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The rise of cybersex

NewScientist discusses online games that lead to animated cybersex. In Second Life , a game that initially was of a non-sexual role-playing genus, a you can buy sexual positions and fetishes from minority online communities and get to the point where a nymphet will undress you and take you to bed. Couples can use it as a graphics enhanced version of phone sex. It is pretty hard to buy your way into an online sex community and, even if you did find a ‘sex room’, you might not be ‘accepted’ – you can’t just turn up!

Capitalism however is now generating online cybersex games for the masses – Red Light Centre was released in May and Naughty America is due for release later this year and will tie cybersex to online dating. Red light centre allows characters to try on erotic lingerie which can then be purchased online. In both games characters can be pre-programmed with a set of sexual actions.

The games are intended to appeal particularly to women who are too tired to dress and go out or women who have safety concerns with casual sex.

Rape? In the two new games cited this is impossible since both partners must consent before the games will perform any sexual act. But in Sociolotron, virtual rape is an integral part of the game, though users must ‘consent’ before rape occurs. This seems potentially scary. It’s the usual story – ambiguity. Will allowing violent people to commit virtual crimes reduce or increase the likelihood of them carrying out a crime in the real world? Psychologist Bruce Bartholow believes the impulse to commit violent acts is increased by playing such games.

Sounds right to me – although I think that, for many people, these games will be a liberating form of sexual expression that does not displace real sex. Indeed to use some economics jargon, there will be complementarities between real sex and cybersex as well as substitutions. It will, in time, come to be treated as neutrally and, with as little public interest, as masturbation or homosexuality.

There are also interesting issues related to fidelity and adultery that are well-discussed in this wikipedia entry. There are also cybersex addicts, cybersex jokes and even cybersex instruction hotlines. Cybersex is not a fringe activity – when I Goggle it there are 4.5 million entries!

In any event the horse has bolted. Censorship won’t work and moral criticisms won’t prevent those who wish to use cybersex technologies from doing so. We will have to learn to live with these new technologies – legally or illegally. My guess is that these types of software will make fortunes for the first-movers who create them. I also think these technologies will, in time, profoundly alter relationships between human beings and, of course, how we view the all-important activity of sex.

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