A History of Cyber Sex: From Chat Rooms to Virtual Worlds

Have you ever wondered how cyber sex began?

Cyber sex is a term that is quite popular in the movies and the media but do you know exactly what it is, why people do it and how the ways to achieve it have evolved? From humble beginnings over 30 years ago with simple text-based chat to the sophisticated 3D environments offered by adult games, we wanted to explore the history of cyber sex.

In this guide, we will follow the evolution of cyber sex from CB radio and instant messaging to live cam sites and virtual worlds.

What is Cyber Sex?

What, exactly, is meant by the term Cyber Sex?

Also known as cybering, internet sex, netsex, computer sex and, sometimes, tiny sex, cyber sex is a colloquial term used to describe a virtual sex encounter with two or more people who are connected over a computer network.

It grew in popularity as an alternative to phone sex lines.

history of cyber sex chat rooms
Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The experience can be as simple as sending each other explicit text messages to describe a sexual experience or can cover lavish virtual reality games and platforms that offer more visual stimulus. It can also be used in the context of cam-to-cam services where users masturbate for one another over a webcam.

Cyber sex can simply involve masturbation in response to communicating with another person or may include actual physical stimulation using VR devices and interactive, remotely operated sex toys.

Cyber sex can occur in any online environment including chatrooms and across popular instant messaging services or can take place in a dedicated space such as an adult sex game, VR platform or NSFW social network.

Why Cyber Sex?

So, we know what cyber sexing is but the question, for some, is why do it?

There are a couple of really good reasons why cyber sex is a great idea and that could help explain the popularity of this online activity.

The firs reason we can offer is one of necessity. Couples who are in a long-distance relationship enjoy cyber sex as a way to remain intimate with their partner and can merely be an extension of having a dirty phone call with someone. However, the benefits of doing this online allow a certain detachment that the telephone does not. For some, it can be a safe way to explore fantasies with one another without the immediacy of a real-life encounter.

Which brings us on to our second suggestion about why cyber sex is popular and that is one of anonymity. In environments like chat rooms, adult sex games and interactive virtual worlds, we can create an alter ego; a new version of ourselves that isn’t afraid to experiment. We can have anonymous sex without any of the complications of a real one-night stand and we can explore ways our sexuality in a safe environment.

Anonymity and complete privacy has allowed many cyber sex users to explore different sides of their sex lives including changing genders, experimenting with kinky fetishes and to switch roles.

cybersex history
Image via Pixabay.

It is also no coincidence that the rise in cyber sex in the 1990s happened at the same time that the AIDS epidemic was dominating the headlines. Though we know a lot more about the disease nowadays, at the time, the threat of HIV was a huge consideration for singletons. Once promiscuous singles were becoming scared of having one-night stands and casual sex and cyber sex was a safe alternative. Though AIDS may not be an inciting factor in the modern age, the ‘safe-sex’ aspect of cybering still applies.

Not only a safe alternative but cyber sex is also a convenient one and can be likened to delivery prostitution. If you fancy getting your rocks off, you don’t have to leave the house, you can connect to a stranger online and share your wildest fantasies in a session of mutual masturbation.

Lastly, we would like to add the huge enticement for cyber sex to the mix and that is imagination and creativity. With the development of technology over the last few decades to provide low-cost home VR devices and advanced animation, the ability to enjoy fantastical worlds in well-rendered graphics is a real thrill.

The human imagination is a spectacular thing and is, arguably, the most important erogenous zone. In the absence of physical touch (although you can incorporate this with interactive toys), cybering stimulates the most powerful sex organ; the mind.

Who Uses Cyber Sex?

So, we know what it is and why people do it but who are the kinds of people who choose to use cyber sex?

The activity actually spans a wide demographic of people including all ages and genders and across a varied selection of interests. Though there is a lack of research into the area, there are widely acknowledged to be five types of cyber sex users. Originally outlined in the book, ‘In the Shadows of the Net: Breaking Free of Compulsive Online Sexual Behavior’ by Patrick Carnes et al, these groups of people were labelled as:

  • Appropriate
  • Inappropriate
  • Discovery Group
  • Predisposed Group
  • Lifelong Sexually Compulsive Group


According to Carnes et al, this group of cyber sex users explore sex on the internet without any detrimental impact on their relationships in the real world and they are able to maintain a healthy attitude towards sex.

They may use the internet to meet potential sex partners but their communications are as respectful and appropriate as they would be in real life. They may use cyber sex to enhance their experience of sex but will still enjoy (and prefer) meeting potential dates in person.


Users who can access sex on the internet without the signs of compulsive use, this group may use content inappropriately and not treat virtual partners as they would in real life.

Usually displaying a healthy attitude to relationships and sexuality in general, users may engage in sexting, sending sexual images and sometimes doing so to cause shock, amusement or embarrassment.

cyber sex a history
Image via Flickr.

Discovery Group

With no history of any ‘abnormal’ sexual behaviour or problems with relationships, this group typically uses the internet to explore their sexuality.

Predisposed Group

A group of people who have a history about acting out sexually who use cyber sex as a means to do so.

Sexually Compulsive Group

The extreme of the spectrum, people in this group are often unable to engage in real-life relationships and sexual activities and use the online world to explore, often inappropriate, pornography. People in this group can sometimes be found to exploit vulnerable online partners and may behave in a predatory way and as part of an ongoing pattern of excessive sexual behavior.

The Evolution of Cyber Sex

The way in which cyber sex has evolved is strongly linked to the development of the technology which enables it to occur in the first place.

Before the advent of the internet, the only way to communicate with people was using the traditional methods of the telephone, fax and the CB (citizen’s band) radio. All three have been used to send dirty message and to connect with people for reasons other than which they were (probably) intended.

Though not common these days, the ‘heavy breathing’, dirty phone call was a part and parcel of owning a landline in the 1980s and 1990s.

dirty phone call cyber sex
The dirty phone call; a precursor to cyber sex. Image via PxHere.

CB radios were also a popular way for strangers to connect with one another although this was only (initially) possible on a one-to-one basis.

In 1980, Compuserve developed the first publicly available commercial multi-user chat program, the CB Simulator. Offering 40 channels, the product was an instant hit and there was an immediate demand for additional bands including a dedicated ‘Adult’ band.

The service allowed people to spend ‘virtual’ time together and became a popular way for people to meet. In fact, the CB Simulator was responsible for several weddings with some even taking place over the service itself and accommodating virtual wedding guests. One couple, married in 1991 (‘MilesTeg’ and Cinderella), were still reported as being together in 2016.

However, prior to the early 1990s, cyber sex was not a phrase which had been coined in popular use. At the start of this decade just a few hundred thousand homes had access to the internet and the World Wide Web was only launched in 1991.

For many people, of all of the things that the brand new ‘internet’ offered was instant connectivity and internet chat rooms were one of the first globally popular ways to use the web. With slow connection speeds offered by primitive modems, chat rooms (which were based on simple data) were quick and easy to use.

history cybersex internet chat rooms
Internet speed is an important factor in how cybersex has evolved. Image via Pixabay.

Internet Chat Rooms

The first internet chat room actually predates the World Wide Web and was launched in 1973. Known as Talkomatic, this precursor to services like Yahoo, MSN Chat and AOL, was originally created by the US Office of Emergency Preparedness and offered six channels capable of hosting up to five participants at a time. Preserved to record the importance of this historical system, Talkomatic is still operational and serves as a stark reminder of just how far technology has taken us in just 45 years.

As internet use grew during the 1990s so too did the uptake of new users in the online chat rooms.

Unlike Talkomatic, these chat rooms were capable of hosting far more people and the main service providers were quick to introduce lobbies for different categories. These ‘entrance portals’ allowed people with a similar focus to find a suitable group with whom they shared an interest.

Although intended to connect singles in the same was as a lonely hearts page in the newspaper, the adult category of these groups quickly became popular for interactions that were more XXX.

Specific rooms catering for adults were introduced and cyber sex was born!

Gradually, these chat services became more niche and, instead of just offering a single lobby for the over 18s, you could find specific interest chat rooms like BDSM or Lesbian.

As the web continued to grow in popularity, internet giants of the day AOL, Yahoo and MSN all launched their own respective internet chat environments.

These popular services were soon populated by a high proportion of users who would spend hours late into the night chatting with other people and have cyber sex with.

With the growth in the ways we can communicate online in the current online landscape, internet chat rooms are no longer as popular as they once were but remain a feature of the world of cyber sex. Often requiring no email address logins they offer ultimate anonymity and are removed from social networks.

Their very simplicity of being a basic text based way to communicate makes them easy to use with slow internet connections and quick.

In fact, this last point actually gives us some precursor as to how modern communications have developed. Speed being an issue, chat room interactions were the first space in which wide-spread acronyms, which are now part of common parlance, were originally used. Terms like BRB, OMG and LOL were a part of the need for speed and easy communication.

Of course, as internet speeds improved, it became possible for internet chat rooms to further develop with webcam chat room services offering more scope for cyber sex with visual stimulus.

history cybersex internet chat rooms web cams
Webcams greatly enhanced cybersex with instant visual images. Image via PxHere.

Instant Messaging

As internet speeds improved, chat rooms were soon able to offer more instant services and by the end of the 1990s, messaging systems like Yahoo Messenger and AOL’s IM were introduced.

An extension of the chat room’s private messaging, instant message services provided a way to deliver an immediate dirty message to another user. Unlike in the modern age of permanent digital connection via our smartphones, tablets etc, the average user in the 1990s was unlikely to check their email more than a few times a day and this is way before social networking like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram was even dreamt of.

Social Networking

In 1997, the world’s first social networking site, Six Degrees, was launched and was the first time that users could create a profile, connect with other members and make friends with strangers. It wasn’t a huge success on its own but was the first in what would become a global phenomenon when the mantel was picked up by the likes of Facebook (2004), Bebo (2005) and Twitter (2006).

Whilst none of these sites lend themselves well to adult content services and are not the primary platform for cyber sex, they did pave the way for the popular format of more adult equivalents such as Fetlife.

The dedicated adult social networking site Sharesome is the latest platform to offer the functionality of sites like Facebook but with a distinctly more adult theme.

Cam Sites

A natural evolution from the cam-to-cam services offered via internet chat rooms, cam sites are a commercial way for amateurs to get in on the demand for cyber sex.

Models broadcast themselves from the privacy of their own homes and perform for a viewing audience who pay them. Cam sites sort of offer cyber sex prostitution and instead of doing the virtual deed with a complete stranger for free, you can hook up with someone online and pay per minute to get a private performance.

Cam models can be male or female and sometimes perform in couples or groups, taking requests from their audience or responding to tips to provide specific actions.

Interactive Adult Sex Games & Virtual Worlds

As technology has evolved, so too has the opportunities for engaging in cyber sex and the latest developments now include adult sex simulation games and virtual reality based worlds.

Games range from fully interactive environments that combine social networking with adult chat rooms with an animated (2D or 3D) world to more simple games.

history of cyber sex chathouse 3d
Adult games like Chathouse 3D offer great opportunities for cyber sex.

Some of the most popular games, including 3DX Chat, ChatHouse 3D and MNF Club are hugely popular and, between them, boast millions of active users.

With virtual reality, these environments become even more immersive and the addition of interactive sex toys can make cyber sex seem almost real. Some interactive devices can be synced to the action on-screen whilst others can be set-up to handover control to a remote user. With such developments, the landscape for cyber sex has never been more exciting but there is, no doubt, still more to come.

You can find our full guide to the hottest adult VR games and experiences for 2019, here.

Featured image via Pixabay.Chathouse 3D

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