Both were enticing despite being slightly dangerous. A cyberlover might say he was tall and strong when in fact he was short and skinny, or thin when she was fat. Back in the day, in your parents’ parlor, or at a church- or synagogue-sponsored dance, any other young person you met would have been screened in advance. The man who held your hand as you shuddered through the dark of the Tunnel of Love might be anyone.But daters soon discovered that the anonymity of being out in public offered its own kind of intimacy. You never had to see a girl you had picked up at the dance hall again.But the ambiguous setting of these cyberdates made many people nervous.At the turn of the twentieth century, “tough girls,” “charity cunts,” and other early daters upset their parents and the police by taking a process that had always been conducted in private to the streets.“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.In Online Seductions, she coined a phrase for the kinds of relationships that her patients struck up.They were “uniquely intimate” because they “grew from the inside out.” Gwinnell’s patients said some version of the same thing again and again.
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.“The relationship is all about what is happening inside of the soul and the mind, and the body doesn’t get in the way.” “We met our souls first.” This was the benefit of cyberdating, especially for singles who felt insecure in the flesh.The downside was that in the absence of visual cues or social context, it was often difficult to tell your interlocutor from the person you hoped he or she might be.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.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.