This report looks into the online habits of men who are in serious relationships.
To answer the research statement: “Does online sexual activity have an impact on the committed relationships of men with depression, anxiety and/or high levels of stress?”, I created an online survey which was targeted at men over 18 years of age who are in committed relationships, frequent online sex sites and have or experience depression, anxiety or high levels of stress. The results from the survey have been collated and included in this report.
The term “sex sites” has been used throughout this report. These sites are not just pornographic sites, they are similar to social networking sites where individuals and couples can interact with other members and use to explore their sexuality as well as indulge in pornographic images in videos submitted onto the sites by amateur individuals and couples.
Gitlin (2008) and McLean (2008) both discuss a study undertaken by Marcus Squirrell who was a doctoral student at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne. The study looks at the link between depression and participation in cybersex.
The articles report that the participants of this study were predominantly men with an average age of 40 years and were well educated.
They engaged in compulsive Online Sexual Activities on average for over 12 hours per week and over a quarter have a high rate of depression, anxiety and stress.
It was found that the more time that was spent online, the more severe the depression was found to be.
A question was then posed by both Gitlin (2008) and McLean (2008) of whether men spent so much time on sex sites to feel better in terms of their moods (leading to a reliance on online sex) or whether they feel more depressed from spending so much time online and having limited contact with people socially.
Roden (2009) discusses the same study in relation to the significant relationships of participants and reports that over 50% of those engaging in online sexual activity state being married or in a committed relationship.
Roden (2009) then goes on to quote Squirrell who talks about how many people can benefit from exploring their sexuality in a safe way through online sex sites, however, there is a minority whose behaviour can become more compulsive and can affect other areas of their lives.
There was a sample size of 36 participants for this research project. All participants were men over 18 years of age who are in committed relationships, frequent online sex sites and have or experience depression, anxiety or high levels of stress.
All participants were recruited to take the survey through a thread I created in a forum on the Sex Forums website featuring a brief introduction and a link to the survey.
There were a number of partial and disqualified entries that were not used in the findings in this report.
There were ethical considerations for me to consider in relation to this research project.
The participants could have found themselves upset or disturbed about the extent of their compulsive internet activity or the effect it has had on their relationships or life as they go through the survey or find the actual questions themselves confronting.
To address this I made mention at the beginning of the survey that the survey contained questions of a sexual nature which some people may find sensitive and confronting. I then referred to the Online Sexual Activity & serious relationships thread (where the survey link was posted) letting people know that I had posted a list of links for anyone wanting to find out more information about where to get help for online sex addiction, depression and relationships issues.
The tool I used to undertake this project was an online survey which I created using Survey Gizmo. The survey included a range of questions which included open, closed and multiple choice.
All participants are males aged between 18 to 54 years of age with an average age of 34.5 years.
Over half of the participants live in the USA.
54% of participants are married and the remainder are in committed relationships.
Almost 90% of participants are currently in a long term relationship of 12 months or more.
All participants identified themselves as having issues of depression, anxiety and/or high stress levels.
Use of Sex Sites
Three quarters of participants stated that they have been using online sex sites for 12 months or more.
Almost 40% of respondents reported using sex sites on a daily basis.
Sex Sites and relationships
Almost half of the participants responded yes when asked whether they thought their partner would consider the use of Sex Sites as cheating.
Of those respondents, 88% reported that they hide their use of sex sites from their partner.
When asked to comment further on their response, many say their partners are more traditional and conservative therefore would not approve or understand of their reasons for using sex sites which they believe are harmless.
They hide their use to avoid hurting their partner and to avoid fights about their online sexual activity.
More than half of respondents say they have noticed a change in the frequency of sex with their partner since they started using Sex Sites stating that they now have less frequent sex.
A third of all participants reported an improvement in the quality of sex with their partner since using sex sites whilst 67% said that there was not much of a change.
Further comments explain that some couples have tried new things as a result of exploration on sex sites as well as receiving good advice on sexual issues they have had.
Some also report that hearing about other people’s experiences have opened up the partners mind and made them feel more confident.
Almost half of respondents report that there have been times where they have preferred to masturbate whilst engaging in online sexual activity than to be intimate with their partner.
The results from the survey show that online sexual activity does have an impact on the committed relationships of men with depression, anxiety and/or high levels of stress. The type of impact it has on individual participants varied widely ranging from a positive impact where sex sites have enhanced the sexual relationship with their partner through to a negative impact where they no longer have sex, there is a lack of communication and they rely on sex site to gratify their sexual needs as opposed to their partner.
The question still remains of whether online sexual activity creates a decline in the desire for a healthy sex life with their partners or whether men turn more toward the use of sex sites when the sex in their relationships reduce in frequency, quality and variety.
One thing is for certain, more research needs to be done in this area.
For the purpose of this study I have created the following definitions:
“Sex sites” refers to websites where people exchange erotic messages, participate in cybersex, view pornographic images and videos, read erotic stories and watch or participate in live webcam shows.
OSA = Online Sexual Activity, referring to the use of online sex sites (as described above)
Menstuff (Sydney Australia)
Professional Coaching, Counselling, Meditation & Workshops Concerning Men & Young Men
Sex help.com (American based site)
This site was created by noted psychologist and author, Dr. Patrick Carnes, to help those affected by sexual addiction and compulsivity, whether it be the addict or the friend or loved one of the addict.
Sex and Love Addicats Anonymous (Australia)
A JOINT INITIATIVE OF SYDNEY AND MELBOURNE INTERGROUPS
Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous is a Twelve Step, Twelve Tradition-oriented fellowship based on the model pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous.
Beyondblue provides information on depression, anxiety and related disorders, available treatments and referrals to relevant services.
Phone: 1300 22 4636
Relationship Help Online (Australia)
Online Counselling Service of Relationships Australia NSW
Family, couple or individual counselling can assist you through difficult times, or help you manage life's changes. You can talk to us.
Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous
NetDoctor.co.uk is a collaboration between committed doctors, health care professionals, information specialists and patients who believe that medical practice should be based on quality-assessed information and, wherever possible, on the basis of the principles of evidence-based medicine.
Features a sex and relationships section where you'll find tips for a fulfilling sex life plus advice on STDs, contraception and common sex problems.
Gitlin, J, (2008) Internet sex makes you sad, anxious? [online]. Available from: http://arstechnica.c...sad-anxious.ars [accessed August 4, 2011]
McLean, T, (2008) Cyber sex participants suffer depression [online]. Available from: http://news.theage.c...80926-4ob9.html [accessed August 4, 2011]
Roden, L, (2009) Infidelity rife in cybersex world [online]. Available from:
http://sexdoctor.in/...&id=15&Itemid=1 [accessed August 4, 2011]
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