Jason, a 30-year-old self-employed electrician, is a soon to be divorced father of two young children. He says that after his kids were born, his wife was always either too tired for sex or just plain not interested in it. When he complained about this to a fellow electrician he’d known for a number of years, his friend suggested that he check out the Ashley Madison hookup app. Before Jason realized what was happening, he had profiles on five different apps, and he was spending more time hooking up with women than managing his shop. Within a year, he had fallen behind on the mortgage and in paying his many suppliers. “I started lying to my wife, too, telling her I was working late when I was really hooking up.” Eventually, his wife got suspicious and checked his phone to see what she could find. And she found quite a lot. “There were nude pictures of me and some of the women I was hooking up with, plus sexts and text messages setting up all sorts of encounters. She immediately took our kids and left me, and she says she wants a divorce. The worst part is that even now I can’t stay away from the apps.”
In the 21st century, digital technology is omnipresent. At this point, nearly everyone in our nation either owns or has easy access to a computer, laptop, tablet, pad, smartphone, or some other internet-enabled digital device. As a result, we now have unfettered 24/7 access to information, entertainment, and social interaction – with much of that material and interconnectivity being sexual in nature.
For the vast majority of people, this is not an issue. Most people can play with and enjoy sexnology without becoming addicted or experiencing negative consequences, just as most people can enjoy things like alcohol, gambling, video gaming, and recreational drugs without becoming addicted or experiencing major problems. However, some people – especially those who are vulnerable to addiction and other psychological disorders thanks to genetics and/or their upbringing – online sexual temptations can be as much a danger zone as any other potential addiction.
Dr. Rob Weiss, author of Sex Addiction 101 and other books on sex and intimacy issues says he initially noticed tech-related sex and romance issues in the early 1990s when online bulletin boards (BBS) and porn sites first hit. Before that, his sexually addicted clients were mostly hooked on affairs, prostitutes, sex clubs, adult movie theaters, and other forms of real-world sexual activity. With the internet, however, his clients were suddenly and primarily engaging in tech-driven sexuality. And this tech-sex trend continues unabated, with current-day addicts hooked on digital pornography, virtual sex games, webcam sex, hookup apps, sexualized chat rooms, teledildonics, and whatever else R&D departments can dream up.
Without doubt, online porn is the ‘industry leader’ when it comes to cybersex addiction. This is hardly a surprise, given the recent online porn explosion. And no, we’re not exaggerating when we use the word explosion. In their book, A Billion Wicked Thoughts, researchers Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam write:
In 1991, the year the World Wide Web went online, there were fewer than 90 different adult magazines published in America, and you’d have been hard-pressed to find a newsstand that carried more than a dozen. Just six years later, in 1997, there were about 900 pornography sites on the Web. Today, the filtering software CYBERsitter blocks 2.5 million adult Web sites.
And pornography is just the tip of the sexnological iceberg. In today’s world, it is possible to meet someone on a dating site or a hookup app, to flirt with that person via text and sext, to have sex with that person via webcam, and to brag about this hot new relationship on social media – all without ever being in the same room (or even the same country).
Hookup apps in particular are problematic for sex and chemsex addicts. They’re like crack cocaine for digitally driven addicts seeking in-the-flesh or online sexual encounters – primarily because they present an entire universe of readily available potential sexual partners. And a person’s marital status, hobbies, job, religion, goals, and worldview don’t matter on these apps because they’re all about the quick encounter. Many cybersex addicts, such as Jason in the example that opens this article, post profiles on multiple apps simultaneously, staying logged in to all of them 24/7 and checking them constantly. Sometimes they’re looking for the next sexual encounter before they’re even done with the current sexual encounter.
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If you or someone you care about is struggling with sex or porn, help is available. Seeking Integrity offers inpatient treatment for sex and porn addicts, as well as low-cost online workgroups. At the same time, SexandRelationshipHealing.com offers a variety of free webinars and drop-in discussion groups, podcasts, and more.