Birds do it, bees do it, and now people with PC's do it. I do it. In fact, nearly everyone I know on-line has ventured into sexually-oriented areas of the Net in search of heat- inducing thrills. "But HOW do you do it?" uninitiated friends nervously ask, "How can you have sex without having...you know, sex?"
If you thought sex requires the feel of skin against skin, its virtual non-kissing cousin will indeed remain a mystery to you. But for the Turned On Generation, cybersex is an erotic art and an increasingly common ritual among hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of adults who surf the Net.
"Before I experienced cybersex," says Jane, a 32-year-old lawyer from Minneapolis, "I had no idea words on a screen could have so much power." Then, Jane joined a live-chat group on the Internet. "I was dateless one Saturday night, feeling bored and sorry for myself, and eating ice cream straight from the box. I went on-line to IRC and started fooling around. I called myself 'sex kitten.' Before I knew it, a dozen men were messaging me. That was the night I lost my virginity on-line!"
Cybersex is now a regular part of Jane's life, as routine to her as a goodnight kiss to a married couple. "It is my sex life!" she laughs, "I do it almost every night."
Ah, cyber. Where else can a fat, balding fifty-year old cigar-smoking man tell everyone he is really "Fifi," a statuesque Las Vegas showgirl--and immediately draw a following? One of the greatest attractions of cybersex is that you can be anyone you want to be and say anything you want to say. Fading flowers can bloom, nice girls can be naughty. Men can even be girls.
"I don't know what came over me," confesses Louis, a grey- haired, heterosexual, and otherwise conservative New York engineer, "but one night I decided to see what would happen if I pretended to be a girl on-line. I guess I was curious to see what kind of reaction I would get from other men. Before I knew it, I was really into being 'Kathy.' They asked for a physical description, so I invented a perfect body, saying 'Firm breasts, slim hips, long blonde hair' and so on. At one point there were about eight different guys trying to talk me into meeting them off-line. I got so absorbed in my fantasy character, I ended up playing Kathy for five hours!"
And did he break any hearts? "There were two guys who kept writing me for months afterwards," Louis uneasily admits, adjusting his tie, "insisting I was the girl of their dreams."
While most people are honest, even the most sober explorers find that another, wilder side of themselves emerges when they begin to explore their fantasies on-line.
"No one who knows me in 3D would ever believe that I transform into 'Purring Sex Kitten' on-line," says Jane. "If you saw me schlepping my legal folders around the office, or heard me give a talk to the local school board, you'd never dream that this average- looking woman in a dark suit turns into a virtual strip- teaser at night." Jane blushes. "Thank God."
It's common for cybersexers to assume different personalities, or to invent idealized portraits. Fantasies are, after all, the stuff that cybsersex is made of.
During one of my trips to Internet Relay Chat (IRC), the Net's biggest and bawdiest hotchatfest, I casually looked for potential interviewees.
"9 1/2 inches" was the first volunteer to thrust his intimate details at me. "I have a big one 4U," he typed.
"I see," I said, though I didn't and wished I could-- for research purposes, of course.
To my surprise, a breathtakingly large percentage of men who cruised the chat rooms were similarly blessed. Could it be that the magnetic rays from monitors are causing men's genitals to mutate? That just might encourage women to consider computers the perfect Valentine's Day gifts. But, alas, no. It is simply that sex on-line seems to stimulate the imagination as much--if not more--than actual encounters.
"When you meet someone in real life," says Kathi, an airline employee from Ontario who has dated several of the men she's met on-line, "there's a lot more mundane stuff going on-- will he think I'm fat? Will he notice that zit I woke up with today? Are my breasts too small for him?" Kathi thinks that because cyberspace lets people relate fantasy to fantasy, they go straight to the inner recesses of one another's minds. "For that moment when I'm writing sexy things or he is writing them back to me, I am completely focused on the fantasy. It becomes my reality. To be honest," she admits, pointing out one of the greatest perils of cybersex, "cyber sometimes feels realer than reality to me, because in real life I have days where I feel flat and emotionless...but in hot chat...NEVER."
What makes cyber so intense for most cybersexers is precisely the fact that they won't perceive mundane realities--the bald spots, the bad breath, the beer bellies--on the other side. Instead, they can paint imaginery portraits of their cyberloves based on their OWN fantasies. For example, although I knew very well that half or more of the people I'd meet were likely exaggerate their charms, even I couldn't help indulging in some late-night dreaming myself. When "Chameleon" messaged to say that he was "6'1", 190 lbs., dark hair/eyes, an actor," my heart went pit-a-pat. Tall, gorgeous, an actor... Could it be? Timothy Hutton's heavenly face floated before my eyes. And when "Tight Blue Jeans" gave me his macho profile: "rugged gd. looks, powerful build, tall, broad-shouldered," how could anyone blame me for secretly harboring the hope that I had somehow, miraculously, stumbled into hotchat with Tom Berenger? (Tom--you can tell me. Was it you?)
I honestly don't know Mr. Hutton's height or weight, and I somehow have my doubts that Mr. Berenger spends his glamorous nights roving the Net, but like most people, once the chats begin, my mind automatically starts filling in the missing details with visions of incredibly desirable men.
This tendancy on the part of cybersexers to romanticize their on-line relationships can result in fun-filled, fantasy adventures--or heartbreaks. This was the case with Derek, who fell in love with (and was ready to pack his bags and leave his wife for) Paula--a woman he had never met or spoken with. They had hot-chatted in IRC for a few weeks and exchanged some email. A month later, he had convinced himself that they were deeply in love. He had already begun to shop for a bachelor's pad when he discovered that she had no idea that he was in love with her, much less that he was getting ready to leave his marriage of 23 years because of their emails.
"I liked him a lot," says a bewildered Paula, "I thought we were having a harmless little on-line fling. Looking back, I realize that, since he couldn't hear my tone of voice or see the look on my face when I was writing, he probably read into it a lot of feelings that I never had." Luckily, the truth came out before Derek made any rash decisions. "We still keep in touch from time to time. He can even joke about it, calling it his period of 'temporary insanity'--but he's very embarrassed about it. He never comes to IRC anymore, at least not when I'm there."
Emotions are not the only strong feelings evoked by cyber-romance. The next best thing to being there seems to be masturbating either during or after cybersex.
When I dropped by Channel 10 of Compuserve's CB-Simulater, my screen overflowed with a seemingly endless line of text from "Barbie TV."
"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa," crossdressing Barbie typed with one hand.
I soon identified the source of Barbie's vowel of pleasure: "Domme4U," one of the scores of dominatrices who regularly rove the Net's kinky channels, had just ordered Barbie to complete their public D&S; session by masturbating and describing his feelings to the assembled crowd.
I asked Domme4U if she felt that a certain delicate female moisture when her cyber-slaves performed for her. "The biggest thrill for me is mental," she said stiffly. "It's exciting to know I can have that kind of an effect on someone, and that he is willing to do things to please me."
But, I asked, how did she know he was really doing them? "I don't, not really," she admitted, "Though sometimes I will have a man send me a picture of himself in the act so I can check."
Domme4U later confided that although she didn't feel physically aroused while she was dominating men on-line, "It certainly gives me something more interesting than the bills to think about when I go to bed.
According to Jade, a Naval officer stationed in a conservative town in the southeast, "I'm lesbian and it's a little tricky, in my situation, to have much of a social life. But I have had good luck finding great women to chat with on-line and I DEFINITELY make the most of the cybersex. I keep a vibrator by my desk and a few other toys, like nipple clips and ankle cuffs. Just in case.
Louise, a feisty 32 year old computer programmer from Silicon Valley, regularly surfs the Net for what she calls "porn lite," looking for graphic images of naked men that she can download for free and view in the privacy of her home. "I would never go into an adult bookstore in real life," says Louise, "but between UseNet and the World Wide Web, I can find just about every type of picture you could imagine." Then she typed a smiley-face, and added, "I've worn out a lot of batteries looking at those pictures."
Jade and Louise were among the few of the women I talked to who admitted getting directly sexually aroused. Men, however, freely admitted that cybersex arouses them and is a great alternative to pornography.
"Cybersex is better than porn because it's free, it's there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and it's interactive, with a real person on the other end," says Bart, a 42-year old insurance salesman in Kentucky, "Plus it's a lot safer than a one-night stand in today's world of AIDS." Bart says he regularly masturbates while he's on-line--whether or not the woman on the other side knows. "I figure what they don't know can't hurt them," he says. "Besides, how do I know what WOMEN are doing when they're on-line?"
While doubters may still find it dubious that on-line romance could ever take the place of a real relationship, the husbands and wives of Net-addicts are discovering that cybersex can pose a direct threat to their marriages.
"The very first time I did this, I met this girl named Karen from New Orleans," confides Troy, a 36 year old carpenter from Long Island, NY. "She wanted to do me and this other guy. We went through it and a little while later she messaged me and said, 'If I message you again and ask you if we had sex, say no, OK?' I said, 'Sure, why?' She said her husband is very jealous and comes on-line when she's on, to make sure she isn't netsexxing."
And while Derek may have narrowly avoided disaster, Pearl's husband was not as lucky. "My ex-husband, Lee, would vanish into the basement every night for hours, saying he had brought home a lot of paperwork from the office. We missed a lot of parties and family events, but I never questioned it. I felt sorry for the poor guy, working so hard to give me and the kids some extras. Then, one day when I was cleaning out the room, I found a sheet of paper under the desk with a love-letter printed on it." Pearl was even more traumatized when she turned on his PC and found a sub-directory filled with hundreds of love-letters from different women, addressing her husband as "Prince Charming." "The Prince lost his castle," Pearl says sourly. "I changed the locks on him and filed for divorce."
Carl Salisbury, an attorney at Killian & Salisbury in East Hanover, NJ, who specializes in electronic law, notes that cybersex-related suits are showing up increasingly in American courts. "There was a case in Maryland where a MacDonald's franchise had an email system," says Salisbury. "One of their employees was having an email affair with another employee, who was married. The manager screened their email and showed it to the married guy's wife!" When the married man sued his manager and MacDonald's for breach of privacy, the courts ruled that the manager was within his rights to view employee email.
And, as the cyber-population booms--30 million users world-wide in 1996, expected to rise to 100 million by 1998--we can expect to see more irate spouses filing for divorce with on-line infidelity as grounds. "It's inevitable that we're going to be seeing more and more divorce cases as a result of cybersex," says Salisbury. "There's such an enormous amount--and variety--of activity going on the Net and the Web, and the variety increases literally every day."
Still, for every nightmare, the Net has many more dreams-come- true. In the 13 years since I first logged on to cyberspace, I've personally met scores of couples who met and married their cyber- lovers. In the last year alone, I've met a divorced mother in Australia who met an American man on-line and moved with her children to the US to marry him, a Midwestern entrepreneur who met his future wife in a kinky chat-group and later proposed to her in that same group, while their cyber-friends looked on, and several more couples who are now living happily together--after considerable geographical upheavals. (For some reason, it is a perverse rule of thumb that nine out of ten cyber-mates live far away. This has given rise to the popular acronym, ldr: long-distance relationship.)
For those who do move from "2D" to "3D," getting to know a partner on-line may be a nearly spiritual enterprise. "Cyber is a deeper and purer kind of interaction," says Jill, an elementary school teacher in Little Rock, who met her fiance, Russ, a CPA from Chicago, in America On-Line's "Male Looking 4 Fem" chatroom.
"You don't have all the distractions of how someone looks. It's mind to mind and spirit to spirit talking," Jill asserts, "You focus on who he is, on the inside. Then if his outside is a little heavier or a little shorter than you expected, it doesn't matter because you already love his soul."
Russ agrees. "I'm not as bad as some guys, but I always used to get hung up on a woman's looks. If she was too pretty, I was afraid she would turn me down; if she didn't ring my bells, physically, I would write her off. When I got to know Jill, none of that got in the way. We started chatting about movies, and within minutes I knew I liked this woman! She was funny and sexy and cute, and I was immediately attracted to her personality." He loyally adds, "Lucky for me, she is gorgeous too!"
The real question should actually be, "Where ISN'T IT?" Surf the Net long enough, and you are bound to stumble across sexually-oriented areas. Melissa Binde, who edits Teatime with Love, Sex and Dating, a G-rated collection of Internet humor, says, "Since sex is so popular in real life, why should it come as a surprise to any reasonable, thinking person that it is popular on the Internet?"
Binde, a 20 year old Swarthmore student, adds that sex is even sexier on the Net because people feel protected by anonymity. "Despite its high profile in our culture, sex is still somewhat a taboo subject, and the Internet is perceived to be largely private and untraceable. (Though if you believe that, though, I've got a bridge I want to sell you!)"
Hot-chatters may wish to keep that in mind when they visit Internet Relay Chat (IRC), the cybersex Mecca to which lusty pilgrims travel. For those who've never navigated IRC's channels, visit The World of IRC for the FAQs ("frequently asked questions")--it will give you all the basics you need to be an IRC maven your first trip out.
The World Wide Web too abounds in adult-oriented materials for sexual thrill-seekers. According to some estimates, 40% of the sites on the World Wide Web are now devoted to sexually-oriented material. Websites contain everything from amateur fiction and photos to slick Triple-X sites. Smut-merchants of every ilk have staked their claims: from the mainstream and ubiquitous Playboy to the unique Rubber Nurse, whose Website provides a glimpse into the lives of cruel women in latex nursing uniforms and the fetishists who love them.
UseNet is are a seemingly infinite, and constantly changing, assortment of special interest groups and binary files areas (for digitized pictures). Newsgroups are structured like electronic BBS boards, with messages ordered chronologically, by title. For information on all the sexually-oriented newsgroups listed under the alt.sex hierarchy, visit the Newsgroup Information Center
AOL's frenetically busy chat-rooms are the big draw for the cybersexually inclined. The freewheeling conversations range from polite attempts to find kindred spirits to the low-down and dirty hotchat you probably came here for in the first place.
AOL's tamer Chat rooms have names like "Lonely Lady," "Short Skirts," "Male Looking 4 Fem," and "Married but Looking." If you're looking for more exotic discussion, try "Submissive Lesbians," "Crossdressers," or "Female Muscle." Not to mention "The Dungeon." (Sorry, we just had to mention it.)
Compuserve has it all: 24-hour chat areas plus established sexuality Forums. CB-Simulator comprises three separate bands with a total of 108 rooms to choose from. The adult action takes place on CB- 2 and CB-3. Here you'll find rooms called "Adults Only," "Gender Alternatives," "Gay," "Lesbian;" there's even an official D&S; room (Channel 10).
Established in the early 1980s, the Human Sexuality Forums of Compuserve take a sober approach to sexuality topics. Try GO HSXKEY, their question and answer database for information from experts on every aspect of human sexuality. Or visit their peer-support Forums. GO HSX100 to find G-rated, with special interest groups for singles, parents without partners, and others. GO HSX200 for adults-only groups devoted to bondage, tickling, dominance and submission, transvestism/transsexualism, watersports, infantilism, and more. Each topic has a message board, datalibrary, and chat area.
Wherever you go--and whomever you meet--remember: cybersex is REAL. At least to some of the people you will meet on-line (and possibly even to you, once you've tried it). So never underestimate its power. And, meanwhile, you might want to put your vibrator by your PC. Just in case.
copyright © 1996 & 1997 Gloria G. Brame
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