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. If it’s not clear already, “virtual sex” can be a little complicated.
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.
Allowing separated couples to stay in touch, almost literally, is only one of the many positive aspects that virtual-sex advocates see in the refinement of — and increasingly widespread access to — cyber-sex technologies.
“You could walk a couple through a facilitated session,” she says, “while they are in the privacy of their own bedroom.” Cory Silverberg, a sexual health educator and founding member of Come As You Are, an education-based sex store in Toronto, says, “What’s good about cybersex is that it allows people to conceive of new possibilities,” whether that means a disabled person gaining greater access to the sexual sphere or someone “fulfilling their fetish fantasies beyond anything that we could have imagined.” The keys to healthy virtual sex, he says, include consent of all partners, a “sense of good will” (not going out and “trolling and stalking online”), and a respect for boundaries — “making sure that you’re not exposing more real information about yourself than you’re really comfortable with.” Like any technology, though, virtual sex comes with its risks.
Kimberly Young, Ph D, who is the founder and director of the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery in Bradford, Pennsylvania, agrees that virtual worlds can allow individuals to explore new types of sexual behavior.
She estimates that men comprise 60% of the clients who come to her center seeking help for sexual online compulsivity issues.
Moreover, Young says, the sheer variety of sexual experiences offered by the Internet can present a challenge to monogamous relationships.
“Having sex with the same person can become routine, boring,” she says. But if you’re married and keeping it a secret, it’s a problem.” Regina Lynn defines the issue this way: “Does your partner know, and does your partner consent?
Lying is cheating.” “Everyone’s always interested in where the line [with cheating] lies,” says Cory Silverberg.
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!