NETSEX AND PHYSICAL VS. EMOTIONAL DISTANCE

Perhaps most curious to outsiders (and greatest cause of criticism of these new cybercommunities) is the phenomena of MUDsex: high-speed two-way erotica typing, which sometimes involves masturbation. Those hoping to do some info-highway rubbernecking on MUD will certainly be disappointed -- believe it or not, players on MUDs are, for the most part, discreet in their online heavy petting. MUDs provide private areas where characters can close the door and turn off the virtual lights, and it is in the virtual back rooms and bedrooms that NetSex occurs. What do couples get out of this highly emotional activity when it's filtered through cyberspace?

The easiest comparison to NetSex is phone sex, but this comparison may be unfortunate. If a player were hooked into MUDs just for NetSex, then this link would be appropriate, but most people who take the time to learn the MUD programming languages and design their character are interested in more than a one-night stand. Picking up the phone and dialing a sex line invests no commitment, whereas the hours of learning required just to be fluent enough in the MUD system to have NetSex (much less find someone to have it with) makes the event more significant. As communities that are often looking for a self-respecting communal identity, MUDs try to resist being characterized as online whorehouses. Marshdarter (author's character) mentioned a recent Wired magazine article about MUDs (which focused heavily on NetSex) to one character and met a disgruntled reply:

Leticia murmurs, "THAT article again. :(" Leticia murmurs, "THAT article, if you noticed, had two descriptionss, and about a paragraph (rather biased) about Furry.. the rest about LambdaMOO, but they decided to portray Furry ass a den of iniquity.."

People on MUDs don't walk up and proposition you with NetSex. The event generally occurs between characters who have first 'talked' and interacted over a period of time. Once NetSex is considered in relation to real life sex, it is interesting to note the implications of online intercourse.

Participants in NetSex maintain a strict physical and emotional distance while still enjoying what can be a fulfilling exchange between two people. With all the fears our society associates with casual sex (pregnancy, disease, etc.), NetSex provides a safe opportunity for sexual play. In fact it is possible that MUDs provide an outlet for those who are shy in real life to be more aggressive sexually. Just as MORE OPINIONS ARE OFFERED on the Net than in real life, some MUDers are more open in their affections. So much so that the amount of sexual innuendo and flirtation becomes notable to other players.

Diadalos says, "has there ever been two minutes on this thing where there hasn't been the mention of sex... do you guys conduct yourself like this in RL?"

The answer clearly is no. These players use the semi-anonymous medium of MUDs to explore aspects of self and expression they would not ordinarily venture in face-to-face exchanges.