The Challenge of Cybersex to Ethics

Resources »Eapr »East Asian Pastoral Review 2008 »Volume 45 2008 Number 3 »The Challenge Of Cybersex To Ethics

Carlos G. Ronquillo, CSsR

Carlos G. RONQUILLO, CSsR,  is a faculty member of Maryhill   School of Theology and various other formation centers in the Philippines. He has a Doctorate in Theology from the Alfonsianum.

 

Introduction

A priest who wants to write on cybersex may cause discomfort to some readers. Questions like these may crop up in their mind: What right has he to talk about this matter? What experience does he have in this specialized sexual area? Surely, he has not experienced doing cybersex. If he has, he must be a terrible man of God!

Such questions are expected. My experience of cybersex is surely limited and this is what makes it difficult for me to write this article. I had to reckon with two things in preparing for this ethical discourse on cybersex: first, the actual engagement in online sex as a challenge I had to face to be able to gain insights from concrete experience, and second, the search for the best framework to ethically evaluate this new sexual phenomenon. The first difficulty I tried to resolve by overcoming my own fears of what would unfold the moment I drag and click my mouse explicitly venturing into cybersexual encounters. I had to assume pseudonyms and officially log myself in to enter sexual chat rooms and hunt for possible sexual chat mates. I did discover many surprising things which eventually helped me in my writing. As regards the second difficulty, I tried to go back to my readings of existing ethical frameworks in evaluating sexuality. Reflecting on them, I saw that the new phenomenon of cybersex creates an impasse as to their efficacy. The complexity of the cybersex phenomenon and the varied ethical issues anchored on it call for a rethinking of existing ethical frameworks and a formulation of a new one with concrete sexual norms for effective moral evaluation.

I have divided this work into three sections. The first section deals with cybersex as a contemporary human phenomenon, its ins and outs, its workings, language, and usage. The second section deals with the psychological analysis of cybersex, taking into account the positive and negative arguments of cybersexual encounters, explorations, and expressions. The third section articulates the ethical framework which will best evaluate the cybersex phenomenon. This entails a critique of previous frameworks in sexual ethics and their capacity to effectively provide light to the morality of cybersex.

The Cybersex Phenomenon

Its Workings, Language, and Usage

From October 14 to 18, 2003, The Manila Times featured a five-part investigative article on cybersex (CS) in the Philippines. That series gave a clear picture of how cybersex manifests itself in the country. Though written some years ago, the insights there are still valid. The following is a summary of one of the cybersex stories featured in that series.1

This is the story of Ted, 27 years old and single, who works as an information technology professional in Makati. While most young urban professionals spend their Friday evenings "malling" and bar-hopping, Ted spends hours and hours dragging and clicking to his favorite chat rooms. He is not a handsome guy or one who possesses an extraordinary talent that can easily catch the attention of women. However, when he enters the cyberworld, he becomes a changed person, one who can turn on women to their wild sexual dreams. He always looks forward to Friday since it signals for him happiness and respite from tiring and boring work.

Ted recounts: "I can’t remember how many … but I have had many CS encounters." On Fridays, usually at 10 p.m., he begins his wild hunt for a "hot babe" by entering local sex chatrooms.2 His cybersex routines in chat rooms usually start with abbreviations coupled with question marks. "It’s easy to have sex with someone. Just ask, ‘CTC (care to chat?)’ Then ASL (age, sex, and location of the chat mate). You ask the chat mate if he/she wants to have CS with you. That’s it." Familiarity with chat language is crucial in the cybersex escapade.3

Anonymity allows Ted to have many personalities. Using pseudo names, he could be whatever he wants himself to be: a man, a woman, a teen-ager, a middle-aged person, an old man, etc. Depending on his mood, he can be what he wants to be within the realm of cyberspace: straight, gay, bi, masochist, sadist, etc.

Inside sex chat rooms, from Ted’s experience, moral conventions are thrown out the window. Cybersex begins with erotic exchanges of words flashed on the computer screen. For sex chatters inhibitions are nonexistent. The wildest of sexual fantasies are realized through creative erotic verbal exchanges where real-world boundaries are surpassed especially by the most playful of minds. In the cyberworld of sex you talk about sex and imagine doing it. The "Big O" (big orgasm) is reached only by those who have strong and rich imaginations in sexual encounters.

Cybersex encounters, says Ted, last 30 minutes, sometimes even an hour or two, depending on how long sex-chat mates want to extend their play. There are instances when he does not do one-on-one encounters and just extensively flirts with multiple sex-chatters (some lead to "SOP" or sex on phone), lasting until the early morning. Sometimes Ted has what he calls "big nights" when some girls give him "permission" to view them naked via a computer webcam.

Ted says he started with "innocent" chatting more than a year ago, shortly after he broke up with his girlfriend of four years, until he eventually found himself often visiting adult chat rooms. But he declines to answer if the breakup had something to do with his present weekend habit. Asked if he visits his favorite rooms while in office, Ted replies: "Sometimes, when there’s nothing much to do in the office." Anything wrong with such preoccupation? Ted smirks and replies: "It’s OK, nothing really happens, it’s just a pastime." Ted’s story is only one of the myriad stories relative to cybersex in the Philippines.4

Cybersex or online sex is a social interaction of at least two persons engaging in real time digital messages or live camera feed conversations to become sexually aroused and satisfied. In a broad sense, cybersex involves many sexual activities related to computer technology. In a narrow sense, it is computer-mediated interpersonal interaction wherein the participants are sexually motivated or seeking sexual gratification. In short, cybersex is not simply a conversation about sex, but it is in itself a form of sexual encounter.

Cybersexual activity can take many different forms: downloading sexually explicit pictures or stories, engaging in extensive explicit e-mail exchanges, viewing sexually explicit videos through pornographic sites, looking at or providing vastly changing images through a web cam, conversing in a sexually explicit chat room that may be a general room or a private one, and participating in instant communication with other web users for the purpose of sharing sexual fantasies, sometimes culminating in cybersex, phone sex, or an actual sexual encounter.5

Cybersex has to be situated within the revolution which the Internet has brought about in sexuality. Internet is changing patterns of social communication and interpersonal relationships. This is most clearly expressed in the field of sexuality. The Internet is used for a number of different activities surrounding sexually motivated behavior.

These include the use of the Internet for seeking out sexually related material for educational use, buying or selling sexually related goods for further use offline, visiting and/or purchasing goods in online virtual sex shops, seeking out sex therapists, and seeking out sexual partners for an enduring relationship. Other sexually motivated uses of the Internet include seeking out sexual partners for a transitory relationship (i.e., escorts, prostitutes, swingers) via online personal advertisements/"lonely hearts" columns, escort agencies, and/or chat rooms; seeking out individuals who then become victims of sexually related Internet crime (online sexual harassment, cyberstalking, pedophilic "grooming" of children); engaging in and maintaining online relationships via e-mail and/or chat rooms; exploring gender and identity roles by swapping gender or creating other personas and forming online relationships; and digitally manipulating images on the Internet for entertainment and/or masturbatory purposes (e.g., celebrity fake photographs where heads of famous people are superimposed onto someone else’s naked body).6

These types of sex-related Internet conduct have the potential of becoming excessive, addictive, obsessive, and/or compulsive. However, the most likely behaviors that would tend toward excess, addiction, obsession, or compulsion are the use of online pornography and cybersex and cyber-relationships.

We cannot deny that the cybersex phenomenon has democratized access to sexually related materials. With the advancement of information technology, erotic materials of all kinds are freely available to anyone with access to the Internet. Individuals can obtain, read, and create erotica without even leaving the privacy of their own homes. They can actively interact with other people who share their sexual needs without being physically present. Thus, it is no longer a surprise that today many men and women take an active role in online erotic activities.

Motivations in Cybersexual Activities

Motivations basically refer to sources of purposive and goal-oriented behavior that serve to energize and guide action towards desired ends. All behaviors are motivated in some way; this means that it is not random but done for a reason and in order to further or realize a desired end or goal. It is the very nature of motivation to be enduring, chronic, and pan-situational. Motivation finds expressions through situationally appropriate goals. For example, enduring motivation for personal safety will express itself in many situational goals like acts of personal hygiene or looking at both sides of the street before crossing. As regards cybersex or the use of the Internet for sexual expression and exploration, the motivations could be personal safety (physical and emotional) and sexual convenience.7

Personal Safety

Offline sexual exploration and activity are often marked by risks and inconveniences. These elements are precisely what cybersex conveniently addresses.

Cybersex activity allays fears relative to physical and health risks.

One’s sexual exploration and activity in everyday life may be dulled by safety issues. One-night-stands or simply a sequence of sexual relationships necessarily entails both physical and health risks. Sexually transmitted diseases, particularly HIV-AIDS, are far from uncommon concerns when one ventures into sexual exploration and expression, not only with the opposite sex but also with the same sex.

Cybersex impedes risks of unplanned pregnancy and/or abortion and incidence of rape.

Cybersex renders irrelevant the question of unplanned pregnancy and abortion, particularly the growing conflict between pro-life advocates and abortion rights activists. Many women have qualms in taking part in the singles scene or dating due to the high incidence of date and acquaintance rape.

Cybersex provides opening to sexual needs and preferences considered taboo or culturally devalued.

There are emotional risks to sexual exploration and expression, aside from the physical safety concerns. This is particularly true as regards one’s sexual preference or fantasies which are considered taboo or which are culturally devalued. The overriding fear of rejection if one’s sexual desires or preferences are known deters the individual in sexual exploration or expression. Because of this threat, the person does not discuss his/her sexual needs and preferences with his/her partner. Those who have marginalized sexual identities, as well as those with quite mainstream sexual preferences and needs, experience fear of embarrassment and shame were they to expose their sexual needs. Women may fear the social sanctions that accompany acting in a manner counter to socialized gender roles (i.e., a female initiating sex or being forthright about her sexual needs and desires). An online or cyber affair appeals to these types of people since it allows them sexual expressions and explorations without themselves being known.

Cybersex ensures anonymity.

In cybersexual activity participants can use many pseudo names and create profiles that have nothing to with their real life for the sole purpose of creating appeal to other cyber users. Given the anonymity of the Web, one can become what he or she likes. He or she can change sex, age, weight, profession, interests, sexual likes and dislikes, etc.

 

 

The anonymity of electronic transactions provides the user with a greater sense of perceived control over the content, tone, and nature of the online sexual experience. They claim that unlike real life sexual experiences a woman can quickly change partners if her cyber-lover isn't very good or a man can log off after his orgasm without any long goodbyes … For anyone who has ever been curious about a whole range of sexual behaviors, cybersex offers a private, safe, and anonymous way to explore those fantasies … Individuals are more likely to experiment sexually, as online users feel encouraged to engage in their adult fantasies validated by the acceptance of the cyberspace culture.8

Cybersex opens the door widely to sexual fantasies.

Cybersexual interactions are limited to narrowband width while offline or real life interactions are broadband width. Broadband width interaction is face to face, communication is not only in words and vocal intonation, but is also nonverbal through gestures expressed by varied mediums like the eyes, body language, and clothing. In a narrowband width communication, there is allowance for ample space for projection. This space is the one that fuels sexual fantasies and facilitates easy connection and intimacy. Thus, many people can create a fantasy world, a world with its own rules, norms, and regulations which are far removed from real life.

Cybersex guarantees secrecy.

Those engaged in cybersex usually never talk about it with friends, family, co-workers, community members, and even priests and spiritual directors. In my long hours of hearing confessions, I only had one case of virtual sex on the Internet between two long-distance lovers. The cases I have met have usually been related to pornographic viewing on the Internet.

Convenience

Cybersex meets sexual needs.

Those who are currently single or in a relationship in which their sexual needs are not being met as often as they desire and in the ways in which they desire, can find willing virtual partners online at any time of the day or night, with no strings attached.

 

 

The Internet has a package of stimuli for mass appeal.

According to some analysts, the Internet provides an intensely strong stimulus because of these inherent characteristics: multimedia stimulation and an interactive nature; ease of access and twenty-four hour availability; lack of boundaries; and immediate self-gratification without responsibility or commitment. Moreover, the passage of time happens rapidly; sexual material is plentiful and prices are kept low; and persons feel protected by the perceived anonymity they feel, increasing their sense of freedom, willingness to experiment, and control over their pace of self-disclosure. There is also the promotion of fantasy, unrealistic expressions, and a false sense of intimacy.

Disinhibition is clearly one of the Internet’s key appeals as there is little doubt that the Internet makes people less inhibited. Online users appear to open up more quickly online and reveal themselves emotionally much faster than in the offline world. What might take months or years in an offline relationship may only take hours or days or weeks online. The perception of trust, intimacy, and acceptance has the potential to encourage online users to use these relationships as a primary source of companionship and comfort.

 

 

The Internet is accessible.

The Internet is more accessible than other sources of sexual materials. While purchase of sexual materials has become common on the streets because of piracy, sexual interactions likewise have become easily possible, something which under typical conditions would be difficult. One can easily enter the cyberworld and visit websites that allow sexual interactions free of charge. The sexual material on the Internet is often free and inexpensive and is conveniently available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. By its nature, the Internet makes it possible to disseminate large amounts of material on an international scale. Thus people can ingest larger amounts of pornography than ever before and have more opportunities for sexual encounters.

 

 

The Internet answers curiosity facilely.

The Internet provides answers to many queries and curiosities a person is confronted with. For example, a man might privately wonder, "What would it be like to have sex with another man?" "Within the anonymous context of cyberspace conventional messages about sex are eliminated, allowing the user to play out hidden or repressed sexual fantasies without fear of being caught."9

The above are the more common motivations. On the part of psychology there have been many attempts to explain why cybersex and cyber affairs occur. One model to explain the high rate of getting hooked into cyber activities is called the Triple A Engine. This suggests the three primary factors facilitating increased online sexuality: accessibility, affordability, and anonymity. Accessibility refers to the fact that there are millions of Web sites available all the time; affordability refers to the stiff competition on the Web, making prices of sex needs low and even free; anonymity refers to the hidden character of communication. Another model is the ACE model which stands for anonymity, convenience, and escape. Virtual environment has the potential to provide short term escape, comfort, and distraction.

Cybersex and Psychological/Ethical Issues

Areas of Psychological Concern

Voyeurism

One concrete area which psychologists see in cybersexual relationship is its tendency to foster in the online user a voyeuristic attitude to sexuality. Healthy sexuality needs a personal relationship to be realized. Cybersexual activity in its excessive mode moves the person farther and farther away from relationships.

Robin Hamman gives us a very good idea on how this drifting away from relationship happens in cybersex. In his master’s thesis, he describes what happens to Rebecca, a "netizen":

 



Rebecca is not sexually active other than with men she meets online. Although she has had cybersex and telephone sex with many of the men she meets on AOL, Rebecca has not physically had sex with a partner since she began using AOL. Rebecca does not practice casual sex in the real world because she does not believe it to be moral or safe. Rebecca's sex life is undeniably tied to her computer and the telecommunications system it is connected to.

Without a computer, Rebecca would not be able to freely access her sexual self in the same way that she can within the narrowband width space of AOL … Without computer mediated communication, Rebecca would be cut off from a part of herself. Without computers, she could not reach her potential as a human. She could not be fully human. Using the prosthesis of the computer, Rebecca is able to be more human than she could without the prosthesis. Rebecca is part human, part machine, and without the machine, she would remain only partly human. The boundary between the human and the machine has blurred. Rebecca has become a cyborg.10

 

Fragmentation

Another area of concern in cybersex has to do with the promotion of fragmented experience of sexuality. Normally in cybersexual relationships focus is on body parts, the genitals or the breasts, or on a piecemeal experience of another person rather than an interaction with the whole human being. Individuals used to cybersex see others primarily in terms of the objects of focus. Because of this they will spend hours and hours seeking for this particular interest.

Isolation

Isolation of self from sexuality

Generally non-existent would be direct exchange, objective feedbacking, or the processing of responses, feelings, and reactions as they come. One turns into oneself, in isolation, controlling everything and lingering in one’s thoughts and fantasies.11 In a society that is now tending toward isolation, the cybersex encounter is not conducive to psychosexual development. Sexual gratification has become the main preoccupation in cybersex.

Isolation of self from people

No efforts at genuine relating are made as the person spends hours and hours before the computer. Affected definitely are the skills for socialization and building of intimacy. The case of Ted we mentioned earlier typifies this reality. What consequently comes out of this is the significant reduction in witnessing to the value of true community living. Because of this, those with deficient personality and poor communication skills will never free themselves from their anxiety and fear of social relationship.

Numbing of consciousness and conscience

Sensitivity as to what is appropriate and modest is thrown out of the window. The person is given limitless freedom and not bound to any responsibility by any norms.

Damage to physical and emotional health

Exercise, proper nourishment, and sleep slip away as the person becomes so engrossed in the sexual encounter. Thus, other areas of life are forgotten, like time with family, spiritual activities, and relationships with people around.

The list can go on. But one thing is sure, cybersex is/has become a social malaise and sex addiction due to increasing online sex.

Ethical Issues

The areas of concern enumerated above definitely carry with them ethical weight. The moral implications involved in cybersex are incredibly numerous. Just about any of the discussions involving sins against chastity come into play: masturbation, premarital sex, extramarital sex, homosexuality, voyeurism, exhibitionism, sexual fantasy and sexual role playing, fetishes, pornography, etc. Also coming into play are issues related to living an integrated life in relationship to others in the community at large. The significance of the body in sexual encounter also matters significantly as sexual pleasure between two people is attained without real body to body encounter. The following are some of the deeper ethical issues related to cybersex.

Cybersex demarginalizes the sexual self.

Cybersex has reduced the person solely to his or her genital and erotic character as person. In other words, his/her entire personhood is reduced simply to his/her sex. The consequence of this is the reduction of sexuality to eroticism and the reduction of eroticism to genitality. As in cybersex the person’s identity does not matter anymore, the cybersex practitioner’s history, background, feelings, aspirations, and many important personal components are set aside. He/She therefore loses the very essence of being human and is reduced into a source of sexual gratification.

Cybersex alters the essence of sexuality from being a gift to being a commodity.

Once the person becomes an object it necessarily follows that sexuality becomes an object, too. In cybersex the very nature of sexuality as relationship disappears. Cybersex no longer demands relating which as the very essence of sexuality is where the process of evolving that relationship becomes significant and where the cognizance of the difficulties entailed in the nourishment of that relationship is never by-passed. In cybersex acquaintance happens superficially and relationship is based on false identities. The giving and receiving of respect no longer counts, nor do negotiations of involvement and commitment. What is important is the feeding on one’s primal passions. Thus the free giving of the self disappears and with it the very nature of sexuality as gift dies.

Cybersex debases the human person as an embodied spirit.

Cybersex debases the human person since it violates the sacredness of the human body. It must be remembered that the person is an embodied spirit, an "ensouled" body. He/She is body and soul. If the body is touched inevitably the spirit is affected. Disrespect for the integrity of the body means disrespect for the total person. The too physical preoccupation into which almost all cybersex hustlers fall does not give importance anymore to the integral reality of the human person as an embodied subject.

Cybersex corrupts the way one sees the body phenomenon.

The way one enjoys or takes pleasure either in imagining or looking at the bodies of the chat mates corrupts the way one looks at his/her own body and other bodies in general. Inasmuch as there is no commitment heightened in cybersex, this results in a very negative attitude not only in the men and women engaged in cybersex but also in their attitude toward those who are not engaged in it. Actions and attitudes which cybersex stimulates in people make them what and who they are. The very essence of practice is that we become what we do.12

Cybersex prevents the person from seeing deeper the spirituality entailed in the body and in sex.

The very meaning of love is destroyed by cybersex, reducing it to its physical and genital importance alone without regard for its spiritual functionality and meaning. This is a breach of human dignity.

Cybersex degenerates values.

Cybersex promotes degeneration of values since the very sexual reality it portrays is projected as what is normatively normal and desirable. Sexual aberrations are thus promoted, like masturbation, promiscuity, sexual harassment, adultery, etc. Cybersex hardly has any redeeming social value.

It is precisely because of the complexity of the issues related to cybersex that an ethical framework for moral evaluation is called for to adequately address it. From the framework would come ethical norms toward establishing an effective approach to the problem of cybersexual expression and/or exploration. However before that can be done, there is need to look at the positive and negative arguments of cybersex encounters and expressions. It is my contention in this discourse that there is an ethical framework bankruptcy vis-à-vis cybersex; hence, the challenge to look for a new framework to better address the morality of cybersex.

Insufficient Arguments

Without expounding at length on the history of the moral evaluation or the actual approaches in the area of sexual promiscuity and deviations, I present here my way of seeing the problem of cybersex. I propose a series of ways through which we can advance in our theological and moral reflections and come up with an adequate pastoral praxis in addressing the issue of cybersex. However, it is clear that the morality and immorality of cybersex cannot be based on an insufficient framework and shallow levels of moral argumentation.

Using the traditional framework

The moral tradition which places cybersex in the scheme of sins against chastity—masturbation, sexual delectation, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, extramarital sex, voyeurism, exhibitionism, sexual fantasy and sexual role playing, fetishes, pornography, etc.—is inadequate. Certainly the traditional criteria of nullity of procreative and educational ends of sexual expression and the venereal pleasure principle would be far off in addressing the complexity of cybersex. Put more clearly, if cybersex were to be evaluated using the traditional frame, it would be considered immoral because (a) it nullifies the procreative and educational finality of the sexual relationship and (b) it seeks pleasure, which is only allowed within the context of marriage. These two criteria which the classical sexual moral reflection proposes certainly depart from an anthropological vision which has already been corrected in contemporary reflections on human sexuality. Human sexuality is more than genital expression and procreation. It is a striving toward integration and fullness with all its implications.13

Using the pragmatic form of argumentation

Also not valid is the pragmatic form of argumentation. In that perspective one looks at the social and psychological conveniences or inconveniences which the cybersexual relationship brings with it. This type of argument is used to defend both the morality and immorality of cybersex. Those who attempt to prove the morality of cybersexual relationships will use these arguments generally:

Cybersex has the potential virtually to eliminate several sexually related scourges including HIV-AIDS, venereal diseases, unwanted pregnancies and abortion.14

Cybersex provides international public health officials and population policy-makers at the United Nations, USAID, and Planned Parenthood with renewed focus. The challenge is to make as many computers available as possible for sexually active men and women living in the Third World in order to stabilize population growth.

Cybersex revolution provides enormous financial potentials globally.

Cybersex prepares the good ground for sexual competence due to exposure and practice of sexual activities. This means that cybersex serves as convenient means to apprenticeship and experimentation for a better marriage.

The anonymity in cybersex allows stigmatized groups (homosexuals, physically and mentally challenged) to find others who share their stigmatized aspect.

Likewise we see as weak and non-convincing the reasons which support the pragmatic approach in order to declare the immorality of cybersex. Here are some of the common reasons given:

Cybersex is a breach of the fidelity vowed by couples in their marital commitment.

Cybersex is the abuse of one’s sexual freedom especially in the incessant sexual imaginations and masturbatory practices accompanying the cybersexual encounters.

While cybersex is a lesser evil compared to prolonged sexual abstinence characterized by repression, it is still wrong.

Cybersex leads to a double life consequently failing in the needed attention to real life.

Cybersex fosters or sustains a market for pornography and the serious exploitation and dangers it involves.

Cybersex is immoral because it degrades people. They go down to their level of animality.

Inadequacy of Traditional Models of Evaluation

Sexual ethics in the last decades has been subjected to a significant revision in Christian life. Both the theologians and the Church hierarchy have been trying to reorient Christian conduct, trying to be faithful to the most genuine Christian understanding of sexuality and to the new anthropological approaches to it. The theological and moral studies now approach the matter from more fundamental perspectives. On one hand, they subject to critical revision the approaches of the existing sexual morality, above all those with a casuistic orientation; on the other hand, they offer a new theologico-moral model to express the ethical dimension of sexual conduct.

The positive moral orientation of sexuality may be expressed in different ways. The evaluative criteria of a morally ordained sexual conduct can receive different formulations depending on the perspective adopted to express it. However, it is only after criticizing the criteria in classical moral theology that we can formulate that which is more adequate to express the moral reality of sexuality and that which is more adapted to the mentality of the men and women of today.

Criticism of the formulations of classical moral theology

In classical moral theology there are two principal forms used to express the positive moral orientation that is necessary to maintain in human sexuality. These forms are: first, to see sexuality under the regulation expressed in the Ten Commandments, and second, to study the sexual conduct within the anthropologico-formal system of the virtues, concretely, within the ordination of the virtue of chastity.

Under the ordination expressed in the Ten Commandments

Moralists who systematize moral theology according to the Ten Commandments introduce sexuality within the framework of the precepts of the sixth and the ninth commandments. This is still the case in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. To establish the morality of human sexuality only from the formulations of the Decalogue is not just and not adequate for plenty of reasons. In the first place, with this formulation there is the danger of making sexual morality something extrinsic, disconnecting it from the very anthropological reality from where it must come. Morality has to be born from the person and it must not come from the outside. In this light, the formulation of criteria for moral evaluation has to possess a personalist mark.15

Although it is possible to interpret in a personalist manner the precepts of the Ten Commandments, there is no doubt that the formulations of the sixth and ninth commandments carry a series of socio-cultural configurations which have been unmasked by recent biblical researches and found to be in contradiction with the New Testament fullness of revelation. For example, there is the instrumentalizing evaluation that a woman receives in such formulations. Adultery and covetousness in the sixth and the ninth commandments are basically oriented to the woman as if the woman were the only object of sexual appetite. Besides this, many people will certainly find themselves frustrated when traditionalists claim that the horizon of the Ten Commandments could be expanded to reach all the fields of Christian sexual morality. This is impossible for the Ten Commandments to do. The exegetical and theological studies on the Decalogue clearly point out these limitations of the precepts in relation to sexual morality.

Thus, an exposition of the moral aspect of sexuality starting with the formulations of the Ten Commandments is seen to be incomplete and inadequate. Both from the theological perspective and the pastoral angle, there is the demand to move away from the Old Testament formulas for an adequate expression of Christian sexual morality.

Under the ordination of the virtue of chastity

Sexual morality in its positive aspect is seen as the realization of the virtue of chastity. This expression of the sexual moral task as realization of the ideal of the virtue of chastity has had a long acceptance among moralists. It has offered great possibilities for an unfolding of a sexual morality. There are many possibilities found in that method to express the moral sense of sexuality and to build the bridge of dialogue between Christian morality and modern psychology. Even recognizing these possibilities, I believe that utilizing the anthropologico-formal scheme of the virtue of chastity is not the best system for our time to express the moral value of sexuality, for several reasons:

a. Before anything else the exposition of moral theology, following the framework of virtues, carries with it the temptation and the danger of falling into formalism. One runs the risk of concentrating so much on the perfection of that aspect of one’s moral life that the content properly belonging to morality is overlooked. Moral theology does not consist in making an ethical logic but in constructing the edifice of concrete morality.

b. The framework of virtues in moral theology is hardly any different from the structure realized by St. Thomas’ genius. In other words, virtues are still conceived according to the anthropological understanding of St. Thomas. There has been progress in the understanding of the human person. The psychological studies on impulses, emotions, tendencies, aspirations, etc., have given us as a result a better understanding of the structure of human personality. Moral theology today has to be a knowledge based on this new anthropological understanding.

c. Besides these two objections of general character, it is necessary to point to some other factors that refer directly to the virtue of chastity. Primarily, the notion of chastity has many elements that render it more as a cultural concept rather than a critical one. The principal features that shape the existing cultural concept of chastity are the following:

Negativity. Chastity is understood primarily as the non-satisfaction of sexual impulse. This non-satisfaction takes place in the intention to suppress or at least in not wanting to consider that human impulse. One slides down to the understanding of chastity as a frustration of something that is desired in the innermost core of one’s being.

Compulsion. The notion of chastity strives to show sexuality as something prohibited or sinful in the sense of taboos. In this regard, socially accepted sexual satisfactions are experienced as a concession or a lesser evil since chastity carries with it a nuance of obsession more or less causing neurosis and possessing a repressive character.

Puritanism. Chastity is understood within a dualistic understanding of matter-spirit and body-soul. Chastity represents the triumph of the spirit over the flesh; it is an angelic virtue or a saintly virtue if one wants another term. In the depths of this pseudo angelism can be seen a certain displeasure regarding sex, even pointing to a perceived self-destructive and masochistic element in the corporeality of the human being.

Reductionism. Besides these cultural adherences, the concept of chastity as expounded in the manuals of moral theology supposes a great reductionism in the notion of sexuality. The virtue of chastity is understood as the special moral virtue, the subjective part of temperance, which inclines to moderate the use of the generative faculty according to right reason enlightened by faith. Other moralists, instead of talking about the use of the reproductive faculty, will prefer to talk about the reproductive faculty as venereal pleasure or delight.

These definitions of chastity point to a reduction of sexuality to pure genitality. The broader anthropological meaning of human sexuality therefore remains limited to the field of biology. This understanding of sexuality leads to a biologistic or physicalist morality, disintegrating the human person in the process. The consequences of this understanding have been generally harmful to sexual morality. It seems necessary to avoid the danger of falling into them again.

This insight on the use of the virtue of chastity for moral evaluation helps us see how limited our moral evaluation of cybersex would be if this classical framework is again used. Such an ordination of the virtue of chastity shows us an observable absence of integral sexual anthropology in the understanding of human sexuality and sexual morality. To construct a sexual morality not recognizing the said anthropology will frustrate all the evaluative judgments at their very roots. It appears necessary to go beyond the scheme of the virtue of chastity in order to determine the content of sexual morality. Cybersex certainly calls for this search for a new ethical framework.

An Ethical Framework for Moral Evaluation

The new formulation has to be based on an authentic sexual anthropology. In this sense, sexual morality has to make explicit as an ethical duty the most profound reality of human sexuality. Here I am following the framework of Marciano Vidal, a Spanish moral theologian who has written many books on moral theology.16 What I shall do is to start from his framework and build onto it some additional insights in order to have a more adequate critique and evaluation of cybersex. There are three elements in the framework of Vidal: personalization, differentiation or uniqueness, and progression.

Principle of Personalization

Sexuality is a human force and dimension for the edification of the human person. This edification of the human person is a process of conversion from being to responsibility. In other words, we look at sexual morality as a force centered on the human person moving from "what is" into "what ought to do," that is, from being to doing. Hence we deduce this general principle: the positive moral dimension of sexuality consists in the personalization of sexuality within the structures of human personality.

There are three implications of this for the ethics of sexuality. Firstly, sexual conduct is considered morally right if it personalizes or tends to personalize the moral agent as well as other human beings. Secondly, a particular sexual action has to be integrated with the harmonious totality of the moral agent’s personality. Thirdly, ethical rightness belongs not so much to isolated acts per se; rather, what has decisive importance is the incorporation of the categories of attitude and fundamental option. In this manner, the person becomes the center of the moral reflection and the moral act is understood in a new way.

In centering sexual morality on the human person, we affirm that the fundamental task is to realize a harmonious and peaceful integration of sexuality in the totality of the person. Therefore, we apply and concretize this general principle taking into account not just the anatomy of human behavior or human acts but rather the integral understanding of the human and Christian personality. By personality we mean the totality of the dynamic, conscious, and freely integrated reserves that are ordered, balanced, and disciplined by the human being in his/her interiority. Consequently, the personality cannot be put at the beginning as point of departure from which the features of character and behavior depend. It must rather be considered as the point of arrival, the aim, the consequence of the education received and made by the subject. Therefore, personality is the fruit of freedom that integrates in us the tendencies and the vital impulses, imposing on ourselves a discipline to overcome our inferior nature in whose hierarchy we suffer, transforming them into precious elements of personal vocation.

In view of this understanding of sexuality, it can be said that sexuality serves the development of human persons by calling them to constant creativity, to full openness of being, to the realization of every potential within the personality, and to a continued discovery and expression of authentic selfhood. Our sexuality, therefore, is essential both to our becoming fully human and our human becoming.17

The principle of personalization calls people to a clearer recognition of their relational nature, of their absolute need to reach out and embrace others to achieve personal fulfillment. What the principle of personalization in sexuality articulates is that God continuously calls us out of ourselves to relate with others in order to attain our human fullness.

No less than the late John Paul II articulates this insight. In his Reflections on "Humanae Vitae": Conjugal Morality and Spirituality, he provides in a different manner the same insight on personalization as the call to human fullness through relationship:

As a people of faith … we realize that we have been loved into being. We live because God loves us, and insofar as we live with His life we are enabled to love even as He has first loved us. At its deepest and truest level, Christian living is an extension of the Incarnation; in other words, it is a continuation of Christ’s embodiment of God’s love for us. By professing to be Christians, we commit ourselves to giving an affirmative response to God’s expectation of us that we will have love become flesh in our attitudes and actions. Our sexuality plays a crucial role in our ability to answer this call to love.18

It is in this regard that the nature of the human person (being) and his or her acts (doing) constitute the harmonizing principle of human sexuality. Because of this new understanding of personalization it is probably reasonable to assert that the older expression of procreative and unitive dimensions of sexual acts is too limiting and static to guide us in addressing recent moral issues in human sexuality, particularly cybersex. Behind this assertion is the belief that procreation and love union restrict the meaning of human sexuality to the context of marriage.

Principle of Individuation (Differentiation or Uniqueness)

The principle of individuation makes us remember that every person is a unique system and that he/she is not entirely embraced or taken in by any prefabricated scheme. Objective rule is necessary but it has to be applied taking into account the non-repetitive nature of every person.

Joseph Selling, a Belgian moral theologian who is at the forefront of personalism, defines further the meaning of the person’s uniqueness:

Almost by definition, the individual human person, adequately considered, is a totally unique, one-time occurrence. We can speak, for instance, of a "personality" in the sense of particular characteristics that belong to the unique individual. Further, each person has their [sic] own talents, abilities, skills, perspective. These may not be equally valued in every social context, but they nonetheless constitute the value(ableness) of the person. The virtually infinite variety of personal characteristics are [sic] the result of unique combinations of "nature and nurture" that will never be repeated. Therefore, we are justified in the observation that each person should be treated as a unique individual.19

Our personal uniqueness orients us toward new possibilities in our human existence, especially in the non-diminution of our freedom of self-determination and in our equality with others. Both these two elements guarantee the high degree of our human dignity.20

The manuals of morality are used to dealing with the problems of sexual morality with an abstract consideration of the human person. This vision has to be completed by contributions coming from a dynamic psychology, in which the nature of the person is adequately considered.

Principle of Progression

The principle of progression makes us recall that the human personality is subject to the process of maturation. The fundamental orientation of one’s existence is not realized in a precise manner. It needs a long and deep process of maturation to reach the full possession of the very self. In the same light, sexuality plays a crucial role in our ability to live up to our call toward growth and maturity. Sexuality is both the physiological and psychological grounding of our capacity for love. It is a basic way of expressing our incompleteness and relatedness. It is God’s ingenious way of calling us into communion with others through touch and embrace—emotionally, intellectual, physically.21

Richard Gula, summarizing the insight of another pesonalist, Louis Janssens, gives us the moral implications of the principle of progression. Casting it as the principle of personal historicity of the subject, he says that the moral implication of this category of historicity of the human person is that moral responsibility becomes proportionate to one’s capacity in every stage of his/her development. Moral culpability is not a once-and-for-all thing since moral behavior is related to one’s stage of development. Moreover, moral acts obtain their full meaning if they are considered as related to the total context that also includes the future effects or consequences.22

Since human persons develop and change within their cultures, there is need to constantly assess and elaborate new values which can be transformed into norms. In this way, we are not only attuning ourselves to developments that happen around us but we also ensure that as these new values emerge, we constantly order laws, norms, and principles so as to promote human dignity. Gula further adds that as historical subjects we must be dynamic in our moral reflection so as to keep pace with the very dynamic life we want to orient. This entails that those new values that emerge are integrated into both our individual and communal lives.23

Sexual morality centering on the person tends to move or transfer the accent or point of interest from the purely sexual field to the wider field of the human person. In polarizing sexual morality around the nucleus of personality, dynamically understood, in a development of progressive integration in all levels, the said sexual morality deepens the morality of the human person or anthropological morality. It places the problem of sexuality in the tonality of human existence. We can say that one of the principal characteristics of a healthy human personality is sexuality well integrated in the totality of the human person.

Applying our insight in the context of our discussion on cybersex, we can therefore conclude that we cannot deal with its morality apart from the framework of personalization with its two immediate corollary principles, individuation and progression. We can only make a proper evaluation of cybersex from the vantage point of our analysis of the maturation of the human personality, thus preventing the debilitating effect of this online practice on the totality of the human person.

What Constitutes Sexual Failure or Sin

Having expounded on the positive aspect of sexuality it will be easier for us to concretize where to locate moral failure or breakdown, and make the evaluation that must be given that failure. The critical comparison with the doctrine of classical morality will help us to expound clearly our point of view as to what constitutes sexual failure or sin.

Doctrine of moral casuistry

If chastity—as a positive aspect of sexuality—is considered by the manuals of casuistic morality from the biologistic and genital understanding of sexuality, lust—the vice contrary to it—suffers from identical reductionism. Sexual sin is, therefore, defined from the same perspective.

In the definitions that moralists give to sexual sin or lust, we find two modalities: those that insist on the aspect of the disordered use of the faculty, concretely, the reproductive faculty; and those that insist on the disordered search and acceptance of pleasure, concretely, venereal pleasure. Some moralists maintain an eclectic posture; they combine the two modalities. Sexual sin would consist in making use of the generative biological faculty and of pleasure concomitant to it outside the field of their natural finality, procreation and education of children.

In this understanding of sexual sin we find the same deficiencies we saw in the explanation of chastity. In the first place, we find an extreme biologistic explanation. Sexual sin is reduced to the actuation of the genital organs, in the undue use of the semen or in the venereal pleasure unduly sought. In this manner, sexual sin appears to be circumscribed in the field of biological function. This is not the sin of the person in a broader sense. Since the biological aspect does not define sexual anthropology completely or principally, it is not on that level that sexual sin must be located, but somewhere else.

The manuals of moral casuistry evaluate internal acts according to their definition of sexual sin. Here we find a deficiency. They evaluate them in terms of their orientation to the exercise of the reproductive faculty or the venereal delectation or enjoyment. Once sexual sin is located directly on the biological level of human sexuality and related to venereal delectation, the problem of how to legitimate sexual pleasure arises. From St. Augustine to our time, sexual morality has been seen compromised and caught up in this problem of how to integrate sexual pleasure within the sexual moral task.24

New point of view

We have criticized the notion that the manuals of moral theology give to sexual sin: reducing sexual sin to the field of the genital. Taking into account this criticism and attending to integral sexual anthropology, how can we express anew the nature of sexual sin?

The negative moral aspect of sexuality is not more than the contrary relative to what we have said regarding its positive moral dimension. The "ought to be" of sexuality consists in the fact that this deals with being integrated in the dynamic process of the maturation of the person where the existential structure, intimacy, and self-offering are abundant. Moral failure or failure in this "ought to be" has to be understood as a negation and a non-realization of that content of personalization that human sexuality really is.

We can admit that a person, by virtue of his/her sexuality, is essentially ordained to love and to community.25 In this light, radical sexual sin consists in the individualization of sexuality. This individualization we ought to concretize in two complementary aspects. In the first place, sexuality is individualized when it does not achieve being integrated in the dynamic totality of the person or, worse, when it is a force that undermines the edifice or integral constitution of the person. Secondly, sexuality is individualized when it encloses the person within himself or herself. This means that the person through his or her sexuality does not arrive in a true union with another human being because of many obstacles introduced into his/her realization. Instead he/she remains in the safe haven of the "I." In this way, the coercive limitation of egoism and disordered love happens in the sexual realm. Sexuality is located exclusively at the service of individual pleasure. Both the individualization by way of egoistic enclosure can happen at different levels: in the search for sexual satisfaction within the exclusivity of one’s own personal world (the body personal world) and when sexual relationship does not become converted into an authentic personal relationship.

Christine Gudorf casts the same idea in a different manner. She says:

Our deepest human needs are not for purely physical pleasure—or for the momentary release of tension and stress that orgasm brings—but for a linked physical and emotional intimacy, for bonding. If we enter a sexual relationship seeking only physical pleasure and offering only physical pleasure to the other, we can achieve physical pleasure, but not the pleasure of satisfying our deeper needs.26

The common denominator of the two kinds of sexual disordered conduct, the non-integration of sexuality to the totality of one’s personhood and the enclosure of the person to him/herself, is the egoism that blocks the constructive dynamism of sexuality. Speaking in psychological terms, disordered sexual conduct is a narcissistic mechanism. Egoism does not allow sexuality to open itself or achieve personal and interpersonal maturity. Therefore, we affirm that the task or commitment regarding sexuality is to make sexuality non-narcissistic.

Sexual sin consists in the failure or breakdown in the offering or giving dimension of sexuality and love. In cases of sexual failure, a man or woman denies his or her person to follow the internal dynamism of human sexuality, and still from the core of his or her personhood, and starting with concrete manifestations, a man or woman refuses to realize the surrender of his/her self to the community.

Being a failure in love, sexual sin is in its depth a failure in charity. In this light, the basic Christian dynamism that is defined by love breaks down. All sexual sins are sins against love or charity. Destructive sexuality happens when personal alienation and frustration come about as results of sexual relationships.

Given the insight on the meaning of moral sin in the context of sexuality, let us now return to cybersex and see whether the entire framework we have set up makes sense for its moral evaluation. Certainly, cybersexual expression and/or exploration will not pass the personalization principle but instead will fall into the individualization of sexuality. The overall orientation of sexual dynamism in cybersex is introverted to the "I," alienating the cybersex hustlers from each other rather than uniting them. Thus, the creative growth toward personal integration will never be realized. It is only in upholding consistently the giftedness of the self to others that personal integration or fullness will come about. In light of this the initial suspicions on the ethical issues which we discussed earlier about cybersex can make sense.

To further crystallize this assertion, it is best that we look into the norms that can best articulate personalization and its adverse, individualization. We must recall that moral norms are the open expressions of moral values. I am proposing the criteria for sexual behavior. These criteria consist of certain values that are conducive to the realization of creative growth toward integration of the human person.27 While these criteria represent the values needed for personalization, warning must be made not to absolutize them, nor to make them the ultimate basis for judging the morality of sexual conduct like cybersex. These criteria could be rationalized in order to soothe the conscience of the individual, overlooking in the process the human potentiality for manipulation, egoism, and eventually, individualization or sin.

Norms for a Personalization Framework

Self-liberating

Jerome Lejeune rightly claims that a sexual relationship cannot be spoken of exclusively as a totally altruistic giving of self to the other.28 There is wholesome self-interest involved in sexual relationships. The Catholic Theological Society of America affirms this factum in this criterion. Proper exercise of human sexuality contributes to self assurance, enhancing in the process the person’s potential toward growth and self-expression. In other words, self-liberation as a moral criterion emphasizes the importance of sexuality as source and means to attain personal growth toward maturity and the need to reject sexual expression that is self-enslaving. Self-liberation brings to the fore the breaking of the bonds of false identity or negative self-image. Likewise, its goal is self-fulfillment, arriving at peace with the self, a certain identity that is dynamic and rooted in confidence. Self-liberation, however, raises a red signal on the human potential for manipulation, egocentrism, and certainly, sin.

Other-enriching

This norm calls for more than non-manipulation or non-exploitation of the other against his or her will. It affirms that if human sexuality were to be wholesome it must give expression to a generous interest and concern for the well-being of the other. Concretely, this means that sexuality possesses these characteristics: sensitive, considerate, thoughtful, compassionate, understanding, and supportive. Likewise, it must be forgiving and healing, calling out the best from the other without dominating him or her.

Honest

Mutual trust must underlie wholesome sexual expression. Following this assertion, we must never forget that any pretense, evasion, or deception constitutes a betrayal of that trust. Basically, honesty is difficult to maintain in sexual relationship. Many factors contribute to this, for example, the force of passion, the psychological differences in the very nature of being a man and a woman, cultural diversity, education, and even personal sensitivities.

 

Faithful

Faithfulness is facilitative of developing stable relationships. It strengthens couples against those threats bent on destroying the love relationship. Fidelity does not mean that partners are to avoid forming other relationships; rather what it wants to highlight is that the relationship must not open up to jealousy, crippling possessiveness, and distrust. Put in another manner, faithfulness is certainly more than not committing infidelities. Rather it serves as attitude, a moral grounding which serves as the fundamental option of the person in his or her life based on an ethic of responsible living.

Socially responsible

Human beings are social in nature. Precisely for this reason personalization expressed through the creative and integrative forces of sexuality must be exercised in the best interest of the larger community. As human beings we have a basic calling to exercise our sexuality in way that reveals a consciousness of the implications for society of our sexual behavior. Our conduct must be in a manner that is humbly and humanly constructive of the human community. Social responsibility does not mean legalism, that is, simple observance of laws or the good order of society. Rather it means our exercising the will to forego personal benefit and growth so that the greater good of society is preserved or promoted.

Life-serving

Every person can serve life. This of course will vary depending on one’s status in life. For celibates or the unmarried, human sexuality may find expression in a life of dedicated service to people through religious affiliation or particular societies. For the married, life-giving does not only mean service to others but procreation and seeing to the proper growth of their children in love. Life-giving is likewise expressed in the nourishment of other relationships, provision of goods, providing services and even beauty for others, help to other people in raising their children, or supporting the work life of the partner in a relationship.

Joyous

Wholesome sexual expression should give witness to an enthusiastic appreciation of the gift of life and mystery of love. It must never fall into the pit of becoming simply an impassive submission to duty or an insensitive conformity to expectation. This norm does not nullify the instinctual desire for pleasure but rather affirms the enjoyment of human sexual expressions without assigning guilt or remorse feelings to it. It accepts the importance of the erotic element in the relationship. The erotic element must be a reflection of the passionate celebration of life, which it calls forth. However, this does not mean a blank acceptance of hedonism.

According to the Catholic Theological Society of America, one can be reasonably sure that the sexual behavior involved is whole and moral if the above-mentioned seven norms or criteria are found. Conversely, where the sexual conduct becomes personally frustrating and self-destructive, manipulative and enslaving, deceitful and dishonest, inconsistent and unstable, indiscriminate and promiscuous, irresponsible and non-life serving, burdensome and repugnant, and ungenerous, it is clear that there is an abuse of the moral order involved and consequently, personalization is never realized.29

It is in the light of the above discussion that we can properly locate the moral evaluation of cybersex. Is the cybersex relationship self-liberating, other-enriching, honest, faithful, socially responsible, life-serving, and joyous? Does it mirror the values entailed in constituting personalization? Or is cybersex self-frustrating, enslaving of the other, dishonest, unfaithful or promiscuous, irresponsible, non-life serving, and repugnant? In other words, does it bring the "I" to be enclosed, unable to flourish and realize the need for growth and integration?

Conclusion

I hope that the framework and its concretion in the norms make clear how to ethically manage the difficult issues that the cybersex phenomenon brings to our contemporary experience. However, we cannot consider them as absolute. There are evaluative criteria we still have to look into. These criteria respect the Christian dimension in the moral evaluation of sexual conduct.

Any framework or norm in sexual moral evaluation is empty unless it is enlightened by the core principle of Christian conduct, the Gospel law of love. When we apply this commandment to cybersex or to any sexual behavior, we judge how best to love our neighbor by considering both the need and the situation of the persons involved. This love must be true and just. True and just love exists 1) when it does not falsify or miss the reality of the person of the beloved, as human and unique; 2) when it does not falsify or miss the reality of the one loving; and 3) when it does not violate, distort, or ignore the nature of the relationship between them. Because of these, we have to be respectful of the factum that we can never know in advance the best way of expressing love in a given circumstance and, therefore, we must never have a ready-at-hand answer to judge moral behavior.

While personalization and the seven norms articulated above seem to be very reliable for moral evaluation, they must never be considered as a checklist wherein an action which gets a higher point in the list will be considered moral. Rather they are to give light to conscience but not take its place. In other words, conscience, which is the ultimate subjective criterion for moral judgment, remains and is never nullified by the framework and the norms. This, therefore, properly acknowledges the normativity of the framework and the norms but not their universal absoluteness.




NOTES

 

 

Annie Ruth C. Sabangan, "In the Chat Rooms: A Look into the Minds of Cyber Addicts," The Manila Times (14 October 2003): 1.

This is done via Yahoo Messenger or via MIRC. Another chat engine popularly available is ICQ ("I seek you"), which is owned by Time Warner’s AOL subsidiary. Multiple user domains (MUDs) are also used as virtual places where character, objects, rooms, and actions are all created in text. MUD users often have cybersex in much the same way that Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and chat users do. They tell each other sexual stories.

There are others special words often used in cybersex encounters, e.g., "PM me" (private message me). This means going into a private chat room where only the two of them can know what they are talking about. "SEB" (sex eyeball) refers to the actual meeting of two chatters for real life sexual encounter.

Of the estimated 1.5 million Filipinos who use the Internet, half are in Metro Manila. AC Nielsen notes that 45 percent are aged 12-19 years old; 36 percent, 20-29; 12 percent, 30-39 years old; and 8 percent, 40-60. The survey shows that half of those with Internet access belong to the A-C classes or the upper and middle economic strata, though class D users, who mostly access Internet from cafes and schools, are also increasing. See also Annie Ruth C. Sabangan, "Young Filipinos Getting Hooked on Cybersex," The Manila Times (15 October 2003): 1. The Philippine Headline News Online featured an article stating the "the Philippines now has the world’s 15th largest list of possible sexual partners on the Internet," athttp://pervscan.com/2005/08/11/two-hundred-thousand-pinoys-offering-cyber-sex; accessed May 18, 2007. The popularity of cybersex in the Philippines is partly due to the brisk business of affordable computer and Internet rental shops in Metro Manila. Internet users pay as low as 20 pesos per hour. Even from midnight until dawn, the internet shops are always full. Men are often seen engaging in sex chats.

René J. Molenkamp and Luisa M. Saffoti, "The Cybersexual Addiction," Human Development 22 (Spring 2001) 1: 5-6.

Mark Griffith, "Sex on the Internet: Observations and Implications for Internet Sex Addiction," The Journal of Sex Research, 38 (November 2001) 4: 333.

Katelyn A. McKenna et al., "Demarginalizing the Sexual Self," The Journal of Sex Research, 38 (November 2001) 4: 302-303. See also Alvin Cooper et al., "Sexuality on the Internet: From Sexual Exploration to Pathological Expression," Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 30 (April 1999) 2: 154-164.

Griffith, 335.

Ibid., 334.

Robin Hamman, "Cyborg Theory and Applications," in Cyborgasms: Cybersex Amongst Multiple-Selves and Cyborgs in the Narrow-Bandwidth Space of America Online Chat Rooms. (Published online, 1998); available athttp://www.cybersociology.com/files/cyborg asms.html#anchor35478; accessed 19 May 2007.

For a sample cybersexual conversation, see Sabangan, "In the Chat Rooms," 5.

Another way of looking at this same point is to appreciate the fact that the body itself has a memory. The human body is a privileged point of access and exchange between the spirit and its environment. How we act sexually is always significant because of the deep reverberations which sexuality has in the body and in the spirit. Established patterns have a way of settling in deeply and leaving traces. Hence the body remembers in a preconscious way that is deeper and different than the conscious mind. One’s body has a memory for the good life and a rebellious spirit, once in charge, has a way or worming itself into the bone. See Gerard D. Coleman, Human Sexuality: An All-Embracing Gift New York: Alba House, 1992), 59.

Vincent J. Genovesi, In Pursuit of Love: Catholic Morality and Human Sexuality, 2nd ed. (Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2003), 135-145.

All cybersex is safe sex. Birth control pills are anachronisms of the low-tech past for cyber enthusiasts. Indeed, no contraceptive whatsoever is necessary. Since pregnancy, whether wanted or unwanted, is not an option, abortion is a moot point.

In the 1970s, the Belgian moral theologian Louis Janssens introduced the notion of the human person adequately considered. See his exploratory work, "Personalist Morals," Louvain Studies 3 (Spring 1970): 5-16.

Marciano Vidal, Moral del amor y de la sexualidad (Moral de actitudes, II-2a parte), 8a ed.(Madrid: Perpetuo Socorro Editorial, 1991), 195-211.

James B. Nelson, Embodiment: An Approach to Sexuality and Christian Theology (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1978), 104-105.

John Paul II, Reflections on "Humanae Vitae": Conjugal Morality and Spirituality (Boston: St. Paul’s Edition, 1984), §30.

Joseph Selling, "The Human Person," in Christian Ethics: An Introduction, ed. Bernard Hoose (Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1998), 106.

Kevin T. Kelly, "The Dignity of the Human Person: A Common Starting-Point," Chapter 3 of New Directions in Moral Theology (New: Geoffrey Chapman, 1992), 27-60.

Nelson, 118, 104-105.

Richard M. Gula, Reason Informed by Faith: Foundations of Catholic Morality (New York: Paulist Press, 1989), 70.

Ibid.

Philip Keane, Sexual Morality: A Catholic Perspective (New York: Paulist Press, 1975), 180, exposes the problematic of the morality of venereal pleasure along this line: "All instances of non-marital venereal pleasure, excepting those which are basically spontaneous and do not involve human persons in a notable way, contain within themselves a significant degree of ontic evil, i.e., these instances of venereal pleasure lack in a morally significant degree the due fullness of being that is open to human persons through sexual acts. In addition, many venereal pleasure causing actions within marriage contain significant degrees of ontic evil, because these acts too are not open to the fullness of being possible in the human sexual experience. In both non-marital and marital venereal pleasure causing actions containing significant ontic evil, the exact degree of ontic evil present can vary somewhat with circumstances of age, etc."

Rollo May, Love and Will (New York: Norton, 1969), 311, makes the point that "for human beings the more powerful need is not for sex, per se, but for relationships, intimacy, acceptance, and affirmation."

Christine Gudorf, "Why Sex Is So Good for Your Marriage," U.S. Catholic 57 (1992): 9.

I am following here the insights which the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA) arrived at in its ethical reflection based on a sociological research on human sexuality. See Anthony Kosnik et al., Human Sexuality: New Directions in American Catholic Thought (New York: Paulist Press, 1977), 91-95.

Jerome Lejeune, "The Instincts of Love," in Commentaries on the Vatican Declaration on Sexual Ethics (Washington D.C.: U.S.C.C., 1976), 66-69.

A revised approach to sexual norms has been done recently in order to highlight more pressing issues relative to the phenomenon of human sexuality. Justice is one of them. See Margaret A. Farley, A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics (New York, Continuum, 2006), 215-231. The author articulates her critique of the understanding of love in sexual relationships and proposes her own norms to constitute what she calls justice in love. Like the CTSA norms, she also has seven: do not harm, free consent, mutuality, equality, commitment, fruitfulness, and social justice. While the author introduces new insights in the norms she proposes, they are still not essentially distant from the earlier proposal of the CTSA.

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