A new medium for sexual partnerships

The Internet constitutes a forum where individuals from different geographic areas can meet and discuss a wide variety of issues, ranging from personal growth to politics and current events. Its use as a means of forging personal social relationships has also been realized. Almost half of those individuals who have visited online dating websites have actually gone on a date with someone they met through a website, and, of these, 17 percent (nearly 3 million adults) are in a long-term committed relationship with someone they met online (Madden and Lenhart, 2006). Recent studies have also demonstrated that individuals are using the Internet to actively solicit both heterosexual and homosexual partnerships (Cooper and Sportolari, 1997; Wysocki, 1998; Toomey and Rothenberg, 2000; Bull et al, 2001).

The virtual anonymity of the Internet has enhanced the interactions of socially disenfranchised groups, such as gay and bisexual individuals, allowing individuals with similar personal interests to approach each other without social stigma-tization. Indeed, those who seek sex partners online can peruse cyberspace for a partner of very specific demographic and behavioral characteristics (e.g. unprotected sex, drug use) (Bull and McFarlane, 2000), doing so anonymously and from a variety of private and public access points.

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