American Polyintimacy in the 90s and the Internet

by Green Onions

Getting Information and Initiating Interaction

There are other important factors that distinguish the internet from all other media. First, erotic matter is readily available on the internet to those with a minimum of technical knowledge about computers 3.

It is often said that men are sexually stimulated primarily by visual cues, whereas women are most strongly affected by words. Whatever the wisdom of this ancient chestnut, both are freely available to adults on the internet. The same goes for a series of excellent `how to' manuals that shed light on number of practices ranging from vaginal sex to domination and submission and other less common interests. Even if someone don't know how to access news groups such as, or, s/he can still obtain erotic pictures, stories and information from `surfing' the world wide web.

Some may dispute the significance of this. After all, magazines such as Playboy, Playgirl and Penthouse Forum are freely available in most parts of the U.S. in liquor stores or in `convenience' outlets. But one must actually purchase or subscribe to these publications in order to enjoy them. Most middle class Americans do not relish the prospect of having their friends, acquaintances and neighbors know that they are acquiring such materials. The same is true to a much greater extent for the risk involved in patronizing specialty `sex shops' and renting `adult' videos, etc.

Furthermore, these publications are typically expensive and those which may be obtained with the least risk cater to fairly `tame' and/or traditional sexual interests. But mainstream sex is not what Americans see hinted at in a whole host of popular (R-rated) movies or best-selling novels. The same might be said for a number of well known popular `sex guides.' So whether we are discussing erotic fiction, pictures, or information about sensual practices, the costly publications that one can acquire with some risk in the context of middle class life do not begin to scratch the surface of sexuality as many Americans imagine it in their dreams.

Aside from the inexpensive and risk-free availability of sophisticated erotic material on the internet, one also has access to methods of initiating personalized interaction that find no parallels in traditional media. News groups, email-lists, so-called `talkers' and `chat rooms,' provide the means by which one can address or hear others `speak' to dozens or even millions of listeners at the same moment. Of course mass discussions rarely provide much solace to most people. But the end result may be subsequent one-on-one dialogue. Such conversations can be as frank and as explicit as the parties choose to make them.

One may also initiate one-to-one contact by placing or answering personals ads on the news groups and in many web sites. In this case there are significant benefits to being freed from the constraints of traditional media. Anyone who places a personals ad in a local newspaper or on a telephone service pays a nontrivial sum, is limited to a relatively small number of words, and--in many parts of the U.S.--risks compromising his or her privacy. And such traditional means reach only a tiny fraction of the eligible population in any given region.

The value of cyberspace facilities is exacerbated by the manner in which the internet provides for segregation of tastes. Do you find the idea of exposing your body or watching someone else expose theirs to be sexually exciting? Are you interested in various forms of `punishment' and `domination' or `submission' rituals? Are you a person who is very tall or short, or do you prefer to converse with someone else who might be, or wish to chat with others who prefer these characteristics?

Whatever your desires, you can normally find a news group, an email list, a talker, a chat room, or a (world-wide) web site devoted to your tastes. And for most people, the option to discuss or analyze their sexual interests with others is quite enough: humans tend to crave the reassurance that they are `normal' and delight in the company of others who have their own attitudes, even if the `togetherness' is not physical.

But your objectives might be a bit simpler. Maybe you just want information on how to discreetly obtain certain `adult' items--perhaps something as harmless as edible massage oil. Or you wish to find a stranger with whom you can anonymously discuss certain emotional aspects of your marriage because you are unwilling to share this knowledge with someone whom you know in `real life,' or purchase the costly services of a professional counselor.

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