As someone who’s had to learn a few hard-and-fast lessons about how to be conscientious of my sexual health at all times, the initial idea that cybersex or, more specifically, Skype sex, is anything but safe had me confused. It's online for goodness sakes! How much safer can you get? As it turns out, this no-contact sex has a few unexpected risks. Interested in Skype sex? First consider the ins and outs of a cybersexual relationship. (Not Skyping? Maybe you're sexting instead. Get some tips on how to stay safe in Safe Sext: 5 Free Smartphone Apps That Keep Things Private.)

First of all ... who does that?!

As you might imagine, there aren't any statistics on how many people are hooking up over Skype, but what we do know is that Skype had more than 40 million users in 2012 and that if you type "Skype sex" into a search engine ... well, you get about 78 million results full of tips and places to meet people looking to hook up.

It isn't hard to imagine. After all, video provides the fantasy of starring in your own sexy flick ... without actually having to go public. Plus, Skype sex is really just an extension of what's been happening online for a long time, only now there's a really solid way for people to make a home run of it.

The Online Dating Boom

When you consider the growth in the online dating world, where people are increasingly finding, meeting and getting to know potential partners, it's not surprising that so many people are knocking boots over the Web too. There are 54 million single people in the United States; 40 million have tried online dating. You do the math.

Plus, a study conducted in February 2012 by researchers at Rochester University shows us that the stigma of online dating sites as "online cantinas of the unsociable, inept and the sleazy anti-social," has finally fallen away. Which makes going online to mix, mingle and maybe even hook up almost as acceptable as doing it a local singles club.

This Is Where Skype Comes In

With millions of users worldwide, Skype is becoming a widely distributed communication tool. But unlike Facebook or other types of online chat, you get to hear and see the person you’re communicating with. It’s like live porn designed especially for you.

Huh. When you think of it that way, who wouldn’t want to try Skype sex?

Skype’s Inherent Risk

No contact, no problem, right? Well ... sometimes. Here's the thing: While dating sites have had problems weeding out the deceptive and the criminal, Skype users can fall prey to over-confidence in their ability to safely screen and communicate with potential partners. After all, you can see who you're talking to, and you're safe and sound in the comfort of your own home, right?

But keep in mind that the screen only lets you see what the other person wants you to see. For all you know, there could be five others in the room ready for a live show. Someone could even be secretly recording the episode to broadcast later (although Skype itself does not record the calls).

Skype Safety 101

Ideally, Skype sex should take place between two people who've established their boundaries in advance. Skyping with someone your trust will also reduce the risk that that crazy thing you tried one night ends up all over the Internet.

That said, some people will decide to face those risks and Skype with a stranger. If you go that route, here's how to protect yourself.

1. Think About Your Profile Options

Skype provides users with the option to fill out a personal profile where you can add information such as a name, email address, place of residence, website and more. This is designed to help friends and family find you more easily. However, this is a completely optional feature, is not required to use the service, and is not verified.

If you're bent on hooking up with strangers, be mindful of how much information you share and who you allow to access your profile.

2. Set Privacy Levels

Skype’s control panel lets you choose your own privacy levels. In the settings, you can choose who is allowed to contact you through chat and text, and even whether you want your status to be shown on the Web. You can set it to accept contact from anyone, only from people you have on your contact list, or only from people with whom you have shared your contact details. You can also block any user at any time to prevent them from contacting you or seeing if you're online. That's one feature that could definitely come in handy.

3. Know Your Surroundings

Skype uses 256-bit encryption on both its audio/video calls and text chats. This ensures that other Skype users can’t listen in on your conversation unless they're actually a part of that conversation. Remember, others in the room can still view your conversation and videos can still be recorded despite Skype’s encryption set-up. Because you can’t see the user’s computer screen, there’s no way to tell if a recording program is running in the background. This is a real risk on Skype. You can ask a partner to show you a panoramic view of their environment - under the pretense that it will help you feel like you’re there with them - to reduce the potential that others are in the room. Don't be afraid to do it!


Is Skype sex safe sex?

Sex often comes with some level of personal risk, even when there's no physical contact at all. For couples, Skype can be used as healthy part of a safer sex regime, especially when you're apart. When it comes to the casual side of Skype sex, approach it with caution. What you see isn't always what you get. (Get some great tips on all things cybersex in "The Joy of Cybersex: A Creative Guide for Lovers".)