“The driving source behind sex in the 1990s, whether you’re partnered or single, is the human imagination,” Levine declared. The place where imaginations go wild, anonymity is the rule, and desire runs amok.” Like earlier safe-sex educators, Levine used multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank questionnaires to help readers take stock of what they wanted. The chapter “Overcoming Sexual Inhibitions,” for instance, started with a quiz intended to help you assess how uptight you are. If your best friend started unexpectedly talking about his or her sex life over coffee one day, you would:a. A service called Tri Ess connected heterosexual couples who were into cross-dressing.She placed more emphasis on expanding your horizons than on safety. The chat abbreviations that Levine lists — like ASAP and LOL — now seem so obvious that it is hard to remember that they once needed defining. Decent webcam technology and the bandwidth needed to transmit high-quality images were still a few years off.She ceased to be “a rather mousy person — the type who favored gray clothing of a conservative cut …She became (through the dint of her blazing typing speed) the kind of person that could keep a dozen or more online sessions of hot chat going at a time.” The effects carried over into real life.“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.As more and more Americans got online in the early 1990s, they learned how to enjoy relationships that were text-only.
In others, gay teens who felt isolated in the homes they were growing up in could do the same. By the time he graduated, one in six gay kids who went to high school in the late 1990s would get beaten up so badly he needed medical attention at least once.“She began regaling me with descriptions of her expanding lingerie collection. In short, she was becoming her online personality.” Surfing was the new cruising, and it could change lives.In “health” class, the point of our endless discussions was to scare us off of sex for at least a few years.But the safer substitutes for sex to be found online offered whole new kinds of titillation.To talk (or type) about sex constituted its own kind of intimacy.In the interim, using the right expression at the right time was the only way to flirt and bond.