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This paper examines the emergent phenomenon of virtual sex offending and based upon a study of 22 forensic interviews, outlines a framework for understanding this type of sex offender from a clinical perspective.
Specifically, this paper examines the role of online sex addiction in the development of virtual sex offending and outlines five stages from inception to incarceration that the virtual sex offender follows.
Chat rooms exist in cyberspace with names such as “Daddy4daughter,” “Men for Barely Legal Girls,” and “Family Fun.” While these are branded as “fantasy only” chat rooms and require participants to be over the age of eighteen, it is difficult to decipher what is fact and what is fantasy, based upon the chat dialogues in such pedophilic virtual communities (Trebilcock 1997).
A woman can pretend to be lesbian online or a middle-aged man can pretend to be a hot young stud when talking to women in an online chat room.
Young (2001) referred to these individuals “fantasy users” who utilized online chat rooms and instant messaging for the express purpose of role-playing in online fantasy sex chat.
The “fantasy defense” as it is often called, directly questions the addictive nature of online adult fantasy sex chat rooms and their ability to enable users to develop an unhealthy obsession with the Internet.
Despite its success, the fantasy defense has sparked a heated debate in both the legal and psychiatric communities and little has been discussed in the literature to explain how “fantasy” online users develop a sexual interest in children using the Internet.Early studies of Internet sexuality, or “cybersex” emphasized the fantasy nature of online sexuality and focused on use of the Internet for criminal and deviant behavior (Durkin & Bryant, 1995).