Hands-Free but Not Risk-Free: The Dangers of Cyber Sex
When you’re in a long-distance relationship, you might not think you have any sexual health concerns to consider. Even if you’re sexting or having phone sex or online sex (also known as virtual sex or cyber sex) your wellness isn’t at risk of the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from your partner, not can you pass STIs on to them. Nonetheless, virtual sex does pose certain risks to your wellbeing, so if you’re engaging in virtual sex – or thinking of trying it – there are some things you need to know.
During virtual sex, you exchange dirty talk or send explicit pictures or videos to someone else via phone calls, text messages, internet chat rooms, email, instant messaging or online video chat (such as Skype or facetime). This may be with your regular partner or someone new that you have met online. Virtual sex can involve just talking or flirting, or partners can masturbate while the sexy stuff is going on. The two important factors in good cyber sex are communication and imagination. You need to paint a picture in your partner’s mind and respond in a sexy way to the things they send to you.
Although there’s no risk of sexually transmitted infections, there are other risks from virtual sex you need to consider. It is easy to record phone conversations, or make sexy chat, pictures or video public. If you are having virtual sex with someone you don’t know, or there’s a risk that, if things go south, your partner might want to hurt you or take revenge in some way, you need to be aware that you’re giving another person a weapon against you. Not only could this be highly embarrassing, but having photos, videos or sexy conversations out in the public could impact on your job and other relationships, and even lead to cyber-bullying. Once you put that stuff out there, you have no idea whose hands it could end up in. In fact, the Internet Watch Foundation recently found that up to 88% of self-generated images were lifted from their original location and made public across a number of different sites without the permission or awareness of the image owner.
The risks of virtual sex aren’t limited to the possibility of other people seeing what you do; there are also emotional impacts to consider. If you have virtual sex with someone other that your regular partner, you may justify it by saying that, if you’re not actually having sex with someone, it’s not really cheating. However, having virtual sex with someone else can have just as much of an emotional impact on your relationship as physical intimacy can. You may feel guilty about engaging in something so intimate with another person, and your partner will still feel hurt and betrayed when he or she finds out.
If you meet someone online for a “no ties” session of virtual sex, you need to be aware that he or she is still a real person, and could track you down in your real life. You can’t fully judge a person over the internet, which means they could turn out to be nasty or not be who you thought they were. Another risk of having virtual sex with someone you don’t know is that they could be lying about their age. While it’s perfectly legal to have virtual sex with a consenting adult, if you have sexual images sent to you by, or of, someone under 16 you could be classed as having child pornography. If you then send these photos on, you could be guilty of distributing child pornography. It is also an offence to send sexual images of yourself to someone under 16, and you could end up in prison or on the sex offenders register.