Sexual Revolution 2.0

Online sex isn't just for techies, but beware of post-split pitfalls

Some of the hottest sex I've ever had has been virtual—no hands touching me but my own, my fingers typing away, my eyes reading words that blaze off the screen, and my body responding in kind. It's not just the words that get me off when I'm sending and receiving dirty e-mails; it's the rapid-fire back-and-forth, the knowledge that my correspondent is getting just as worked up as I am.

Though I know how to build a link in HTML and have been blogging for a few years, once you start getting into teledildonics, MMPORGs and SMS, you've lost me. I leave the complicated stuff to my favorite sexy tech writer Annalee Newitz, whose Techsploitation column is a must-read (and who makes being a professional nerd seem like one of the hottest occupations around). At Book Expo America this year, I got to meet another sex tech writer, Regina Lynn, wired.com's Sex Drive columnist and author of The Sexual Revolution 2.0. I didn't expect to have much in common with Regina, and when I cracked open her book, I feared the content might be over my head. I've never gone through with placing an Internet personal ad, don't have a Sidekick, and haven't been in a chat room since college. So it was a pleasant surprise to find my life and experiences, as low-tech as they may be, reflected in Lynn's sexual revolution. She argues that technology isn't supplanting our sex lives, it's enhancing them.

Back to that really hot sex. I've had several day jobs where an unexpected stream of XXX e-mails quickly had me forgetting all about answering the phone or filing papers. A certain phrase written with the right combination of aggressiveness and desire had my pussy pulsing before I'd even finished reading the sentence. On one memorable occasion, someone I'd never considered my type had me practically salivating on the screen. It wasn't the stuff of Anaïs Nin; rereading it now, long after the heat of the moment, it seems clichéd. But knowing that he was sitting at home, his cock getting hard, picturing me across his lap, gave me chills—and still does.

I don't think it's only women who groove to this medium, though Lynn addresses her female readers specifically. "Women respond to cybersex because we respond to words, to emotion, to cleverness, and imagination. I know it's a cliché, but what we find in cybersex is what many of us want in actual life even if we don't know how to ask for it: pre-, during and post-coital conversation." I'd argue that any man who knows how to weave a dirty tale or type an on-point erotic come-on also has this capacity—unlike a former lover who, while we were naked in bed and I asked him to "tell me a story," wove a tale of walking home from school. I waited for his words to take a racy turn, but they never did.

There's no beating around the bush online. Cybersex forces you to engage with your partner, whereas, let's face it, during actual sex with men, women can lie back and think of England. Online your thoughts and fantasies are crucial. In the best cases, I've been so aroused that I've lost track of everything around me. And despite those much discussed cases of a dirty e-mail making its way through the forwarding rounds, I still feel free to confess things via e-mail, with the right person, that I'd feel shy about sharing in other places. Cybersex is intimate and personal, or at least it feels that way. For all you know, the other person is watching a baseball game, eating pizza, and doing a jigsaw puzzle—except that they're matching you word for word, confession for confession.

Lynn agrees: "You're having a shared sexual story with another person that relies heavily on both your imaginations, as well as your tacit agreement to keep the experience going until its culmination. True cybersex is a meeting of the minds and can lead to intense orgasms. Sometimes I used to forget the computer was there, I was so caught up in the fantasy we were building together."

There's something powerfully seductive, and seductively dangerous, about e-mail correspondence. The same reasons we're drawn to it—that we can get to know someone without all of those usual first-look assumptions, that geography (or gender) doesn't matter, that we can be as slutty as we want to be and bare our deepest, dirtiest fantasies—can sometimes be what makes it collapse. The freedom from daily life can be an obstacle once you try to make your cyberlover your real-life partner.

But Lynn maintains that the Internet can be a learning tool as well, helping people combat fear, shyness, or awkwardness. "I personally overcame an aversion to oral sex by 'practicing' fellatio online, in writing. I had been afraid of it in person because of some traumatic childhood experiences, but after taking myself through it in cybersex, I became enthusiastic about it offline too."

Lynn closes her book with a slightly sad but necessary look at what she calls "The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Hard Drive"—what happens to real-life breakups in cyberspace? While everyone's lives go on, the previously written word remains intact and new words can grow vicious post-split. Do you want to see his new lover's Friendster testimonials or his personal ad after you caught him cheating? Lynn deleted all of her ex's correspondence but found a last, lingering e-mail in her inbox that sent her head spinning. "We all have a digital trail a mile long now, but that doesn't mean we have to obsess over [or revisit] it over and over again. Recognize that you're more likely to stumble across the digital artifacts of your relationship and if you do, take a deep breath and move on," she advises.

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