Recent technology has presented us with a new, potentially devastating forum for inappropriately sexualized relationships. The Internet with its anonymity and wide-open content can tempt us to cross physical and sexual boundaries.
On the Internet, relationships are formed and reinforced daily over e-mail, on bulletin boards, and in the thousands of chat rooms available for anyone with a modem connection and little time to spend. Accessibility, anonymity, and lack of accountability on the Internet make it fertile ground for nurturing sexual content.
Over the Internet, it is now possible to carry on a sexually explicit, verbal “affair” with another person while you sit in the privacy of your own home with your family watching television in the next room. With just a click of the mouse, you can send your messages to another person. By the use of a private password, you, and only you, can access your e-mail. With just a little bit of care, no one else in your house need know what you are really doing when you stay up until three o’clock in the morning.
Over the Internet, you don’t have to give out any information about yourself. Your anonymity is complete. Communicate by screen name, refrain from mentioning any physical details about where you live, and no one can find you unless you want to be found. Divulge too much on e-mail, and all you need to do is change your e-mail address. Any inquiries to your old address will come back to whoever sent them as “non-deliverable mail.” It is completely possible to keep details of your life private.
Online you can even make up details of your life. The other person has no way to know whether you are telling the truth. The temptation to construct a fantasy personality within which to hide on the Internet seems to be tremendous now. Once consigned to fantasy and shielded from accountability for what we write or think, many of our fantasies tend to meld with the sexual. Hidden, anonymous, we can say whatever we really want, and no one will gasp in shock or shake their head at us disapprovingly.
Securely anonymous, many people find themselves conducting conversations over the Internet of a highly personal and, sexual nature. Many people log on to the Internet primarily to indulge in sexual parlays. Plenty of people online are looking for another person to engage in highly sexual chat-room conversation. Some of these people have become so enamoured of each other that they have actually left spouses to initiate physical relationships with the cyber-lovers they met online.
Priorities have a way of becoming skewed. The urgent transcends the important. The flashy overshadows the ordinary. The mysterious clouds the mundane. Think about relationships you have and the important you are giving them. Ask yourself:
- Have you ever considered a coworker from a sexual point of view? If so, who is that person? Write down the name.
- As you review your current relationships, do you have a sense that you are being pursued by someone at work? Have you found yourself in a compromising situation where you felt uncomfortable?
- Are you the type of person who enjoys the attention, then approval of members of the opposite sex?
- Do you enjoy flirting with people you find personally attractive?
It can be difficult to recognize when you have strayed over a boundary and ventured into an inappropriate relationship. It can be difficult to admit that someone else you respect and have trusted is viewing you through a sexual lens. It can be difficult to find the courage to reestablish boundaries, whether it is you or someone else who has neglected those boundaries.
Recognizing a danger is the first step to avoiding it.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.