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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Notably, much of this research has focused on the small minority of men who compulsively engage in online sexual activities OSA , overlooking the majority of men and women who use OSA recreationally either individually or with a partner. Generally, qualitative mirrored quantitative ones. Additionally, qualitative data suggested that moderate or light amounts of OSA yield relationship benefits for both female and male users, including increases in the quality and frequency of sex, and increased intimacy with real partners.

In addition, men who used the Internet moderately, and men and women who reported being light users, stated that engaging in tandem OSA fostered better sexual communication with partners. Findings underscore the need to explore further the impact that online sexual activities can have on real-life committed relationships. As of , there were 4. These s imply that, at least in the United States, use of Internet-based adult erotica has become mainstream. While these studies have focused on compulsive rather than casual users, researchers have not reported adverse effects on those who use the Internet for OSA on a more occasional basis Cooper, Putnam et al.

A few studies have investigated female partners of compulsive users. In addition to feeling objectified, Schneider , found that the female ificant others reported feeling hurt, betrayed, and mistrustful of their pornography-using partners. Still unknown, however, is the extent to which these findings hold true for casual users of Internet erotica. Bridges et al. Recruited from message boards on which women discussed their relationships, the female participants answered 50 items on the Pornography Distress Scale, 27 of which were positive statements. Overall, Bridgesetal. Although Bridges et al.

In other words, although their study was based on a small convenience sample, Bridges et al. Finally, with few exceptions e. Furthermore, analyses have concentrated on negative effects, and, as stated, have been overshadowed by a narrow focus on the minority of users who engage in compulsive OSA.

To our knowledge, no research has empirically examined individuals who engage in OSA in conjunction with their partner. Visitors to each site were presented with a banner that linked them to the survey. All participants were provided with an opportunity to view the privacy agreement, and asked for their birth year; those under age 18 were dismissed as under-age to participate.

About twice the of participants clicked the banner as chose to finish the actual item survey, which took between 10 and 15 min to complete, and for which participants were provided no incentive. In total, 15, individuals completed the survey To prevent individuals from responding to the survey multiple times, a computer program prevented multiple responses from any given computer.

All findings reported in this study were based on secondary analyses of the anonymous data from this survey. The survey was built with skip patterns and follow-up questions; thus, the valid N changed based on the specific question being analyzed e. Insofar as our analyses were specifically focused on understanding how Internet sexuality impacted committed relationships, most analyses were drawn from self-identified heterosexuals who were 1 married or in a committed relationship, and 2 who had used the Internet for sexual purposes i.

In total, 8, heterosexual participants in committed relationships met criteria for sample inclusion for either having used the Internet for OSA themselves, or by indicating that their partners had. We elected to exclude data from gay, lesbian, and bisexual GLB participants for two reasons.

Participants provided information on demographic characteristics, including their gender, age, education high school or less, some college or associate degree, college graduate, graduate degree , marital status never married, formerly married, married , and length of time with current partner under 6 months, 6 months to 2 years, 3—6 years, 7—10 years, over 10 years.

Data on race and ethnicity were not collected. As indicated, only participants in a committed relationship were selected for these analyses. Participants indicated how much time in a typical week they spent on sex-related activities online response reported in Table 1. Finally, participants were given an open-ended opportunity to provide additional narrative data at the end of the survey. In total, 2, participants A similar proportion In addition, we conducted a series of logistic regressions to predict the aforementioned impacts of OSA dependent variables and report adjusted odds ratios comparing women to men referent group.

Models adjusted for the effects of age, education, and length of time in current relationship with partner. The remaining Group themes were then compared across gender clusters. For the sample selected in these analyses, Mean age for men was In addition, the sample was overall well-educated, with a majority having completed college. A majority of participants were married, with men Relationship length was fairly stable, with a majority of participants having been with their current partner for three years or greater, though men Finally, only Only 1.

For example, only 2. Confidence intervals and adjusted and unadjusted odds ratios are reported in Table 3. Regarding positive impact, men were ificantly more likely than women to indicate they had sex more often Also of interest was the lack of gender differences on some variables, whereby sizeable proportions of men There were, however, several gender differences when reporting negative impact. Women were ificantly more likely than men to report having sex less often However, a majority of participants ificantly more so among men, Finally, the magnitude of odds ratios and levels of ificance remained similar when using multivariate modeling.

Unsurprisingly, viewing adult websites with a partner in order to enhance sexual arousal was positively associated with positive consequences and inversely associated with negative consequences. There were no ificant differences between those who had used adult websites with a partner in order to enhance sexual arousal and those who did not in whether they felt pressure to perform sexual acts that their partner saw online. Patterns that emerged from the qualitative data generally mirrored our quantitative findings. Both men and women who identified as light or moderate users of OSA credited their online sexual activities with subsequent increases in the quality and frequency of sex with their real life partners.

Further, participants, particularly those who used OSA moderately and especially light users, stated that their individual use of OSA improved their relationships because it enhanced their sense of intimacy with their partners. And we have more sex than we have had in years. Additionally, some participants articulated the benefits of engaging in online sexuality with their partners.

In particular, men who used the Internet moderately and men and women who identified as light users stated that tandem use of online sexual activities fostered increased honesty, openness, and sexual communication with their partners, resulting in both heightened sexual satisfaction and closer relationships. Collectively, these could be referred to as sexual and relational intimacy. Further, some men who identified as light or moderate OSA users framed adult websites as fulfilling an educational function which subsequently expanded their sexual options.

It sure has made sex easier to discuss, and yes, we have tried to emulate some of what we saw. Additionally, women who identified as moderate or light users indicated that online sexual exploration, alone or with their partners, had normalized their desires and ultimately improved their relationships. Female users who were lightly engaged with OSA also reported an increased sense of self-esteem or improved body image since venturing online.

I thought it was very exciting and we shared a lot of sexual experiences. Our sex life became nonexistent; he was unable to become aroused by me. Some female participants, even those who actively engaged in online sexual activities, indicated that when their male partners attempted to emulate the images they viewed on adult websites, new problems were introduced into their relationships.

Further, some men in each usage category conceded that their sexual energy, formerly reserved for their partners, had now been siphoned off either partially or completely by online sexual activities. This makes me feel bad and guilty. This year-old married woman who did not use OSA stated:. Female participants whose narratives were the most positive about the effects of OSA on their relationships were those who actively engaged with OSA themselves, either on their own or in tandem with their partners.

For the most part, where men acknowledged the negative impact of OSA on their relationships, it was their own online engagements to which they referred. However, as the following narrative illustrates, other men persisted in using OSA, either overtly or covertly, despite the distress it caused their female partners. The increase in Internet use across the United States has been accompanied by a corresponding increase in engagement with online sexuality.

Although a wide variety of adult websites have been developed and are utilized every day by millions across the globe Ropelato, , there has been little empirical research evaluating the ways in which online adult websites and cybersex have impacted people in committed relationships.

Addressing this limitation, qualitative and quantitative data from a national online survey in the U. Some limitations should be noted. First, our sample was not probability based, and the survey did not gather information on race and ethnicity. Given that, the broad-based appeal of msnbc.

Second, to increase participation rates, the mass media survey was necessarily short and relied on single-item measures of key variables. Because our project was based on secondary analyses of the resulting data set, several of the items had less than ideal wording and this limits the interpretations of the . Although participants were given an opportunity to provide more information in a qualitative format at the end of the survey, the quantitative-focused format of the survey may have censored the complete range of possible responses.

Further, because only a portion of participants volunteered to respond to the open-ended question at the end of the survey, their narratives may not be fully representative of the experiences of the larger sample. Given that men endorsed the relational benefits of OSA more strongly than women, the question of perception arises: are some of the same men who think OSA is beneficial married to women who blame OSA for ruining their marriages?

Future research in which both members of a couple contribute data would facilitate greater understanding of how discrepancies in perception of Internet sexuality may affect relationships. In light of these limitations, our approach had multiple strengths and noteworthy findings. The large sample size increased statistical power in our ability to analyze relatively rare occurrences e. In addition, this analysis took a multiple-method approach whereby quantitative findings were mirrored and supported with qualitative insight, and vice versa. Such an approach provides an ideal opportunity for well-informed empirical analyses.

Clearly, these divergent findings warrant further investigation. Of particular interest, and unfortunately not available to these analysis, would be comprehensive information on the content of adult materials participants were viewing online. Certainly, most adult online websites are geared toward heterosexual men; a large proportion of these websites may include material that most women may find objectifying and demeaning; hence this was a probable driving force in the gender differences observed in these analyses.

By engaging with adult websites and other online venues, partners may defuse some of the discomfort that even couples who have been together for a long time occasionally experience when trying to articulate their sexual desires. The sexual variety depicted online provided couples with a reference and a means of normalizing their fantasies. It may be that sexual use of the Internet enhances intimacy for couples who are already relatively well-synchronized in their sexual tastes and willingness to experiment.

Overall, the high accessibility of online sexual venues challenged committed couples to redefine the acceptable limits of fantasy and the meaning of monogamy. Like other arenas in which couples must negotiate trust and boundaries, OSA holds the potential for disagreements that may ultimately endanger the relationship. In conclusion, our findings highlight both positive and negative consequences from OSA on committed relationships. Nonetheless, OSA seemed to serve as an arena for personal growth and for sexual relationship enhancement.

With the exception of compulsive users, the concern that cybersex would be preferred to real life intimacy was not supported by these data. Finally, we believe this is the largest dataset to report on individuals who used OSA in tandem with their partners. Janet Lever, the senior research consultant to ELLE on this project, acknowledges Cynthia Cobaugh and Alex Postman for their assistance in survey construction, and also thanks Carol Edwards, who helped create the database.

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Eastern and Midcontinent Regional Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Arch Sex Behav.

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