What Counts As Cybersex?

A few weeks ago, I put myself up for auction. Well, not me exactly—at least not my body. I wouldn’t have gotten any real money, either. Make no mistake though, I was definitely auctioning off sex, and to the highest bidder.

Since this is a cybersex column, you can probably guess: the auction was part of an online game. It's called I’m in like with you and it's a new, invitation-only social networking site that lets members communicate when they win each other’s auctions—bid on with points, not cash. It’s kind of like MySpace meets eBay: you set up a mini-profile where you can post pictures of yourself and answer get-to-know-you questions like, “What’s your favorite drink?” Each auction is kicked off with one short sentence written by the auctioneer. Then other players can respond with bids and equally short sentences, giving them seven words or so to show off their endless charm—important, since the auctioneer gets to choose a winner among the top five highest bidders.

I’m in like with you is supposed to inspire real-life dating, so most of the auction sentences are subtle and coy, like “What’s your favorite place for drinks?” or “We should get together and bake cookies.” Not being of the subtle persuasion myself, my first auction was a bit more direct. It read: “Want some virtual ass?” Since I wasn’t looking for a real-life hook-up, I figured, why not earn points practicing putting out? Even cybersex-perts need to keep from getting rusty.


Heroine Sheik
Bonnie Ruberg's blog about sex, tech, gender, and videogames

So I was surprised, just a few minutes after posting the auction, to get an e-mail from the game’s creator Dan, a graduate student in the city. Would it be really unprofessional, he wanted to know, if he bid on my auction? The question was surrounded by a careful sprinkle of uncomfortable smiley faces. Sure, I wrote back, why not? I’d met Dan at a games festival earlier in the year, and he seemed nice. Anyways, I wasn’t feeling picky. Good cybersex can happen with almost anybody.

Dan wrote back, But what about your boyfriend? I have a fiancé, whom Dan had met at the festival, and I think he was trying to make sure he wasn’t in for a long-distance beating. I assured him it was okay, since my fiancé was fine with it, and he was right there—which he was. Still, over nearly a dozen e-mails in half an hour, Dan just couldn’t be convinced. Finally he came out with his real question: How could my man be okay with me masturbating to another guy?


It turned out that, according to Dan, cybersex wasn’t really cybersex unless both parties orgasmed. That means, in real life, both people had to have their hands down their pants, practicing the art of one-handed typing, and successfully get off. Anything less, said Dan, didn’t even count.

As a parameter for cybersex-dom, Dan’s definition had never even occurred to me. Sure, cybersex might be at its "best" when everyone gets their real-life rocks off, but that hardly means that’s the only time it “counts.” If nobody orgasms, doesn’t real-life sex still count as sex? Besides, how can a cyber-er ever know for sure if the person on the other end of the screen has really come?

Even if there’s no real-life climax, cybersex is still cybersex. That may seem strange, but it’s first and foremost a virtual act. It doesn’t matter if your avatar is doing it doggy style in Second Life, if you’re describing a blowjob in instant messager, or even if you’re touching yourself in front of a web cam. Any sexual act you perform online can count. Just like in real life, virtual sex is in the eye—and only optionally the groin—of the beholder.

And my auction? Unfortunately, it became all too virtual. The winning bidder wasn’t even interested in scheduling our cyber rendezvous. He just wanted to know what publication I was writing my cybersex column for—leaving me 300 points richer to bid on other people, but sexually bankrupt. Maybe there’s something to be said for subtly after all.

Last week: Sex Advice for the Digital Age.

Click Me runs weekly. Contact Bonnie Ruberg at bonnie[at]heroine-sheik[dot]com.

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