When the internet became available, millions of people now had access to information that they normally would not have. They could explore all sorts of sexual content online and become involved in virtual relationships. There were chat rooms, videos and instant messaging one could participate in, just to name a few. All of a sudden, people were coming into contact with sexual subcultures, new ideas and behaviours that they had never heard about or never had access to.

For many folks the internet has provided a plethora of sexual information that has helped them learn and diversify their range of sexual abilities and experiences. It can be used as a tool to explore your sexuality and see what turns you on – what sort of stories, language or images. Using the internet as a tool for self-discovery can be particularly helpful as a shortcut in
identifying our sexual desires. Many of us are private or secretive about our fantasies or may be even ashamed of them. The internet can serve as a nonthreatening way to explore them without the risk of feeling exposed. We can test the waters and be as open as we choose, while still remaining anonymous.

For people in relationships, seeing pornography on the internet can help them to be more creative in their sex life. They may bring some of the ideas back to the relationship, or show their partner a sex scene and suggest that they try it themselves. Some couples find that watching pornography together helps to increase eroticism. It can be a turn on to see sexual images and integrate that into a sexual session. Finding the sexual content that feels comfortable and erotic for both partners is very important. What might be a turn-on for one person, may be a turn-off for another. Have a discussion about what you’d like to share and check to see if your partner is open to it. There are a variety of sites with content that ranges from “vanilla sex” to specific kinks, along with female-focused porn, just to name a few. See if something can be arousing to both of you.

Conversely, there can be ways in which online sexual content is not used in a healthy way. For example, the enjoyable release from emotional or physical stress that the internet can provide, may be a ‘self-soothing’ substitute for more productive methods of coping. Also, some folks see airbrushed images or unrealistic versions of bodies on the internet and believe that they don’t measure up. Seeing this repeatedly can lead to feelings of shame and may lead to a lack of self-confidence. It’s important to recognise that in porn videos there is professional lighting, editing and a script. These people are actors and not showing the real world experience of what it’s like being with a real partner. Keeping this in one’s awareness is key to maintaining perspective.

Some folks also have concerns that they have an unhealthy relationship with pornography or chat rooms. They may say that they are spending money that they don’t have, they are choosing to watch porn rather than have sex with their partner, or watching it at inappropriate times like at work or at school. If this is the case, restricting use and learning what this behaviour is really about would be beneficial.

Ultimately, it can be extraordinarily helpful to use the internet as a tool for self-discovery if it is managed properly. When used as a resource, the internet can be a shortcut in helping us identify our sexual templates and true desires. Integrating this new information so that we can have real life experiences, not just online, can help us experience the richness and diversity of human sexuality and connection.