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Lost in Cyberspace

Cyberdildonics
© 2000 by H.B. Koplowitz
Dildonics is geekspeak for using a computer to have sex. Coined by computer guru Ted Nelson in the 1980s, it is often portrayed in the media by a guy wearing sensor gloves or a computerized helmet doing the tango with a hot babe until he is interrupted by a store clerk asking for his credit card. In reality, it usually begins in the chat rooms of America Online. But whether it be the virtual meat markets of AOL, commercial porno Web sites or fetish discussions in alt.sex newsgroups, sex permeates cyberspace.

Which is hardly the first time a primal urge has invaded a new technology. Beat icon William Burroughs observed that sex is like a virus -- always infecting new media. Sex has a symbiotic relationship with technology, helping to launch and sustain the recording, film, broadcast, cable and video industries, and pioneering such computer and e-commerce innovations as live streaming video and digital credit card transactions. For where there's sex there's money, and before there was Amazon.com and eBay, an estimated $1 billion a year was being spent on cyberporn.

Unlike real sex, cybersex has been limited -- though some might argue liberated -- by its lack of physical, sensory contact. The purest form of cybersex is the AOL chat room, where none of the five senses are engaged save for fantasy. Porno Web sites appeal to the visual, and to a lessor extent aural, but the senses of taste, smell and above all touch are left to the imagination -- or self-administered.

Taking the next step into the brave new world of dildonics is SafeSexPlus.com, which has modified some of your basic sextoys -- multi-pronged dildoes, vibrators, simulacrums and even the classic RoboSuck of "Austin Powers" fame -- so they can be remotely manipulated over the Internet with the click of a mouse. Called Cyberdildonics and marketed by WebPower.com, which also operates a porno Web site misleadingly called iFriends.com (more on iFriends in a moment), the gadgets have been demonstrated on Howard Stern's show and praised by celebrity sex therapist Dr. Susan Block.

In addition to the aforementioned RoboSuck ("always ready and always willing"), Cyberdildonic "boytoys" include Vibro Mr. Jack (a sucking mouth with a mustache) and Vibro Realistic Vagina ("low-maintenance, easy-to-clean and light on the wallet"). Girltoys include the Anal Invader and Deep Stroker II, not to mention the Lotus Collection Rabbit Vibe ("the hit at ladies' lingerie parties"). Internet partners can control speed, intensity and, depending on the device, direction.

According to a frequently asked question file at the SafeSexPlus Web site, the sextoys can be hooked up to a $25 contraption called an SSP Adapter, which you stick on your computer screen with a suction cup. Anyone can download free software from SafeSexPlus that allows them to use a mouse to flash patterns of light on the computer screen. The screen strobes are transmitted to the adapter via a Web page provided by SafeSexPlus, and "when he cranks up the brightness of the window, your vibrator starts buzzing like a lawn mower on steroids." Woo woo.

The contraptions are marketed as the ultimate in safe sex because there's no exchange of bodily fluids (though I'd run a surge test before tangling with RoboSuck), and the perfect solution for separated lovers or long distance relationships. SafeSexPlus can be used in conjunction with another form of safe sex, which is phone sex, and you can even watch each other if you have one of those golfball-size Webcams. And that's where the iFriends Web site comes in.

The "i" in iFriends stands for intimate, and it turns out that the vast majority of your intimate friends want to charge you about $2 a minute to watch them play with themselves. In fact, iFriends is an ingenious variation of the cyber sex show first developed by cyberporn entrepreneur Seth Warshavsky, who converted a Seattle warehouse into studios for live streaming video peep shows, during which Web surfers can "direct" the women by typing instant messages on their computers.

By providing a Web site for videoconferencing, iFriends has democratized the skin trade. Now, anyone anywhere can become a porn star in the comfort and convenience of their own home with nothing more than a $50 Webcam and an Internet connection. Thousands of people, mostly women but some men, some pros but others as amateur as it gets, have set up shop in their dens, bedrooms and basements, with iFriends handling the billing and keeping half the take.

Since iFriends has been online it has signed up more than 2 million members, including 25,000 "exhibitors" from 110 countries who host videochat rooms. Recently it added live audio, and if a "member" is hooked up to a Cyberdildonic device, technically the chathost can provide a cyber handjob. Or vice versa. Which raises the question: Is it prostitution, and in whose jurisdiction, if hooker and john are on different continents?

copyright 2000 by H.B. Koplowitz, all rights reserved.

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