Today there are nearly 60 million Internet users of and over 300 million home pages Although the Internet provides and endless amount of valuable information, it has also become a dangerous pitfall for the estimated 2 million sexually addicted Internet users, both in and out of recovery. For some, the Internet has become a virtual community in which sexual fantasy abounds and the gap between addiction and reality becomes wider.
Cybersex is delivered in three basic forms. The first and most common form is the online exchange of pornography in snapshot and video formats. This exchange may take place via e-mail, newsgroups, or home pages The second form is synchronous (live) communication such as chat rooms and interactive home pages. Finally, pornographic software and files may be distributed on diskettes or Compact Disc. Regardless of the form, cybersex can serve as a powerful trigger for the sexual addict. One reason that cybersex can be so dangerous for a sexual addict is that it entails many of the characteristics that recovering addicts try to avoid: isolation, fantasy, objectification anonymity, and sexual images.
The Internet does not create sexual addicts. However, it can and does provide a form of sexual acting out that can lead to the progression of sexually addictive behaviors. Censorship in any form other than self-censorship, is not viewed as a productive way to assist sexual addicts in their misuse of the Internet. The use of personal censor software (e.g., CyberPatrol, NetNanny, Surfwatch, etc.) is encouraged and can be helpful in the prevention of access to unwanted or unexpected sites containing sexual content.
All sexual addicts are responsible for their behavior and the consequences of their sexual acting out. While the Internet may provide easy access to sexualized information, the Internet cannot be blamed for the addiction or a relapse. Sexual addicts must set similar boundaries and limits that they have established for other sources of pornography.
It is also true that the Internet plays a role in educating individuals about healthy aspects of sexuality and there are many resources available for the recovering sexual addict. E-mail, online meetings, recovery discussion groups, and informative home pages are resources that recovering addicts use to benefit their own recovery. For some, the choice to utilize healthy Internet resources is not a problem, for others, it is a problem and abstinence must be applied to their Internet access.
Sexual addicts who are not in recovery have lost their freedom of choice. They are no longer free to choose whether or not they engage in sexual activities. While this does not excuse sexual addicts from their behavior, it does speak to the nature of addiction. Those who are experiencing discomfort as a result of their Internet use should seek consultation with a professional knowledgeable about sexual addiction.