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Cybersex, also called computer sex, Internet sex, netsex, mudsex, TinySex and, colloquially, cybering or conversex is a virtual sex encounter in which two or more people connected remotely via computer network send each other sexually explicit messages describing a sexual experience. In one form, this fantasy sex is accomplished by the participants describing their actions and responding to their chat partners in a mostly written form designed to stimulate their own sexual feelings and fantasies.
Cybersex sometimes includes real life masturbation. The quality of a cybersex encounter typically depends upon the participants' abilities to evoke a vivid, visceral mental picture in the minds of their partners. Imagination and suspension of disbelief are also critically important. Cybersex can occur either within the context of existing or intimate relationships, e.g. among lovers who are geographically separated, or among individuals who have no prior knowledge of one another and meet in virtual spaces or cyberspaces and may even remain anonymous to one another. In some contexts cybersex is enhanced by the use of a webcam to transmit real-time video of the partners.
Channels used to initiate cybersex are not necessarily exclusively devoted to that subject, and participants in any Internet chat may suddenly receive a message with any possible variation of the text "Wanna cyber?", "Wanna cam?" or a request for "C2C"/"C4C" ("cam to cam" and "cam for cam", respectively).
Cybersex is commonly performed in Internet chat rooms (such as IRC, talkers or web chats) and on instant messaging systems. It can also be performed using webcams, voice chat systems like Skype, or online games and/or virtual worlds like Second Life. The exact definition of cybersex—specifically, whether real-life masturbation must be taking place for the online sex act to count as cybersex—is up for debate. It is also fairly frequent in online role-playing games, such as MUDs and MMORPGs, though approval of this activity varies greatly from game to game. Some online social games like Red Light Center are dedicated to cybersex and other adult behaviors. These online games are often called AMMORPGs. In other games of the wider MMORPG genre, it ranges from widely accepted to the point of game masters/moderators taking part, such as in Final Fantasy Online, to moderated based on player reports, as in World of Warcraft, to grounds for a suspension from play or a permanent banishment, as in EVE Online and Anarchy Online.
Cybersex may also be accomplished through the use of avatars in a multiuser software environment. It is often called mudsex or netsex in MUDs. In TinyMUD variants, particularly MUCKs, the term TinySex (TS) is very common.
Though text-based cybersex has been in practice for decades, the increased popularity of webcams has raised the number of online partners using two-way video connections to "expose" themselves to each other online—giving the act of cybersex a more visual aspect. There are a number of popular, commercial webcam websites that allow people to openly masturbate on camera while others watch them. Using similar sites, couples can also perform on camera for the enjoyment of others.
Cybersex differs from phone sex in that it offers a greater degree of anonymity and allows participants to meet partners more easily. A good deal of cybersex takes place between partners who have just met online. Unlike phone sex, cybersex in chat rooms is rarely commercial. In online worlds like Second Life and via webcam-focused chat services, however, Internet sex workers engage in cybersex in exchange for both virtual and real-life currency.
"I love you, too."~ *I lick slowly up the base of your neck. Nipping at your ear gently, my lips curl into a gentle smirk.*—An example of typical cybersex
Cybersex can be utilised to write co-written original fiction and fanfiction by role-playing in third person, in forums or communities usually known by the name of 'A Shared Dream'. It can also be used to gain experience for solo writers who want to write more realistic sex scenes, by exchanging ideas.
One approach to cybering is a simulation of "real" sex, when participants try to make the experience as close to real life as possible, with participants taking turns writing descriptive, sexually explicit passages. Alternatively, it can be considered a form of sexual roleplay that allows the participants to experience unusual sexual sensations and carry out sexual experiments they cannot try in reality. Amongst "serious" roleplayers, cybering may occur as part of a larger plot–the characters involved may be lovers or spouses. In situations like this, the people typing often consider themselves separate entities from the "people" engaging in the sexual acts, much as the author of a novel often does not completely identify with his or her characters. Due to this difference, such roleplayers typically prefer the term "erotic roleplay" rather than cybersex to describe it. In "real cybering" personas often remain in character throughout the entire life of the contact, to include evolving into phone sex, and meatspace encounters while in character, as a form of improvisation, or, nearly, a performance art. Often these personas develop complex past histories for their characters to make the fantasy/roleplay even more life like, thus the evolution of the term "real cybering".
Cybersex provides various advantages:
Cybersex is often criticized because the partners frequently have little verifiable knowledge about each other. However, since for many the primary point of cybersex is the plausible simulation of sexual activity, this knowledge is not always desired or necessary, and may actually be desirable.
Privacy concerns are a difficulty with cybersex, since participants may log or record the interaction without the other's knowledge, and possibly disclose it to others or the public.
There is disagreement over whether cybersex is a form of infidelity. While it does not involve physical contact, critics claim that the powerful emotions involved can cause marital stress, especially when cybersex culminates in an Internet romance. In several known cases, Internet adultery became the grounds for which a couple divorced. Therapists report a growing number of patients addicted to this activity, a form of both Internet addiction and sexual addiction, with the standard problems associated with addictive behavior.