Kinsey Institute 'Sex Tech' study finds technology facilitates sexual and emotional interactions

The study also found that people with higher sexual self-acceptance were more satisfied with their lives.


BLOOMINGTON, Ind -- Advances in technology have allowed us to interact with others across the globe, and a new study of adults who engage with "sex tech"—innovative technologies used to enhance sexuality—announced by the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University reveals that technology increasingly connects people at their most intimate moments.

In an expansive survey of more than 8,000 Americans conducted in late 2019, Kinsey Institute researchers found the use of sex tech is on the rise and users report feeling connected to virtual partners both emotionally and sexually.

An overarching finding from the research revealed that participants who were engaging with sex tech reported less loneliness and less depression than those who were not engaging with sex tech, but only for those engagers who felt an emotional or personal connection with their virtual partners. Lower rates of loneliness were also found for people who held more positive attitudes toward their own sexuality, as was greater satisfaction with their lives overall.  

Amanda Gesselman, Anita Aldrich Endowed Research Scientist and Associate Director for Research at the Kinsey Institute, noted that," technology is becoming more pervasive in our romantic and sexual lives, and we're beginning to have a better understanding of the role of sex tech in our relationships and sexual experiences. Although the unprecedented rise of this digital era has sparked some anxiety over the potential negative consequences to individuals and society, we’re seeing that the incorporation of technology—and sex tech specifically—also has the capacity to enhance, expand, and improve individual well-being and the well-being of human relationships."

In the new study, 50% of participants had viewed content on pornography websites known as “porn clip sites” and 35% had visited erotic fiction websites. Thirty-one percent of participants had engaged in phone sex; of those who engaged in sexting, 37% did so with someone they already with whom they already had a personal connection. Sixteen percent visited a camming website, watched a camming stream, and participated in a camming stream. Camming websites are platforms where people can livestream with erotic models as they perform for a group or one-on-one chat.

Participants of all sexual orientations and genders reported visiting camming sites, but gay men and bisexual people (men and women) were more likely to have done so. Participants who visited cam sites were asked if they had ever felt a personal or emotion connection with a cam model, and nearly one-third of the sample reported that they had and, on average, they began to feel the connection after three visits. While 74 percent of visitors reported experiencing sexual gratification from their visits, 68 percent reported that they received emotional support, and 66 reported that they felt a sense of emotional closeness with a cam model.

Justin Garcia, acting executive director of the Kinsey Institute and Ruth Halls Associate Professor of Gender Studies, said "These findings chip away at the myth that technology is replacing human connections and love is becoming obsolete. These results provide evidence that sex tech, including the under-researched practice of camming, can facilitate emotional intimacy even though these technologies and interactions are generally understood to be primarily sexual in nature.”

The study, independently funded by Jasmin, was conducted online with data collected by Prodege, a third-party data collection firm. Participant recruitment reflects demographics of the U.S. population as estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Researchers contributing to the study include Amanda Gesselman, Anita Aldrich Endowed Research Scientist and Associate Director for Research at The Kinsey Institute; Justin Garcia, Acting Executive Director of The Kinsey Institute and Ruth N. Halls Associate Professor of Gender Studies; Alexa Marcotte, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute; Tania Reynolds, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute and Department of Gender Studies, College of Arts and Sciences; Ellen Kaufman, Graduate Research Assistant at The Kinsey Institute and School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering.

[The study's full results will be published in a series of forthcoming manuscripts.]



About the Kinsey Institute

For over 70 years, the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University has been the premier research institute on human sexuality and relationships and a trusted source for evidence-based information on critical issues in sexuality, gender, and reproduction. The Kinsey Institute's research program integrates scholarly fields including neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, history, and gender studies. The Kinsey Institute Library and Special Collections encompass over 500,000 items spanning 2,000 years of human sexual behavior and are a destination research collection for scholars and students. Kinsey Institute outreach includes traveling art exhibitions, public scholarship, research lectures, and a continuing education program.

About IU Research

Indiana University’s world-class researchers have driven innovation and creative initiatives that matter for nearly 200 years. From curing testicular cancer to collaborating with NASA to search for life on Mars, IU has earned its reputation as a world-class research institution. Supported by $680 million last year from our partners, IU researchers are building collaborations and uncovering new solutions that improve lives in Indiana and around the globe. 

Dr. Amanda Gesselman
Kinsey Institute, Indiana University

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