“Computer erotica appears to provide many people with a ‘safe’ alternative to real, personal relationships in a world where HIV is deadlier than computer viruses.” This was in a book review. If a partner asked you (while undressed in the bedroom) to pretend to be something you’re not, say a cashier at a grocery store or a famous astronaut, you would:a. Think he or she had totally lost his or her mind, and suggest a visit to the therapist.d.The book, The Joy of Cybersex, argued that the World Wide Web was a godsend for this reason. Say: ‘Sure, honey, but I’d actually rather be a rocket scientist, okay? Think about it for a few minutes, fix yourself a drink, and succumb to the unknown.Not to mention how annoying that modem sound was when you picked up the phone. When children of the 90s first got in-home internet access, it was a novel and exciting concept.Finally, a relatively captive audience with whom to share our innermost thoughts, dreams, and anonymous flirtations.If anything, our parents were more concerned with our tying up the phone lines than our online whereabouts.
Sure, we may have talked to a pedophile or two, but we lived, dammit. Users formed full-fledged online relationships with people they had never even met.Sure, in real life you may have been a Dungeons and Dragons playing loner with duct-taped glasses, but online you could be the suave AOL romeo you'd always dreamed of being. It's going date us immensely when we someday tell our children of plugging a common search term in a search engine and having zero results, but we'll know that we were the true online pioneers. It's remarkable to think that just a decade earlier, we were content to wait five minutes to catch even the briefest glimpse of the internet. ", we'd be clamoring to reach our favorite chat rooms.Nowadays, if a website takes more than three seconds to load we're all about one step away from tossing the laptop out the window. As AOL was the premier internet service of the 90s, a good chunk of the online population could be found roaming these virtual spaces.The author of The Joy of Cybersex, Deborah Levine, had spent several years counseling college undergraduates at the Columbia University Health Education program. Like earlier safe-sex activists, Levine used bullet-point lists to introduce the sites her readers should know and to teach them the language that they would need to thrive on them.Levine encouraged them to use their computers to flirt, start online relationships, and explore their farthest-fetched fantasies without taking real-world risk. The pages she cited ran the gamut from tutorials for geeks, like to resources for free lovers like the Open Hearts Project and I cannot have been the only child of the Clinton era to have stumbled on the porn site doing social-studies homework.I remember furtively clicking on thumbnail after thumbnail in an “Interns of the Month” gallery, watching spray-tanned haunches and balloon-taut breasts of girls posed around Oval Office interiors materialize, bit by it.When my sister, searching for images of her favorite British pop stars, accidentally typed “Spicy Girls” into Yahoo, the search results made her run, shrieking, from the family computer. “It is probably no coincidence that this sea change comes on us at a time when AIDS lurks in the alleyways of our lives,” a writer for The Nation mused in 1993.Months later, the New York Times reiterated the point.