The internet has been a wonderful addition to our culture in both defining and steering how we interact with one another. During the past 10 years we have seen a marked increase in “social” sites such as facebook, myspace, twitter, blogs, youtube, and the like. These avenues of societal engagement have now become a norm for our culture. We post our lunch plans, bad dates, rants, raves, and other personal information for anyone to see. This has broken down many psychological and emotional barriers for those who use these sites. These barriers are broken down and replaced with the virtual barrier the internet easily provides. Subconsciously, we might say to ourselves, “I am far removed from rejection, reprisal, and criticism.” Interestingly, the possibility of rejection and criticism are still there but are experienced at a more distant and manageable location for most.
So what does all this mean for the sexaholic, sex addict, or hypersexual individual? We could show how the internet has provided an easy means for many to stumble in every area of sex addiction but for the sake of clarity, we will stick to the topic exhibitionism.
Let’s begin by defining exhibitionism in concordance with the text revision of the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (American Psychiatric Association [DSM-IV-TR], 2000).
Exhibitionism is broken into two criteria:
A. Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges,or behaviors involving the exposure of one’s genitals to an unsuspecting stranger.
B. The person has acted on these sexual urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.
Within this diagnostic criteria, I can hear the questions begin to arise. How does this relate to the internet? How does it interact with social media? These questions are valid within the tradition use of the aforementioned social media sites, however, there are websites that appear to be just as benign but provide a relatively safe venue for the exhibitionist. If you have continued to read this post thus far, you may already be aware of these websites. Omegel, chatroulette, and hey-people are just a fraction of the websites that strangers can video chat with other strangers and as one of the name suggests, you get who you get, there is no choice. These are the websites that provide a safe haven for the exhibitionist. Before the advent of the internet, exhibitionists were forced to show themselves in public to unsuspecting strangers and in doing so risked being arrested. Now, one can expose himself at home alone on a webcam for anyone who happens to connect to his cam. The risk of legal action has now been removed because of the virtual barrier I mentioned. What is even more startling is the fact that many of the participants in the video cam sites are underage. Now we have added a new dimension to the sexually compulsive disorder of exhibitionism. Empirical data suggests that the traditional exhibitionist can be divided by the audience he seeks to expose himself to. Specifically, adults or children. Unfortunately these data are restricted to traditional public exposure cases and do not include any internet interaction.
This should be alarming to many, even to those who engage in this behavior because it is crossing and compounding lines of diagnoses. The exhibitionists who once discriminated in the selection of his audience, now, with little exception, exposes himself to male and female regardless of age. This virtual barrier is opening up levels of excitement that where restricted before thereby creating more complex issues for the hypersexual individual. This type of exhibitionism is not only revealing levels of compulsive behavior but gender identity issues as well. If this is true, the levels of guilt associated with this particular sex act and the resulting shame may be worse for these individuals. A study conducted by Langstrom and Seto (2006) suggests that:
“exhibitionism was positively associated with being male and having more psychological problems, lower satisfaction with life, greater alcohol and drug use, and greater sexual interest and activity ingeneral, including more sexual partners, greater sexual arousability,higher frequency of masturbation and pornography use, and greater likelihood of having had a same-sex sexual partner. Consistent with previous research from clinical samples of men with paraphilias, participants who reported any lifetime exhibitionistic behavior had substantially greater odds of reporting other atypical sexual behavior, voyeuristic, sadomasochistic, or cross-dressing behavior.”
What does all this mean for the the individual who finds him or herself sitting in front of webcam for hours every night?
This article makes no attempt to establish any psychological diagnosis, but rather to bring to light yet another issue that the sex addict may need to face and deal with. This article uncovers just a fraction of the psychological implications that this emerging method of exhibitionism may have tied to it and how these internet sites are enabling the addict to act out his/her fantasies.
This is what I say, “If you find that this may be you then seek help and do so before you ruin your life or damage the life of another.”
As always I can be reached at email@example.com or visit our website at www.wesleychapelsa.com
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (Revised 4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Langstrom, N., & Seto, M. C. (2006). Exhibitionistic and voyeuristic behavior in a Swedish national population survey. Archives of SexualBehavior, 35, 427–435.