Sexual Behaviors & Disorders Related to Technology

Instructor: Amanda Thacker

Amanda is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) who has a decade of experience in the Mental Health and Counseling field.

This lesson will provide an overview of online sexual behaviors (i.e. pornography and cybersex) and how these behaviors can develop into problematic addictions. Also, learn the criteria that counselors can use to evaluate if a client is experiencing an addiction to pornography or cybersex.

Pornography and Cybersex

To borrow from the hit pop music group Salt-n-Pepa, ''Let's Talk About Sex''. For most adults, sexual activity and sexual relationships are a part of life. While there is a wide variety of topics surrounding sex, and there truly is no 'normal' when it comes to sexual activity, there are certainly some situations surrounding sexual behaviors and technology that can be problematic. Lets look at sexual behaviors as they relate to technology and how certain problematic addictions can arise.

It is no secret that pornography is statistically one of the most widely searched and viewed things on the internet in the 21st century. There are countless websites offering both free and paid pornography for every different type of sexual preference. There is much debate surrounding the cultural implications and appropriateness of pornography, much arising from the treatment and vulnerability of adult film actresses, but we will limit our discussion in this lesson to problematic sexual behaviors for consumers of pornography.

Consuming pornography can often be very reinforcing (i.e. ''rewarding'') for the average adult viewer. It activates the same ''pleasure center'' of the brain as sugar and other substances, like drugs and alcohol. Much like developing an addiction to sugar or substances, developing an addiction to pornography can, and does, happen.

When a consumer has biological, social, or psychological traits that make pornography especially rewarding (more rewarding than other activities, including in-person sexual intercourse), this is when the person is especially vulnerable to developing a pornography addiction.

Cybersex is similar to pornography in that it is sexual content online. Cybersex can vary but it generally involves two adults engaging in sexually explicit conversation, videos, and/or photo sharing in real time via an online platform. There are just as many sites for adults to engage in cybersex as pornography, and cybersex is generally associated with the same ''reward'' for the consumer's brain as pornography or intercourse.

When Pornography/Cybersex Becomes Problematic

Viewing pornography or engaging in cybersex becomes problematic when it begins interfering with a consumer's life. Just as a counselor would diagnose a substance use problem, the same criteria can be looked at when determining if a client's pornography viewing is problematic. A counselor may look at whether the client:

  1. spends more time viewing pornography or engaging in cybersex than they intended to on a regular basis?
  2. spends more money than they intended?

  3. wants to cut down but can't?

  4. has consistent impulses to view it, especially at inappropriate times (ex: work, family gatherings, etc.)?

  5. doesn't complete all of their daily tasks because of it?

  6. continues viewing despite it causing issues in their life and relationships (especially if pornography / cybersex begins replacing sexual activity with a committed partner)?

  7. misses out on important important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of it?

  8. continues to escalate the ''intensity'' and variations of what they view or engage in because they no longer achieve sexual gratification from what they used to view (for example, watching pornography that involves violence, fetishes, etc)?

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