Cybersex is the act of two persons (sometimes more) sitting at distant computer terminals sending sexually explicit messages back and forth to one another. It is most commonly performed in Internet chat rooms (such as IRC or web chats) and on instant messaging systems. The act of exchanging sexually explicit email may also be considered cybersex. It is often used for the purpose of enhancing masturbation or as an introduction to arranging a meeting for sexual intercourse. While these activities are common, it is difficult to make precise statistical claims, and the prevalence of cybersex of course depends highly on the availability of Internet access.

Cybersex is the logical continuation of phone sex on modern computer networks. It is often seen as a simulation of "real" sex, and participants usually try to make the experience as close to real life as possible. It can be considered a form of role playing that allows a couple to experience sexual sensations without actually physically being in each other's company. Cybersex is often ridiculed because the partners frequently have no knowledge whatsoever about each other -- the person at the other end could be male or female. Since the primary point of cybersex is the realistic simulation of sexual activity, this knowledge is not always desired or necessary.

Debate continues among moralists on 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 culiminates in an Internet romance. There is also the separate risk factor of Internet addiction, which is perceived to be the cause of social isolation and loss of work productivity.

Cybersex is sometimes colloquially called "cybering." It is also called "TinySex" or "TS," a phrase which stems from a MUD software program called TinyMUD. Within the furry community, it is sometimes referred to as "yiffing". Channels used to initiate cybersex are not necessarily exclusively devoted to that subjects, and participants in any Internet chat may suddenly receive a message with the text "Wanna cyber?".

Cybersex and pedophilia

Pedophiles and ephebophiles have been known to engage in cybersex with underage users. In the course of such conversations, they sometimes try to send child pornography across the network, or to arrange meetings. In the United States, police pose as underage boys or girls in chat rooms in order to bait pedophiles (see, e.g., "Who's 14, 'Kewl' and Flirty Online?; A 39-Year-Old Detective, and He Knows His Bra Size", The New York Times, April 7, 2003). On one occasion, an elderly man from Georgia flew into Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta to meet what he thought was an underage girl he had met online to have sex with, but he met with sheriff's deputies instead. Another time, a teacher from Minnesota was arrested by FBI agents in Yuma, Arizona's airport, after he had arranged online to meet and have sex with what he thought were two eight year old Mexican girls.

This practice of baiting has also become popular among some regular users, who try to troll pedophiles and others and put the log files of such conversations online.

See also: human sexual behavior