Cyberexhibitionism

While in a game’s uncensored chat room last night, a couple began chatting. Rather than asking one another how their weekend had been, they began to talk explicitly about pouring melted chocolate over each other, licking it off, and then … well I’ll give you three guesses where the rest of the conversation went. The couple were told to “get a room” as their conversation escalated, but instead told the dissenter to “mute” them or to “go find your own room if this bothers you … it’s uncensored chat!” I play in uncensored rooms to see these kinds of interactions; I am intrigued by what makes a person want to share details of their sex life with strangers. Is it narcissism? Do they actually want the attention conversations like this create?

Online narcissism runs rampant. The multitude of social networking sites, blogging platforms, role-playing games and chat rooms allow material that a person doesn’t even share with his or her closest friend to be hung on the laundry line for all to see. Not only is the material there to see, but it’s meant to be looked at and talked about. As a member of the first generation who has essentially always had the internet, I am rarely surprised at what people share online. However, the cyberexhibitionist conversation I read last night was one of those surprises.

Why would this couple refuse to move their very provocative (and somewhat “alternative”) conversation to private chat? Did they want all of us reading about what they would do if they had white chocolate AND dark chocolate on their hands? Maybe they’re online exhibitionists. I don’t know whether the chatters were getting off from sharing their conversation with the public, but it made me wonder about the prevalence of online exhibitionism. This “cyberexhibitionism,” a term coined by Charles Sykes in his book The End of Privacy: The Attack on Personal Rights at Home, at Work, On-Line and in Court, is a new word for a relatively old deed.

Although I was witness to adult cyberexhibitionism, most people know that online exhibitionism exists for teens as well (visit MySpace and look at teens’ pictures – cyberexhibitionism at its finest!). Teen chat rooms are oftentimes uncensored and while it’s been a long time since I spent any time in one, I’m positive that this kind of talk occurs. Is this another way for teens to learn about sex online? Is it a healthy way for teens to learn about sex? Have you ever been an unintended audience to cyberexhibitionists? Did it bother you to see such uncensored talk of sexual acts in public forums?

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