Harder, Faster, Deeper

Ottawa XPress – Shotgun – Feburary 3, 2005

People use Internet sex sites to explore, escape, educate and ejaculate.

A Google search on the word “porn” returns over 80 million pages, and “XXX” provides more than 76 million. Each day, hundreds of thousands of individuals access the Internet to make a sexual contact with each other without ever having met eye-to-eye or having said a simple hello. They view pornographic photos and X-rated movies, or take part in chat rooms and interact with strangers via computer-cameras.

But while it does the job for some, for others, it’s never enough.

Craving more, cybersexers may grow obsessed with finding their next fix. And when the impatient start looking harder, faster, deeper to replace the usual with the new thing, compulsive behaviour overtakes them. An hour here and there turns into days of private absorption transforming the viewer into the addict.

Calling attention to this condition, Vancouver filmmaker Melanie Wood interviewed cybersex addicts and told their story in her latest documentary, o.com : Cybersex Addiction, airing February 7 on CBC’s The Passionate Eye, at 9 p.m.

It’s a cautionary tale of the Internet’s profound effect on human sexuality. “Our lives are becoming so entwined with the Internet,” Wood told Shotgun, “that it’s time to look at it, not to stop it, but to be aware. We don’t really think about how it’s changing who we are and what it’s doing in society. Choosing to focus on the addicts – the people at the far end of the spectrum – makes it easier to see what the problems are.”

The film o.com has already been screened at the Montreal World Film Fest, the Quebec International Film Fest and Toronto’s Rendezvous With Madness Festival (which screens movies about mental health and addiction). It was also granted a finalist award in the New York Film Festival’s international TV programming and promotions awards for 2005. For a film that hasn’t even hit the airwaves yet, it’s attracting a lot of attention, especially from therapy and addiction centres across North America, and as far as Australia.

“There has been argument about whether it is a true addiction,” Wood says. But saying ‘Pathological Internet Use’ wasn’t cuttin’ it in therapists’ circles any better.

Regardless of the agreed-upon term, on February 7 you could learn about people whose lives have been torn apart by this problem.

Speaking on film about chat rooms, 35-year-old Nicole admits, “The more time you spend in there, the more you figure out that it’s all about being raunchy and kinky because it’s anonymous.” The ability to act out repressed sexual fantasies on the Internet makes people crave cybersex in ways they no longer hunger for real-life sex.

Their most significant relationship becomes one with their PC.

Like Nicole who could not cope with being away from her computer lest she miss a new development in the chat room, Alan, a successful lawyer, was glued to his monitor hunting down the most recent video or images that could give him that rush. “Addicts are always searching for the pot of gold,” says Alan of his disorder. Always looking for the next fix, they seek out the more strange and bizarre.

The Internet becomes addictive because it offers sex on demand with no strings attached and provides a distraction from everyday stresses. All you need is a computer, eyeballs and a credit card. Engaging in a bit of cybersex can indeed enhance our real-life sexual selves.

But when the questions and curiosities are never satisfied, thirst seldom quenched, and pursuits no longer educational, behaviours that hide us from the real world become pathological. A recent survey estimated seven in 10 keep online sexual pursuits secret from others, and that’s where problems start.

o.com represents possibly the first compassionate exploration into cybersex addiction. Wood makes no moral judgment or pronouncement against the addicts.

“I didn’t choose these people because they were freaks or weirdos,” she insisted, “but because they are ordinary people and anyone of us can go down this road.”

Addiction doesn’t discriminate: a lot of people who are at the higher economic end are becoming hooked, “because they’re people who have the money and power in their jobs to shut the door and no one wonders what they’re doing,” she says.

The National Council on Sexual Addiction Compulsivity estimates that six to eight per cent of Americans are sex addicts, which is 16 to 21.5 million people. With documentary filmmakers in the United States such as Michael Moore addressing America’s political ailments through Fahrenheit 9/11, and Super Size Me tackling health hazards and convincing millions to turn down McDonald’s, I see Melanie Wood’s o.com as a powerful Canadian response to a sexual malady-one the documentary insists should be treated according to addiction criteria, rather than dismissed as a silly ol’ habit.


Join Judy Rebick, author of Ten Thousand Roses: The Making of a Feminist Revolution on Wednesday, February 9 at 7 p.m. at the National Library of Canada (395 Wellington Street) to celebrate her book-a rich tapestry of stories told by more than 100 feminists from across Canada who organized, discussed, protested and struggled for change.


Durtygurls hot lit-chicks read at the Mercury Lounge (56 Byward Market Street) for The Valentine’s Day Show on Friday, February 11 at 8 p.m., $7.


Check out female comic Shannon Laverty at Yuk Yuk’s this weekend. Visit www.yukyuks.com for details.

– Sylvie Hill