Cybersex: Examples, Benefits, and Risks

Cybersex is a virtual sex encounter via the internet or cell phone that doesn’t involve person-to-person contact. It’s also known as internet sex, computer sex, netsex, or cybering.

Although the practice is frowned upon by some—due largely to society’s discomfort with sexuality in general—cybersex can be a positive way for people to enjoy and/or explore their sexuality in ways that don’t put them at risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or pregnancy.

It’s also an option when in-person sex needs to be put on hold, such as when a partner is sick, a couple lives in different states, or people are practicing social distancing (such as during the COVID-19 pandemic).

This article describes the different examples of cybersex. It also discusses the potential benefits and risks of engaging in virtual sex and the importance of discussing it with your partner.

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Cybersex Considerations and Risks

Cybersex isn’t one thing. Instead, the word describes a group of activities that has one crucial aspect in common—it takes place over the Internet or another electronic network. In other words, cybersex is fundamentally virtual and does not involve person-to-person physical contact.

Cybersex can be considered a form of safer sex. As interactions are taking place over a computer network, there’s no risk of transmitting an STI to a partner or risk of anyone becoming pregnant. However, cybersex is not entirely risk-free.

Cybersex and Privacy

People should be aware of the possible loss of privacy if materials they share on the internet are captured and passed on to others.

Similarly, anonymous cybersex also places you at risk of “sextortion” in which criminals entice you to click an external link that inadvertently downloads malware onto your laptop. The malware can access private files that the perpetrators threaten to release to your email contacts (which they’ve also captured) if you don’t pay up.

In short, it is better to know who you are having cybersex with and to only engage in cybersex on a secure platform.

Cybersex Examples

Cybersex activities can be an activity for one, two, or even more, and can be anything from sending a sexy message to exploring high-tech sex toys. Some examples include:

  • Sexting
  • Webcam sex
  • Online porn
  • Teledildonics
  • AR and VR sex


Sexting, or “sex texting,” involves sending sexually explicit or sexually suggestive messages, emojis, and images to a partner. Sexting can be used as a way to flirt when you’re apart, or even to get things flowing when you’re together.

When sexting, it is important to be aware of how and where your partner uses their phone. It’s one thing to send a teasing text message that may get inadvertently read by your partner’s coworker. It’s another thing entirely to send nude photos that could get your partner in trouble with their boss (or their roommates).

It’s also important to be aware of your own privacy when you sext. Sexting isn’t something you should do with someone you don’t trust implicitly. Remember, most phones allow individuals to capture and save screenshots of whatever is on the screen, in addition to just directly forwarding a message.

Therefore, think about whether you’d be OK with someone other than your partner seeing your sexts, as well as whether you trust your partner not to share them.

Webcam Sex

Webcam sex is exactly what it sounds like. Two—or more—people open up webcams and engage with each other sexually using communication tools such as FaceTime or Skype.

Webcam sex can be fun, it can be awkward, or it can be both. If you’re considering webcam sex with one or more partners, it can be helpful to set some boundaries and expectations in advance. such as asking:

  • How will you be private?
  • Should you each have sex toys?
  • Are there things that are off-limits or things that you particularly want to try?

There are as many ways to have webcam sex as there are to have in-person sex. As with in-person sex, it helps to be aware that the experience may be awkward the first (or fifth) time. It also helps to do a little planning in advance.

Figure out a way to set up your phone or camera so that you can be comfortable when you’re playing with your partner. You don’t want to knock your tablet off the dresser with your foot in the middle of an exciting moment.

Pornography and Erotica

Whether you’re solo or not, one way to engage in cybersex is through viewing or reading erotic content on the web. There are websites that provide erotic content suitable to just about anyone’s interests, whether those interests encompass explicit lesbian sex or romantic heterosexual erotica.

People think of pornography as something used solo, and many do use it this way. However, couples can also watch or read porn together in bed, or together at a distance. It can be a way to build sexual tension or generate fun new ideas.


The word teledildonics refers to the use of connected sex toys. For example, the category includes vibrators whose vibrations are controlled by the Internet or by app. The goal of teledildonics is to provide stimulation at a distance—a way to simulate the experience of a partner's touch.

While not the cheapest option for cybersex, they can be fun for people who have the resources to afford them.

Alternate Reality and Virtual Reality Sex

The grandfather of alternate reality relationships, and sex, is the online community Second Life. Second Life is a virtual world. Originally created in 2003, it has hundreds of thousands of monthly users living, working, and even having sex in their virtual environment. Second Life isn’t a quick fix for when you’re looking for an online love life, as the initial investment in time, skill, and sometimes money can be substantial.

However, some people have very fulfilling romances and sexual interactions in this 3-D virtual world. Virtual sex also allows people the opportunity to experiment with different avatars, genders, and forms of sexuality that wouldn’t be possible in the physical world, something that many consider to be a big plus.

There is a virtual reality interface for Second Life, but there are also makers of virtual reality porn. These range from 3-D videos to more immersive options that resemble video games.

It’s important to note that virtual reality options can be quite expensive, requiring the purchase of virtual reality systems or headsets if users do not have them already.

Negotiating Cybersex With a Partner

The way that you negotiate cybersex is going to be very different if you’re doing it with your spouse than if you’re planning to try it for a first, long-distance date. Things to think about ahead of trying cybersex for the first time in any relationship include:

  • What are you comfortable sharing and doing with your partner?
  • What kind of cybersex are you each interested in?
  • When do you have time and space to play?
  • Do you have limits or triggers that you want to make certain your partner respects?
  • What, if anything, do you need to practice or purchase in advance?
  • Do you have any concerns about maintaining your privacy?

The more clearly and explicitly you can talk about these things, the more likely that your cybersex encounter will be something you enjoy. Clear communication and setting of expectations also reduce the likelihood that either of you will do something you’ll regret.

Cybersex and the Law

Behavior that is deemed “lewd and lascivious” can be subject to criminal charges. Online, this type of behavior may include unwelcome sexual advances or sharing explicit content with someone who has not expressed an interest or agreed to receive it.

Charges and penalties for crimes depend on a number of factors including the jurisdiction where the act took place. Charges can range from misdemeanor computer-based sex crimes to felonies. If convicted, a person may be subject to fines, serve jail time, and need to register as a sex offender.

Minors and the Law

Many laws related to online sex crimes have been put in place to protect children and minors. Among them are laws against:

  • Distributing or possessing pornography that includes minors.
  • Soliciting minors for sexual activity.
  • Soliciting minors for explicit images.
  • Sending sexual images to minors.

Cybersex crimes involving minors and online solicitation of minors are serious violations and are frequently prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

While laws may vary from state to state, federal laws may apply even if you live in a state where your actions aren’t considered criminal.

Cybersex and Relationships

Cybersex can deteriorate real-life relationships, leading to dissatisfaction with current partners and encouraging offline affairs that lead to breakups or a loss of in-person intimacy.

For some people, cybersex can even turn into an addiction to pornography and affect other aspects of their daily life. This includes engaging in risky sexual behaviors in real life, experiencing feelings of shame or low self-esteem, or using porn to distract from difficult emotions.

A Word From Verywell

For some, cybersex is a safe and satisfying way to connect to others. However, be aware that there are legal restrictions on some actions and some drawbacks, especially if you engage in frequent cybersex.

Also, you should not use any equipment (phones, computers) or accounts (Zoom, Skype, email) that are owned or managed by an employer. Depending on your company's rules, your activities may be monitored. Use of work equipment or accounts for personal business may also violate your employer's policies, which could put your job at risk.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Liberati N. Teledildonics and new ways of "being in touch": a phenomenological analysis of the use of haptic devices for intimate relations. Sci Eng Ethics. 2016;23:801-23. doi:10.1007/s11948-016-9827-5

  3. Washington Post. Remember Second Life? That could be Facebook’s future.

  4. Department of Justice. Citizen's guide to U.S. federal law on child pornography.

  5. Department of Justice. Citizen's guide to U.S. federal law on obscenity.

  6. De Alarcon R, de la Iglesia JI, Casado NM, Montejo AL. Online porn addiction: what we know and what we don’t—systematic review. J Clin Med. 2019;8(1):91. doi:10.3390/jcm8010091

Additional Reading

By Elizabeth Boskey, PhD
Elizabeth Boskey, PhD, MPH, CHES, is a social worker, adjunct lecturer, and expert writer in the field of sexually transmitted diseases.