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NYT Wonders Why Millions of Women Enjoy Having Virtual Sex—Here's Why

That's the question posed this week by a judgmental New York Times Op-Ed. We set out to answer it.

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Apltraum agrees that a major draw is the freedom of fantasy.”I think online sex is, in many ways, a form of enhanced masturbation,” says Alptraum. “It’s driven more by your fantasies than by the presence of an actual person, there’s an ability to be more focused on your own pleasure than you might be in physical sex, and the distance — and, at times, anonymity — can make it easier to explore things you might feel nervous about discussing during an in-person encounter.”

It may be fashionable to lament the ways in which technology is taking over our lives, but I found very little sympathy for Jacoby’s assertion that online sex “resembles the substitution of texting for extended, face-to-face time with friends.” Pulley, who has turned to online sex talk with “plenty of people” that she has just met or started dating, argues, “That’s the same line of thinking as those who believe casual sex leads to the depletion of one’s ability to emotionally bond with people,” she says. “One’s sexual sense of self-worth doesn’t hinge on whether fantasies are expressed in one’s head, in a journal or through digital means.” She compares it to all kind of real-world flirting that couples engage in. “Technologically enhanced, consensual foreplay is no more ‘scandalous’ than other non-electronic kinds,” she says. It’s just one of the many ways that we now have to relate to one another.

Besides, sex isn’t any one thing.  As Alptraum puts it, “sex can be fun in a variety of iterations, for a variety of reasons,” she says. “The sex you have because you’re in love is different from the sex you have because you’re horny is different from the sex you have over the Internet.” She adds, “They’re all valid and worthwhile forms of sexual experience.”

What she said.

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow@tracyclarkflory on Twitter.