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The unlimited access to sexual features in the World Wide Web has raised concerns about excessive and problematic online-sex use. However, little is known about antecedents of internet-sex use of different intensity. Based on a representative German sample of 2, participants between the ages of 14 and 97 years, the aims of the present study were 1 to determine the prevalence rates of online-sex users with the short version ISST GSV of the Internet Sex Screening Test and 2 to associate online-sex use with anxious vs.
Overall, In multivariate analysis, online-sex use was ificantly positively associated with male sex, younger age, unemployment and an anxious partner attachment pattern and negatively with conscientiousness and agreeableness.
Arousal and satisfaction by virtual enactment of sexual phantasies may be attractive for anxiously attached persons who find it difficult to commit to a real life relationship due to fear of rejection or low self-esteem. More knowledge about the individual antecedents of intensive online-sex use may also be helpful for the development of consultation and treatment strategies for excessive and addictive online-sex use. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Data Availability: All relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information file. Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. The internet offers an almost unlimited variety of sexual materials, commodities, activities and information serving all sexual orientations. All kinds of pornography can be viewed, downloaded or collected, ing for the most widespread form of cybersex which has found increasing acceptance in the general population. These and multiple other interactive online options like sexual messaging, chats, dating, engaging in sexual activities on webcam, etc.
Of particular concern has been the instantaneous gratification offered by the internet which may for rapid conditioning of online addictive behaviour [ 3 ; 4 ]. Complementary and infrequent users of solitary or partnered online sexual arousing material have described a positive, albeit small impact on their sex life and life in general [ 5 ]. Already in , Young [ 7 ] has proposed online-sex addiction as a subcategory of internet addiction, along with online-gaming and gambling, etc. However, online-gaming has become the only kind of internet addiction with a sufficient data base to be specified in the DSM To date, a consistent definition of online-sex addiction is still lacking and its conceptualization has remained controversial [ 8 ; 9 ].
Similar to other types of online addiction, additional criteria include tolerance requiring an increasing amount or intensity of sexual behaviour , withdrawal, loss of control, mood regulation by online sexual activity and its persistent use despite negative repercussions. Online-sex use is mostly accompanied by masturbation.
Indeed, excessive sexual activities on the internet have been associated with manifold negative consequences like decreasing partnership quality, vocational achievement, personal distress and high rates of comorbid mental disorders see for a review [ 10 ]. Studies showed associations between higher online pornography consumption and low self-esteem as well as depressive symptoms [ 11 ; 12 ; 13 ].
Moreover, problematic use of online-sex can take a downward course, facilitating deviant behaviour like watching or downloading illegal, e. Prevalence rates of internet-sex addiction are still unclear [ 6 ]. epidemiologic studies have not provided reliable prevalence data on cybersex addiction, since most have been carried out on the Internet, based on English-speaking populations. While the majority of these users were male, cybersex use, however, has recently also been observed and studied in females [ 4 ].
Explanation models for a higher prevalence in men are scarce. One assumption is that women generally find mainstream pornography less arousing than men; since men generally begin masturbating at an earlier age, they may use pornography more intensively than women [ 17 ].
Delmonico and Miller [ 19 ] reported the data of 14, persons who had completed the questionnaire online. Although higher scores may indicate problematic online sexual behaviour, it is important to bear in mind, that there is no valid cut-off score. Other more recent questionnaires have assessed different constructs. As a measure of excessive sexual behaviour, the Hypersexual Behavior Inventory [ 20 ] assesses the dimensions of loss of control, coping and consequences.
Specifically for assessing cybersex, the internet addiction test was modified as a 12 item version [ 3 ]. Little is known about antecedents of various sexual online activities. As we could show in a representative population survey of German internet users [ 22 ], men reported online-sex use four times more often The IPACE Interaction of Person-Affect-Cognition-Execution model [ 23 ] recently proposed that personality, social cognition, psychopathology and bio-psychological constitution interact with specific motives for using certain internet applications which may evolve into a specific internet use disorder over a series of steps.
With regard to online hypersexual behaviour, internet-related cognitive biases are of crucial importance for the maintenance of the disorder [ 23 ]. Findings regarding personality dispositions, e. While one study found an association between sensation seeking and sexual exposure in adolescents [ 25 ], the other did not find an association [ 26 ].
Attachment patterns are known to have a pervasive impact on the quality of intimate and sexual relationships [ 27 ]. Kor et al. Therefore the aims of the present article were 1 to identify the prevalence rates of online-sex use in the German population by a short version of the translated ISST [ 18 ] and 2 to determine the associations of the intensity of internet-sex use none endorsed, occasional, intensive to basic dimensions of anxious vs. We hypothesized that 1 participants with an avoidant or a fearful-clinging attachment use internet-sex offers more intensively.
The present study is based on a representative survey of the German population as confirmed by ADM-sample. The research institute follows the general German guidelines for the assessment of minors e. Arbeitskreis Deutscher Markt- und Sozialforschungsinstitute e. All participants were notified orally of the research background of the study, the voluntary nature and the right of a revocation of their own participation at any time. In addition to an accompanying official letter from the client about the research project, a data privacy statement was passed which assured the strict confidentiality of all information in the questionnaire and informed exactly about the handling of personal data.
Thus, it was warranted that the address determined had only been detected for the allocation of the data set during the oral on-site survey and possibly a subsequent verification of the correct implementation for quality assurance of the data.
The majority Households and target persons living in the households were selected by random-route procedure. Participants were interrogated by face-to-face-interviews by trained interviewers in their homes and independently filled out additional questionnaires in the presence of the interviewer. No incentives were offered for study participation.
All subjects gave written informed consent and filled in several questionnaires. The procedure was approved by the ethics committee of the University of Leipzig. Fifty-nine percent of the initial sample 4, households were interviewed. This quota matches other representative population samples. The mean age was A total of 4. Fifty-seven percent lived in a partnership, and Eighty-one percent had less than high-school education.
The full or part-time employment rate was More than half of the monthly household incomes were between and 2, Euro. The capacity for insight in adolescents in the age group 14—17 years may be generally assumed. In Germany no separate parental consent is required for participation in this age group. If no legal representative is present at the survey of young people, the information sheet about data protection must be handed out.
Any selected target person receives the data protection statement, as this is necessary to fulfil the informed consent regulation. As we could only include few items into our survey, we selected one item per scale and two items for sexual compulsivity. As the factor loadings were reported in the Spanish validation study by Arnal [ 28 ], we selected the items from the Spanish trial.
Items were translated independently from English to German and back except for the two single scale items which were not reported in the English version in full wording and which were therefore translated back and forth from the Spanish version. In order to measure attachment we used the German adaptation of the Experiences in Close Relationships Questionnaire [ 29 ; 30 ], a measure of self-assessed partner attachment. Avoidant partner attachment is characterized by a lack of romantic love and low relationship success whereas anxious partner attachment is described by possessive love, fear of loss and low self-esteem [ 30 ].
Mean retest reliability was. Subjects answered on the same scales as on the PHQ We defined three groups of internet-sex users according to the arithmetic mean of positive answers i. The third group endorsed no item. Additionally, a principal component analysis was performed to corroborate the single factor structure of the scale. The Scree test revealed one main component, explaining The range of the factor loadings was. The discriminatory power of the single items ranged between. In order to investigate the association of intensive online-sex use with demographic and mental health characteristics, Chi 2 -tests for categorical data were performed.
With regard to the link of online-sex use with personality variables, bivariate correlation analyses Pearson were performed. Bonferroni correction was calculated to address the problem of multiple comparisons. With correction for seven comparisons, the critical alpha level is set at. Finally, we ran a forward hierarchical stepwise multiple linear regression using the enter method defining the sum score of the ISST GSV as outcome variable in order to identify relevant predictors of intensive online-sex use.
The first block included gender, age, marital status, partnership and unemployment as independent variables, the second block comprised the Big Five personality traits as well as anxious and avoidant attachment. A total of Table 1 compares the group with no item endorsed to occasional and intensive users. Intensive online-sex users were ificantly younger than those endorsing no item and occasional users. The frequency of intensive online-sex use was more than six times higher among males than among females; the majority of intensive users were either single or unmarried.
Intensive online-sex users were more often unemployed. No differences were found regarding residency in Eastern or Western Germany, urban or rural areas and education. As Fig 1 shows, men scored ificantly higher on every item; intensive use was also more frequent in men.
Men showed the same order of preferences as women. Fig 2 shows the associations of different intensities of online-sex use no item endorsed, Consistent with our predictions, the intensity of internet-sex use increased highly ificantly with the degree of anxious attachment. There was only a statistical trend to higher avoidant attachment among intensive users. Also in line with our hypotheses, intensity of internet-sex use increased ificantly with extraversion, and decreased with agreeableness and conscientiousness.
Openness was lower in intensive and higher in occasional users compared to non-users. There was no association of intensity of internet-sex use with neuroticism. We then tested, whether attachment and personality were predictive of internet-sex use in addition to demographic variables. Men, younger and unemployed participants were more likely to use the internet for sexual purposes. When entering the second block of predictors consisting of personality traits, these demographic predictors remained statistically ificant.
S1 Table Suplementary Table shows bivariate correlation analyses Pearson of online-sex use, partner attachment and personality variables. In this large and representative paper and pencil survey of problematic online-sex use in the community, a total of In order to define intensive online-sex use, we used a conservative cut-off score two standard deviations above the mean and found that a total of 4. This rate was lower compared to online studies on excessive use, which may have recruited selected samples of internet users.
Intensive online-sex use was defined by the endorsement of three or more items. Specific online-sex behaviours differed in frequency. Other less frequently endorsed items indicated a growing involvement with online-sex behaviour. In line with a recent survey showing more pornography use and masturbation in men compared to women, men reported a much higher rate of online-sex use than women. The reasons for the phenomenon are still to be investigated. Findings on sexual arousal suggested that women tended to be more focused on verbal stimulation [ 37 ] and preferred online-sex as mutual exchange to explicit sexual images and thus tended to engage in sexually oriented chats [ 15 , 38 — 40 ].
Men seemed to be more visually oriented [ 36 ] surfing the World Wide Web more frequently for new pictures and video clips [ 14 , 37 ]. In univariate analyses, the prevalence of participants with intensive online-sex use increased with each decade until the age span between 35 and 44 years. The association of intensive online-sex use to anxious partner attachment is an interesting finding. The internet provides unlimited opportunities for enacting all kinds of phantasies in a virtual world, experiencing sexual arousal and satisfaction e. This may be highly attractive for insecurely attached individuals, especially when they find it difficult to commit to a real-life relationship due to fear of rejection or low self-esteem.
For anxiously attached participants living in a partnership, online-sex use may provide a compensatory function, boosting self-esteem in a self-governed world of virtual sexual arousal parallel to an offline relationship which may rather induce fears of dependence, rejection or loss. It is not clear, why avoidant attachment is only marginally associated with online-sex use, unlike the findings of Kor [ 21 ]. As in the study [ 30 ], individuals rating themselves as avoidant were less likely to have a partnership.
Those individuals may be less interested in sexuality and intimacy due to fear of rejection. As we had expected, online-sex use increased with extraversion, and it decreased with agreeableness and conscientiousness; neuroticism was not associated. Openness was comparatively low in intensive users, but highest in occasional users.Cyber sex Richardson
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Richardson and Clark: Sexual Offences A Practitioner's Guide