Doin' It 2.0: The Evolution of Cybersex

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Dear Anna,

Do people still have cybersex? If so, why? If not, good. Because it's weird.

~Curious

Well Young One, I was hoping to save this birds-and-bees talk for your Second Life (see what I did there?), but since you brought it up ...

So much has changed since those bygone, pervy days of anonymous AOL chat rooms, and yet so little has changed. First, let's define cybersex. Researchers at the University of New Brunswick broadly peg cybersex as: "a sexual communication between at least two people that is focused on sexual relations and occurs via synchronous Internet modes."

That's as far as I got before I had to go masturbate.

And ... back. So cybersex can mean e-mailing, chat room participation, sending dirty pics, or instant messaging another person with sexual intent, but it doesn't necessarily involve wankin' it. Most people still have a conception of cybersex as something young boys do to trick sad, single women into liking scat play. Or, you would if you grew up where I did, in a Miranda July movie. Those of us who partook in the 90s chat room boom most likely grew out of our fascinations with it around the same time we grew out of our Osh Kosh B'Goshes, but that doesn't mean cybersex is any less prevalent. Rather, it has evolved.

In other words, whereas once we merely had to weed out a few pricks, now we have Weinergates. Practically every e-mail program has a chat function, as do most social networking sites, smart phone apps, and dating sites. I would argue that we are probably having cybersex less often with randos, but more so with people we actually know, at least tangentially. I would also argue that the term "cybering" to mean sex has decreased, or at least I hope it has, because, gross.

Call me Pollyanna if you must, (it is very close to my actual name, after all) but I consider any medium that allows people to explore their sexuality in ways they find beneficial as something that's inherently good. Who's to say that one form of sexual expression is any more valid than another, especially because technology is rapidly changing the ways we approach intimacy and connection. (Hello, f*ck me form letter!)

Women in particular might find it challenging to express their desires in face-to-face scenarios, because of perceived social stigma, potential physical dangers, or things like STIs or pregnancy. If said women find it easier to communicate those desires online, then who am I to call that weird? In truth, I can't, since I created a Gmail account back in 2006 solely at the nefarious request of a girl I was seeing long-distance. However, adding your fetus to Facebook? That's weird.

Social-media mistress Anna Pulley likes to give advice about how to play well with others on the internets. If you have a question about etiquette involving technology, shoot her a question at AskAnnaSF@gmail.com. 

Follow us on Twitter: @annapulley and @ExhibitionistSF or Facebook


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