Mon, Aug 21, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Internet sexual encounters cause increasing concern

By Hsu Hsia-lien and Chu Chun-yen  /  STAFF REPORTERS

As more and more people turn to online chat rooms to arrange casual sexual encounters, a disturbing culture of unsafe sex is developing among the country's netizens.

A growing body of evidence suggests that one-night stands, extramarital affairs, and sexual services are increasingly being arranged in cyberspace, where anonymity and convenience make establishing casual sexual relationships easy.

For instance, in a recent incident in Taichung an HIV-positive woman solicited men online with offers of unprotected sex, only to later announce in a chat room that she had HIV and was trying to infect others.

The incident reportedly led to a string of online messages by men who had had unprotected, anonymous sex with the woman, saying that they would get themselves tested for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

"Although people tend to be more removed from one another [in the digital era], the need for interaction is as strong as ever, which is why virtual interaction is increasing," said Chan Tung-lin (詹東霖), a psychiatrist at Taichung Hospital.

Chan added that the hectic pace of modern life made online chat rooms ideal for those in need of social interaction, but who lack the time and social skills to interact with others in more conventional settings.

"Besides those looking for `fast-food-style' romance, many also turn to the Internet to arrange one-off encounters and extramarital affairs," Chan said.

pressure

Lin Pen-tang (林本堂), a psychiatrist at Taichung Veterans General Hospital, told the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister paper) that local youth who seek out one-night stands are often under tremendous amounts of pressure at school and use casual sex as a way of coping with academic demands.

Lin described their promiscuity as a "sickness" that could be cured with the proper medical and psychiatric treatment.

Chan agreed that pressure could be behind promiscuous behavior, but added that many other factors could be responsible as well.

"Men who have one-night stands -- besides trying to satisfy a basic sexual need, may be trying to prove that they're robust and virile, some may be trying to prove to themselves that they're charming and attractive," he said.

"Women, on the other hand, often engage in casual sex due to a feeling of emptiness or loneliness," Chan said.

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