Sunday, January 10, 2010

Topic 11: Payoffs—Why go-online for sex?

Interrupting the acting-out cycle requires awareness of the payoffs for online sexual behavior. This is essentially answering the question, “Why go online?” While the reasons for engaging in online sex may vary, it is important for you to uncover some of the reasons and payoffs that are important to you. It is our opinion that ALL behavior is goal focused. Your online behavior is seeking some type of payoff.
While we believe the payoffs are always present, our level of awareness of these payoffs varies. Some payoffs are direct: “I find someone to hook-up with and have sex.” Some of these payoffs may be “hopes” that something will happen: “If an attractive person says yes, I’ll be OK.” In some circumstances, the reasons for online sexual behavior may highlight clinical issues (depression), or patterns of the acting out cycle that you need to address. This is a much more difficult task than you may think. To put this in perspective, a recent journal article identified 237 reasons a person has sex separated into 13 factors. As you review your online sexual behavior, consider the following:
• Physical reasons for sex:
o Stress Reduction. “I am at work, and this gives me a distraction.”
o Pleasure. “Sex is fun.” “Having an orgasm is fun.”
o Physical Desirability. “I want that person.” “That person wants me.”
o Experience Seeking. “I’m bored and don’t have anything to do.” “I can do something online that I wouldn’t do in person.”
• Goal attainment for sex:
o Resources. “I will get money/drugs.”
o Social Status. “My reputation will get better.” “No body will know.”
o Revenge. “I will make that other person mad.”
o Utilitarian. “I will get a raise/promotion.”
• Emotional reasons for online sexual behavior:
o Love and Commitment. “I love you.” “I’m scared of my partner.”
o Expression of Feelings. “I’m sorry.” “I’m mad at my partner”
• Insecurity reasons for sex:
o Self-Esteem Boost. “Someone wants me, I feel better.”
o Duty/Pressure. “My partner won’t do what I want.”
o Mate Guarding. “I can’t have sex with my partner, so I’ll go online instead of. . . .”
Levels of Payoff
We think about three different types of payoffs: Primary, Secondary, and Indirect. Primary payoffs roughly (but not always) parallel biological or immediate emotional needs. These are often the focus of the behavior. Consider the following examples.
It’s been a long, hard day at work. I think I earned a break. I go online for stress release. While online, I start chatting with someone who wants to hook-up. I have great sex, feel great and get even more of a sense of relief from the stress. But I also feel shameful and guilty which reinforces why I need to work so hard to get a sense of affirmation thereby causing the stress.
Additional examples of primary payoffs include:
• Great Sex.
• Sense of connection/Intimacy
• I can find things online that I can’t find in person.
• Stress Reduction.
Secondary payoffs are pleasant outcomes of the behavior. While they aren’t the first goal, the outcome also is a pleasant payoff.
I realize I may be attracted to someone of the same-gender (gay/bi/lesbian). I’m scared of meeting people, or others finding out so I go online. This way I avoid the reaction of others; a preferable outcome versus my parents/partner finding out.
I’m horny, and my partner doesn’t want sex. I go online to look at sexually explicit material. While surfing, I go to a chat room and start to look at the pictures of other people and start chatting/video cam.
In some stereotypes, women are not seen as “sexual beings.” A woman might go online for a sexual encounter, but they also don’t have to cope with the reactions of others.
Examples of secondary payoffs might be:
• Sense of Affirmation.
• Addresses boredom with something to do.
• I get to be someone I’m not in real life.
• No one will find out.
• Not alone for an evening.
Indirect payoffs are very subtle and complex to identify. They may or may not be present all the time. Sometimes the negative consequence is actually what we are seeking. I find that some people will actually sabotage their goals out of a fear of success. These individuals might have a high level of shame, such that the only sense of any accomplishment comes through getting in the way of their own goals.
Examples might include.
• Reaffirms the negative feelings I have about myself.
• I can justify how I work to make up for the negative feelings.
Notice that what is a payoff depends on the person. While some of the payoffs may appear similar across individuals, each person has their own unique pattern of payoffs. Review your sexual timeline and history and times where you acted-out. Examine which reasons for sexual behavior may be relevant. As you reflect on the reasons, examine the thoughts and assumptions that are present. If, for example, a reason for sexual behavior is to increase self-esteem, examine what are the thoughts and feelings associated with the low esteem. Finding healthy ways to get these needs met will be done by stage 3 of the workbook.
• Review your timeline. Identify the payoffs for your most recent acting-out encounter. Pay attention to both the primary and secondary payoffs and the indirect payoffs. Pick another acting-out encounter and repeat. Review with your support network.
• Analyze the timeline for the possible payoffs listed above.
• Share these with your support network. Do they agree? Disagree? Why?
• Which payoffs do they suggest might be present?
• What are your initial plans to help you get these payoffs in healthy ways?
• Return to the list and update as necessary.
Summary of Your Current Payoffs for Sexual Behavior
My plans for coping:

My plans for coping:

My plans for coping:

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