Is Cyberporn Coming Between You?
Michael, 32, six years into a marriage gone stale, waits for his wife to turn in so he can turn on -- to women whose pictures litter the cyberporn sites he's bookmarked. He'll spend hours, he admits, drooling, and then some, over all manner of leggy girls. He imagines the gals talking to him and more. "It relaxes me," says Michael, of Sacramento, California. "I gotta have it. I gotta have them." His wife, he concedes, doesn't know.
Meanwhile, Bob, 39, a freelance writer in Boston, who works at home, grabs lunch, slides into a recliner, then logs in to a private chat room. Rushing to meet him, at her lawyer's desk in Baltimore, 360 miles away, is Sarah, 43, married with three kids. "Sorry for delay, hot guy," she purrs in her instant message. "All ready now. Time to play?" First in a flirtatious code all their own, then in graphic come-on language, they nurse each other's egos, then turn up the volume on their sexual fantasies. Strangers vowing they'll never meet, Bob and Sarah nonetheless make plans to hook up again: same place, same time, next week. Sooner, if necessary.
Regular guys and gals. Or are they? Harmless activity. Or is it? A sweet touch of spice to any love life. Or infidelity in a new guise?
At a minimum, participation in cyberporn is growing rapidly, with one-quarter of all Internet surfing devoted to porn, reports Nielsen/NetRatings. And porn represents the largest share of online e-commerce activity by far -- $1.7 billion in annual expenditures, more than eight times the spending on the next most popular category, games, research firm Data Monitor notes.
Think it's an all-male bastion? Consider this. In October 2003, 30 percent of porn surfers were women, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.
"We've never seen anything like this in history," says Debra Moore, a Sacramento, California, psychologist who treats people with addictive behaviors. "It's so accessible, so easy to come by. The barriers that existed to accessing porn in decades past are just gone."