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MSNBC runs Net sex survey

The news site is posting a 46-question "cybersex" survey, and the notion already has Netizens in a tizzy.


Just the mention of the word is usually enough to pique the interest of most Netizens.

Ask Charlene Laino, health editor for MSNBC. Word went out in a promotional email message that the site would be posting a survey polling Netizens about cybersex. California's San Jose Mercury News ran a story about it this morning, and she's been on the phone ever since.

CNET Radio has more with psychologist Dr. Barry Gordon
Combining sex and the Internet is titillating, Laino said. While the idea of sex on the Net has been widely covered in the media and many have engaged in it, few seem to know exactly how to define it.

"I think that's why people might find it interesting," Laino said. "A lot of us find it intriguing but might not have ever gone to a cybersex site. No one really knows exactly how people are using cybersex online."

Like most people who hear about it, Laino had images of the seamier side of the Net--pornography sites and sleazy chat rooms where minors are definitely not invited.

"To me, when I heard cybersex in the past it always had a negative connotation--a pornographic connotation," she said. But cybersex isn't just about those kinds of sites on which filtering companies make their money. It can also be about love and relationships and exploring one's sexuality.

"It can be just two people meeting each other online and establishing some sort of relationship, she added. "They can meet and fall in love. That would be considered cybersex the same way a porn site would be considered cybersex."

Laino emphasized that the survey, being conducted in part by Bay Area psychologists Al Cooper and Barry Gordon, is not exactly scientific, at least not in the same way a peer review journal is scientific.

"Our surveys are in no way statistically valid," she said.

But Gordon said because the survey is being given to people who actually use the Net, the information probably will prove useful.

"What we're attempting to do is certainly one of the most comprehensive online surveys where people have a chance to answer a number of questions that involve adult sexual behavior online," he said. "It will hopefully give us a better idea of the types of sex behavior that people are most interested in and engage in over the Internet and how they perceive it's affected their lives and how they deal with it."

The survey will be 46 questions long and will be posted on the site at 6 p.m. PT tonight. The researchers have been hoping for 1,000 valid answers. At this rate, they might just get them all tonight, Laino joked.