9]
  • Cybersex allows for sexual exploration. For example, it can enable participants to act out fantasies which they would not act out (or perhaps would not even be realistically possible) in real life through roleplaying due to physical or social limitations[10]
  • It takes less effort and fewer resources on the Internet than in real life to connect to a person like oneself or with whom a more meaningful relationship is possible.[9]


Cybersex is often criticized because the partners frequently have little verifiable knowledge about each other.[11] For many the primary point of cybersex is the plausible simulation of sexual activity, and this knowledge of the other is not always desired, but this is also criticized as the emptying out of embodied relations.[12]

In the words of Carkeek and James:

Privacy concerns are a difficulty with cybersex, since participants may log or record the interaction without the other's knowledge, and possibly disclose it to others or the public.[14]

There is disagreement over whether cybersex is a form of infidelity. While it does not involve physical contact, critics claim that the powerful emotions involved can cause marital stress, especially when cybersex culminates in an Internet romance. In several known cases, Internet adultery became the grounds for which a couple divorced.[15][16] Therapists report a growing number of patients addicted to this activity,[17] a form of both Internet addiction and sexual addiction, with the standard problems associated with addictive behavior.[9]

See also


  1. Hahn, Harley (1996). The Internet Complete Reference (2nd ed.). Osborne McGraw-Hill. p. 570. ISBN 0-07-882138-X. The goal of mud sex is the same as the goal of regular sex (without the babies): to bond temporarily in a way that is physically and emotionally satisfying. To do so, two people will exchange messages so as to lead one another into a high level of sexual arousal, culminating in a well-defined resolution.
  2. Hahn, Harley (1996). The Internet Complete Reference (2nd ed.). Osborne McGraw-Hill. p. 570. ISBN 0-07-882138-X. To be blunt, most mud sex is also accompanied by the people sexually gratifying themselves in real life at the same time.
  3. Ruberg, Bonnie (2007-05-18). "What Counts as Cybersex?". The Village Voice. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
  4. Hahn, Harley (1996). The Internet Complete Reference (2nd ed.). Osborne McGraw-Hill. p. 570. ISBN 0-07-882138-X. MUD SEX refers to the acting out of erotic feelings by two people while typing a series of sexually explicit messages. (Mud sex is also referred to as NET SEX or—on a TinyMud—TINYSEX.)
  5. Busey, Andrew (1995). Secrets of the MUD Wizards. SAMS Publishing. p. 95. ISBN 0-672-30723-5. MUD sex is another MUD item that may seem a bit shocking to some. MUD sex (sometimes called TinySex—usually on TinyMUDs, MUCKs, and MUSHes) is a lot like phone sex. As you know, most MUDs have a high degree of flexibility when it comes to expressing oneself and communicating—and if you're a little creative, you can use these commands (such as say and emote discussed in Chapter 5) to have MUD sex (or TinySex, depending on the type of MUD it is).
  6. Dibbell, Julian (1998). My Tiny Life. Henry Holt. ISBN 0-8050-3626-1. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
  7. Ruberg, Bonnie (2007-07-27). "Do You Like to Watch?". The Village Voice. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
  8. Ruberg, Bonnie (2007-08-31). "Peeking Up the Skirt of Online Sex Work". The Village Voice. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
  9. Grov, Christian, Brian Joseph Gillespie, Tracy Royce, and Janet Lever. 2011. “Perceived Consequences of Casual Online Sexual Activities on Heterosexual Relationships: A U.S. Online Survey.” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(2): 429-39.
  10. Ito, Mizuko (1997). "Virtually Embodied: The Reality of Fantasy in a Multi-User Dungeon". In Porter, David (ed.). Internet Culture (paperback ed.). Routledge. pp. 95–96. ISBN 0-415-91684-4. She describes virtual sex as akin to an interactive romance novel. The metaphor is crucial. The fantasy "text" is paramount, the real bodies nonexistent. She explains: "It is how you describe yourself and how you act (on the Internet) that makes up the 'real you'.... real life persons' looks mean so little to me..."
  11. Hahn, Harley (1996). The Internet Complete Reference (2nd ed.). Osborne McGraw-Hill. p. 571. ISBN 0-07-882138-X. Finally, don't forget that the characters on a mud will not correspond exactly to the people in real life. In particular, what looks like a woman may really be a man. HINT: If you are a guy, and you go up to a female character on a mud and say, "Hi, wanna have sex?", and she says yes right away, chances are she is another guy playing a female role.
  12. Carkeek, Freya; James, Paul (1992). "This Abstract Body". Arena (99–100): 66–85.
  13. Carkeek, Freya; James, Paul (1992). "This Abstract Body". Arena (99–100): 68.
  14. Carton, Sean (1995). Internet Virtual Worlds Quick Tour. Ventana Press. p. 180. ISBN 1-56604-222-4. TinySex Simulated sexual activity done on a virtual world. Like the text equivalent of phone sex. It should be entered into with caution because you never know who's who online, and some people love enticing a person into an extended TinySex session and then posting a log of the activity to various newsgroups.
  15. Siemaszko, Corky (2006-02-02). "Cybersplit Online Affair Spurs Off-Line Divorce". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on August 31, 2009. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
  16. Cable, Amanda (2008-11-14). "Divorced from reality: All three accounts of the Second Life love triangle that saw a woman separate from her husband for having a cyber-affair". Mail Online. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
  17. Godson, Suzi (2002). The Sex Book. Cassell Illustrated. p. 258. ISBN 0-304-35991-2.

Further reading

  • Carkeek, Freya; James, Paul (1992). "This Abstract Body". Arena (no. 99–100): 66–85.
  • Deuel, N. R. (1996). "Our passionate response to virtual reality." in S. Herring (ed.), Computer-mediated communication: Linguistic, social and cross-cultural perspectives. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 129-146. ISBN 1-55619-803-5.
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