Sex Addiction: The Internet’s Triple-A Engine

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Dr. Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT

Mark, a single 28-year-old events planner, was feeling lonely one evening. Hoping to meet Ms. Right (or at least Ms. Right Now) he showered, spritzed himself with cologne, and put on his best clothes. Then he walked downstairs from his second-floor apartment, hailed a cab, and took an expensive ride to a singles bar on the other side of town. At the club, he bought himself a couple of overpriced drinks and searched for a possible date. He bought a drink for three different women but didn’t feel a connection with any of them. Eventually, dejected and depressed, he left the bar and took the long cab ride home.

Mark, a single 28-year-old events planner, was feeling lonely one evening. He pushed some popcorn into the microwave and logged on to his Tinder smartphone app. He noticed a cute girl right away. He swiped her profile to indicate interest, and before his microwave popcorn was ready, he was texting with her. Twenty minutes later she arrived at his doorstep, happy to share his popcorn, a movie, and a little bit more. There was no expensive cab ride, no overpriced booze, no cavalcade of disinterested women, and no disappointment at the end of the night.

In the examples above, the present-day version of Mark benefited from the internet’s ‘Triple-A Engine’ of Accessibility, Affordability, and Anonymity. For modern Mark, digital technology removed the barriers to romance and sexuality that once existed, and the incredibly limited dating pond of yesteryear transformed into a veritable ocean of opportunity. So, instead of wasting his night, he quickly and easily located the connection he was looking for. And he is hardly alone in his approach.

In today’s world, practically everyone who’s interested in meeting a potential romantic or sexual partner is online. Men and women, gay and straight, young and old – we are all searching for someone, and we’re nearly always conducting that search in the digital universe. And this is hardly a U.S. or even an English language phenomenon. For instance, eHarmony, a dating website launched in 2000, now has members in 150 different countries. And the dating websites that dominated the mid-2000s currently seem like antiquated small potatoes. In fact, the online romance and sex scene didn’t truly take flight until 2009, with the advent of dating and hookup apps.

The first such app was Grindr, geared toward gay men seeking sex and romance (but mostly sex). Almost immediately that app went wild, and within a few short months of its launch the marketspace was littered with knockoffs geared toward every demographic imaginable. These days, whatever it is that you’re looking for, there’s an app that will help you find it. And an astounding number of people are taking advantage. For instance, Tinder, which was launched in August of 2012, has more than 50 million users, and they’re swiping at other member’s profiles 1.5 billion times per day.

The amount and variety of intensely sexually arousing imagery and activity now available via digital devices is nearly endless, with new sexnologies (and therefore new forms of sexually compulsive and addictive behavior) arising almost daily. And thanks to the advertising-based business model initially employed by newspapers, TV, and radio, nearly all of this sexual content and activity is either free or low-cost, meaning almost anyone can instantly, affordably, and relatively anonymously access this endless stream of sexual content and potential partners.

Sex, porn, and chemsex addicts find the anonymity portion of the Triple-A Engine especially alluring, as it lets them be sexual in ways that not only facilitate but hide their addiction. Thanks to the anonymity and secrecy provided by digital technology, cybersex addicts can do just about anything they want without their families, friends, employers, neighbors, or anyone else in their lives knowing what they’re up to for relatively long periods of time.

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If you or a loved one are struggling with sex or porn addiction, Seeking Integrity can help. In addition to residential rehab, we offer low-cost online workgroups for male sex addicts and male porn addicts new to recovery. Click HERE for information on our Sex Addiction Workgroup. Click HERE for information on our Porn Addiction workgroup. We also offer online workgroups to help betrayed partners. Click HERE for information.