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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Reasons for meeting people online, desired partner characteristics, and the process of connecting for sex paralleled those observed in real-life; but the Internet allowed people to identify more partners and specific partner characteristics. Participants said online condom use negotiation was easier, but usually occurred in face-to-face contexts in practice.

For example, millions of U. The Internet makes many activities more efficient and may also permit the more efficient searching for sexual partners with particular interests. The Internet may also afford the opportunity to find multiple sexual partners for individuals who are interested in doing so. The use of the Internet in a sexualized context also appears to be associated with greater sexual risk. Most research examining the use of the Internet to find sexual partners or form relationships has used quantitative methodology.

A handful of qualitative studies have been published, with several documenting reasons why people seek partners online and the advantages of using the Internet to find partners. Grov and colleagues noted that MSM who use the Internet to find sexual partners report benefits such as the ease of finding sexual partners, more personal safety, and the ability to avoid negative interpersonal contact in social settings such as bars or clubs. As part of a larger quantitative study, Ross and colleagues asked a few open-ended questions of MSM recruited from gay.

Questions focused on why men use the Internet to seek partners and the advantages afforded. Their most prevalent themes included 1 the ease of finding partners through use of the Internet; and 2 the reduced anxiety for some individuals associated with asking direct sexual questions online versus face to face. Additional themes included the safety permitted by anonymity, the excitement and ability to experiment, and the ability to get to know people better without pressure. Grov and colleagues similarly noted that some MSM are able to use the Internet as part of a harm reduction strategy, for example, finding sexual satisfaction through cybersex rather than in-person meetings which might confer risk see also, Doring, Ross also highlighted some advantages to using the Internet for sexual use as opposed to finding partners using more conventional methods.

The most relevant of those advantages being accelerated intimacy through trust building and closeness, without any of the social cues that may interrupt this process, and being able to link individuals up by certain sexual fetishes and desires. Although past research has given attention to the advantages perceived by individuals who use the Internet to meet sexual or romantic partners, there is little research on the perceived disadvantages associated with Internet sex seeking.

Ross and colleagues noted that the reasons for Internet use often appear contradictory. For example, some individuals use the Internet to avoid direct human contact whereas others use the Internet to meet people and explore social contact Ross et al. Not all individuals who use the Internet do away with conventional methods of meeting sexual partners. Using the Internet versus real life to find sexual partners can depend on many factors. Much of the current literature on the use of the Internet for sexual reasons has focused on MSM Albright, ; Benotsch et al.

In contrast, relatively little research- especially qualitative research- has focused on heterosexual individuals. For MSM who experience stigmatization associated with their behavior, the Internet may serve as a safe place to seek partners while avoiding the potential social e. Older women ages were ificantly more likely to report having sex with someone they met initially online than younger women; there were no ificant age differences among men Danebeck et al.

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Additionally, there were no differences in sexual orientation among women when examining their likelihood of engaging in sex with a partner initially met online. Among men, gay and bisexual men were ificantly more likely to engage in sex with a partner initially met online than were heterosexual men. In an online study of over 15, people, Lever and colleagues found that gay men, lesbian women, and bisexual individuals were more than likely than heterosexual respondents to have exchanged correspondence, met others offline, and had sex with someone met through personal.

Further, these authors found that women were more likely than men to have established a serious relationship as a result of meeting someone through personals. In a qualitative examination of mostly heterosexual adults who utilized sex-oriented contact websites, Sevcikova and Daneback found that participants often had extensive online conversations prior to meeting in person and frequently negotiated the context of the encounter that was to occur once the individuals met.

In this way, participants noted that online negotiation could result in safer sex because it reduced disinhibition during the real life encounter.

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The purpose of this descriptive study was to use qualitative methods to document and compare the experiences and perceptions of gay and bisexual men, heterosexual men, and heterosexual women who use the Internet to seek romance or sex. As described earlier, most research in this area has focused on MSM or gay- or bisexually-identified men. Much less research has addressed how heterosexual men and women use technological mediums to find sexual partners.

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Furthermore, this literature places little focus on how heterosexual men and women discuss safer sex when using the Internet to find sexual partners. This descriptive study also elicited participant's perceptions of the advantages and disadvantages of sex seeking on the Internet, examined differences in the types of sexual behaviors engaged with partners met online, and explored safer sex behavior and discussion with partners met on the Internet.

Finally, we compared the online sexual scripts i. This descriptive study was the initial phase of a larger funded project to develop and pilot an online HIV risk reduction intervention for gay and bisexually-identified men, as well as heterosexual men and women. As such, we did not recruit women who identified as lesbian or bisexual for this study. Interviews were conducted in real time synchronous via instant messaging IM. Considerable prior research indicates that increased anonymity is associated with greater disclosure of private or stigmatized behaviors and that computer-based assessments can be an important tool for data collection in this regard Des Jarlais, Paone, Milliken, Turner, Miller, Gribble et al.

Conducting chat-based interviews also eliminates the need for transcription services Davis et al. There are also disadvantages of online interviewing. Interview quality is influenced by factors not present in face-to-face interviews such as computer literacy, typing speed, technological difficulties e. To reduce these concerns, standard qualitative interviewing procedures were adapted for use online as recommended by others conducting online qualitative research Davis et al. For example, interviewers adopted many of the stylistic conventions used in online IM-based communication such as the use of familiar acronyms e.

The original goal was to recruit 15 participants per subgroup, a sample size that facilitates the attainment of saturation and allow for between-group comparison Morse, More heterosexual men were recruited due to the P. The mean age of participants was Inwe recruited a sample of individuals who used the Internet to find sexual or romantic partners through online chat rooms.

Overall, participants recruited represented 21 U. Participants were recruited individually by instant messaging persons in the chat room or by making an announcement in the general chat area of the chat room. We screened participants to insure that they were at least 18 years of age and had used the Internet to seek a sexual or romantic partner. Participants were informed that the interview would take minutes to complete, was anonymous, and would include questions regarding sexual behavior and motivations for using the Internet to seek sexual partners.

If the person did not have a PayPalassistance was provided to guide the person through the acquisition of an. No participants refused payment. The transcript of the online qualitative interview was de-identified to remove participant screen names and other potentially identifying information and saved as a Word document for later analysis. The data reported in this article were collected in response to a series of questions about meeting partners online, the advantages and disadvantages of meeting partners online relative to meeting them in person, sexual activity with partners met online, and safer sex behavior and discussion with sexual partners met on the Internet.

Interviewers were instructed to use probes to collect detailed information about these experiences. The interviews were conducted by a diverse research team experienced in the administration of qualitative interviews related to sexual behavior and well-versed in online chat environments. All interviewers received extensive training on the interview protocol prior to conducting the fieldwork.

Training included several mock online interviews to insure interviewer comfort and familiarity with the online interviewing process. The lead author, a senior researcher experienced with qualitative methodology, monitored interviews to ensure protocol adherence. The interview team met regularly to discuss field issues and barriers to protocol implementation. All interviews with gay or bisexual men were conducted by a gay male interviewer. All interviews with women were conducted by female interviewers. Heterosexual men were interviewed by both male and female staff. Interviews were analyzed for emergent themes related to four main analytic questions: 1 reasons for using Internet chat rooms to meet potential partners; 2 advantages and disadvantages of using Internet chat rooms to meet people; 3 sexual and non-sexual activities with partners met online; and 4 safer sex behavior and discussion with partner met online.

Table 1 provides a summary of key themes. We initially examined the transcripts to identify primary coding as well as the range of themes present within each category. Identified coding and themes were organized into a formal codebook, and illustrative quotes relevant to these themes were extracted from the transcripts. Next, transcripts were content coded. The coding team discussed new themes that did not appear to fit into the original codebook and modifications were made when deemed appropriate. When suggested by associations, overlap, or diversions in the data, thematic were refined, merged, or subdivided.

Participants offered a variety of reasons for their use of Internet chat rooms to meet people. Participants also mentioned using the Internet to seek companionship e. There were also differences across the groups in their expectations of meeting partners online. In real person, generally the female is less likely to talk to you as frankly as they do online. You can get to know each other online a little better first.

However, I usually know [more] about these guys [met online] when I meet them than if I just met them in a bar or club. That is why I stopped looking for women online. Jeckyll online and Mr. Hyde in person.

A picture can be fake. You could be talking to a psycho for all you know.

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So we went out to eat and then we went to his house to hang out, and his girlfriend that I didn't know he had showed up, and was ready to fight because I was there. Sometimes it's hard to get an actual feel of a person without seeing them, their mannerisms, their tones in speaking, hard to tell about their real personality.

Few people I have met have represented themselves online as they are in person. Participants described a range of activities sexual and non-sexual that they engaged in with people who they met through Internet chat rooms. Commonality with scripts often observed in the progression of developing a relationship with potential partners met face-to-face was evident. Kinky sexual acts e. Participants mentioned several barriers to condom use.

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We had intercourse in back of a van. She was very passionate and the age difference excited me. She asked me [if I had condoms] but then my cock went inside her. The lust swept us away. But because you have talked to [someone] online for a while, it seems like you know them. I feel that I know them and don't need to use a condom. Respondents also reported non-condom safer sex strategies.

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