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Virtual Sex

Everything you’ve been afraid to ask about sex in cyberspace
By Rob Baedeker
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Sheldon Marks, MD

I was having sex with a Dutch girl when my wife walked in. “What do you think about this?” I asked.

“Um,” she said. “It’s a little weird.”

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The Dutch girl wasn’t real. Well, not really real? She was an avatar in Second Life, the online, 3D, digital world developed by San Francisco company Linden Labs. But there was a real person on a computer somewhere in the world making her avatar have sex with my avatar by clicking a pink ball on the ground. I don’t know where the real user was located, but our virtual meeting space within Second Life was called “The Netherlands.” Or maybe “she” was really a he, controlling a female avatar. Impossible to say for sure.

If it’s not clear already, “virtual sex” can be a little complicated.

Virtual sex, teledildonics, and real life

“It’s not sex but it is sex,” says Regina Lynn, author of The Sexual Revolution 2.0 and a columnist on sex and technology for Wired.com. “I don’t like the phrase ‘virtual sex,’” Lynn says, “because it trivializes the experience. There are many ways to share sex with people in virtual spaces, and you still have to communicate to the other person what you like and don’t like. It’s such a mental and emotional experience. That’s part of what turns people on.”

From adult video games to instant messaging and chat rooms to web cams to online interactive worlds to Internet-enabled sex toys, the means for enjoying erotic experience via a remote connection seem to be multiplying faster than you can say “teledildonics.”

For the uninitiated, teledildonics (or cyberdildonics) refers to sex toys that can be controlled with a computer. The “Sinulator,” for example, produced by Sinulate Entertainment in Sunnyvale, California, is a wireless vibrator that connects to any computer with an Internet hookup and a Windows operating system.

The Sinulator’s counterpart is the “Interactive Fleshlight,” a penis sleeve for men that transmits in-and-out action into vibrations for the Sinulator on the other end. “Just install the software,” says Sinulate’s web site, “plug in your Interactive Fleshlight, and pick a partner!”

Technology and long-distance sex

Kyle Machulis, operator of slashdong.org, a Web site about the combination of sex and technology and a self-described “tinkerer/hacker/pioneer/visionary in the realm of sex technology,” is a major proponent of open-source teledildonics. But, he says, the real-world functionality of computer-enabled sex toys hasn’t really caught up with its potential. “There are some cool ideas that just don’t work in implementation,” he says. Still, says Machulis, teledildonics are “changing long-distance relationships for the better,” allowing couples to “finally be physical over the wire.” And, he argues, we “haven’t even seen the tip of the iceberg” in the field of virtual sex toys.

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