From Phone Sex to Internet Sex: Addiction at Your Fingertips

Laptop in the darkI recently spoke with a young colleague who had just completed training to become a certified sexual addiction therapist (CSAT). She was astonished to hear my stories of what I jokingly refer to as the golden age of phone sex, which I’d say lasted from the mid-seventies, when I worked on a suicide prevention hotline, until about 1998, when the Internet was starting to really take flight.

You may be wondering why the suicide hotline I worked for bears mentioning. There were often callers to the hotline, usually male, who upon hearing a female ask, “How can I help you?” would begin to speak breathlessly about a “huge problem” they had. Our London-born supervisor referred derisively to these fellows as “wankers” and taught us ways to extricate ourselves from, ahem, conversations with them.

By the early eighties, I had ceased taking hotline calls and started practicing as a licensed therapist in my office in West Hollywood, California. Some of the people I helped had issues with obsessive phone sex. Some, again usually male, would spend hours or even days languishing at home or work paying to talk and talk and talk about sex, usually culminating in—you guessed it—masturbation. Neither party, of course, could see the other, so imagination was in full play.

Frantic wives would call me after they clapped eyes on preposterous phone bills to 1-900 lines. Their husbands would call the next hour or appear reluctantly at my office, struggling with whether they actually had a problem with this potentially addictive (and highly expensive) behavior.

There was big money to be made by investors who snapped up and promoted 1-900 numbers with suggestive three-, four-, and seven-letter words rounding them out—not to mention resourceful women, young and not-so-young, who craftily embodied and impersonated the young subjects of glossy photos in the back pages of men’s magazines. Many people found the lure of “risk-free” phone sex with readily available strangers to be too hard to resist, spending countless hours and thousands of dollars maintaining their compulsive tele-sex habits.

How things have changed with the rise of the Internet and smartphones! Although traditional phone sex lines still exist and some thrive, no longer are people tethered to cumbersome wall sockets that keep them in their bedrooms or office cubicles. We have apps that use GPS to find sex partners near us as easily and anonymously as we locate a good Japanese restaurant. Phone sex is now often fully visual, streaming from hand to cell tower to satellite and back in the blink of an eye. Not only can it be addictive, it’s often free—in a financial sense.

Phone- and web-based sex can be profoundly costly when it comes to the toll on real-life relationships. Live video streaming or face time might be great for those of us who want to commune with a traveling partner or see and interact with grandkids on the other side of the continent. But what kind of effect does pornography and for-profit sex chat have for those who struggle with marital fidelity and remaining sexually sober? For those with a propensity for addictive escape and risky sexual behavior, it’s a whole new world of problems.

If you need some help navigating it, contact a therapist near you. It might prove to be the best call you’ve made in a long time.

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Jill Denton, LMFT, CSAT, CCS, therapist in Los Osos, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Johnna

    Johnna

    March 13th, 2015 at 10:02 AM

    Well I can tell you what kind of effect that it can have on a marriage that is already on less than stable ground, and that is a terrible one.

    My ex husband found internet porn from the very beginning and while he would try to justify his use and say that it meant nothing to him, he could never give it up so to me that mean a great deal.

    I was furious when I first found out, tried to forgive and forget and work through it, but I was the one doing all of the work and he never chose to stop making it a part of his life.

    I felt terrible about myself and am still working on recovering much of the self esteem that I lost during that period of time.

  • claude

    claude

    March 13th, 2015 at 11:30 AM

    with convenience I suppose comes more problems than we ever would have thought before would be possible

  • Lisa

    Lisa

    March 13th, 2015 at 7:32 PM

    Internet sex addiction is definitely the first choice for people in these days. It’s anonymous, accessible, and free. Thousands of companies make porn and they compete over which of them will destroy people’s lives and relationships faster. Porn, fantasy, and sex have a very powerful affect in people’s brains, souls, and bodies. They easily hook people up and get people to be dependent and addicted on them, and unfortunately a lot of people do not realize that until it’s too late. The painful reality is porn and sex chatting extremely harmful for relationships because users disconnect themselves from reality and stop enjoying it. They live in a fantasy that their partners try very hard to get them out of it, but the sad thing is they cannot save them unless they save themselves – which is hard to break the addiction cycle. This is why people with addiction problem need to hit the bottom before they realize themselves the tremendous harm their addiction caused them. And then only then, they will commit to stop the addicted behavior.

  • benji

    benji

    March 14th, 2015 at 8:18 AM

    Is it really that big of a deal if you honestly just use it to enhance the relationship that you have? we use together and actually I think both enjoy it

  • Max

    Max

    March 14th, 2015 at 1:12 PM

    That sure is a sorry way to try to get someone to talk dirty to you, by calling into a suicide hotline.

    Now that is a cry for help if I ever did hear of one!

  • Jill Denton

    Jill Denton

    March 14th, 2015 at 3:35 PM

    Benji sex addiction implies that porn or whatever compulsive behaviors are creating problems. It sounds like you’re enjoying porn together for enhancement – this does NOT constitute a problem! Rock on!!

  • benji

    benji

    March 16th, 2015 at 3:34 AM

    hahaha thanks! we will

  • Kris

    Kris

    March 16th, 2015 at 10:51 AM

    No matter whether it is phone sex or watching porn in any form, I am kind of disgusted with the whole thought that my husband or boyfriend would choose this over me.

    I know, I know, there are going to be those of you who say that this is not about huim making this choice and wanting this instead of me, but what happens when it does turn into that? That is when you have a big problem in the relationship and one that is going to take a whole lot of talking to resolve.

    I just can’t understand how they can want something that is so clearly a fantasy, not ever going to happen, over the person that they are with every day.

  • kt

    kt

    March 17th, 2015 at 10:22 AM

    @ Kris- you can’t look at it as they are choosing this over you. They may simply be choosing this as something that they would like to have you involved in too. Now if you aren’t okay with that I think that it is certainly your right to speak up. But it could be something that you are interested in too, if you could at least try it. I don’t think that just because you do this makes you a bad person or automatically means that you are an addict.

  • Gabriel

    Gabriel

    March 18th, 2015 at 11:02 AM

    You may think that this is something that is perfectly harmless until you become aware that there is not a day that can go by without you searching and looking and then you see what a problem that it has become for you in your life.

  • gene g.

    gene g.

    March 21st, 2015 at 8:25 AM

    What used to have to be done by sneaking magazines under the bed in the middle of the night is so accessible and readily available now… I guess that there are times I have to admit that it is kind of hard to resist that easy access.

  • David

    David

    June 16th, 2015 at 7:21 AM

    Men will be men. Hate to say it ladies, but men think of sex way more than women. Some men get to sow there oats more than others also. So I believe the build up in some men that don’t get it in real life can express themselves on the computer in all sorts of ways. Maybe even an unhealthy way.
    Women need to realize that there man looking at a fantasy girl that he’ll never have, doesn’t mean he’s not in love with you. He’s not tired of you, just mixing it up and keeping it fresh. Men need to feel young and in the mean time we forget about the love of our life next to us, that also wants to feel young and sexy and desired. I totally get it, here’s your guy getting aroused by some other woman. And you want him, not just some porn guy. I can see how that would be frustrating. Bear with us ladies, we love you.
    Yes…the porno all over the computer is hurting relationships in America. I’ve been with my lady for 13yrs now, I don’t hide anything. She laughs when she walks in on me. Honesty between the two of us is where it’s at. I’ve seen lots of relationships broken from porn, swing sites and parties and random hook ups on the web. We’re connected now, it’s easy to get laid and cheat. The true test is your heart. It’s not worth losing all the love for a quick feeling.

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