Chat rooms and sex are two related notions, not only because people can fall - virtually - in love in anyone of these spaces but more precisely because partners describe to each other what they imagine they would do while they masturbate themselves or somebody writes a story rich in spicy details so as to excite the audience. Virtual sex is usually followed by making love on the phone and more rarely by the concrete sexual act.
However scandalous this may seem in a society as conservative as the Romanian one, it's better to name things straightway than to operate through allusions (that are deliciously fashionable in the local press) that can generally lead in the best case to a misunderstanding of the facts and often to a global rejection. The majority of the large Web communities like America on Line, Compuserve etc. open the possibility for their users to organize such rooms anytime, as they pay for it. The access is open as long as a couple does not create a private room.
Robin B. Hamman, in his MA dissertation "CYBORGASMS An Ethnography of Cybersex in AOL Chat Rooms_files" (University of Essex, Colchester, UK, the sociology department) proposes the assimilation of the participants to such a form of sex to the cyborg definition, as they are totally dependent on the computer and alter on the telephone. He regards virtual sexuality as a problem resulted as consequence of life in a society that does not allow free sexual experiment. Naturally, the problem would be solved in a society free of such rules and / or prejudices.
Speaking from an ethnographic point of view, the description of the phenomena is relevant and at least partially known to almost anybody who has experimented life on the Web. However, the researcher does not attempt at demonstrating the assimilation between his subjects and the cyborg definition and he does not try to argue the fact that cybersex seems an issue or at least a phenomenon with automatical negative connotation.
The debated assimilation is fragile from the very beginning. On the one hand we have the artificial human, intelligent artificial being, created by a species at least as intelligent as them, more often without subjectivity or capacity of reproduction. On the other hand, we have the human being who has tried permanently along time to produce prostheses as means of adaptation to the environment (from argyle tables to glasses, for example, as computers are one of the most recent). By doing this, man was not troubled that he was losing his natural quality, at least until the last century, when the Frankenstein myth took shape. Frankenstein was able to self reproduce himself and he was so naturally linked to this act that malfunctions in this area lead to the most unexpected physical and psychic disturbances, of average intelligence in the mass of people and having deep subjective roots. Pushing the demonstration ahead, we could take this capacity of creating prosthesis as a genetic disposition if we were to analyze the relationship between articulate language and signaling systems that are used by other gregarious beings in nature. The equality between cyborg and Web man, as my colleague would say beautifully once, fails only when we simply compare the definitions.
Let's approach now the delicate issue of the cybersex (the title of our sociologist colleague says something, meaning that sex on the Internet would be just a partial experience, a rather different orgasm that is not worth entirely to be called sex). First of all, we should do a statistics of the persons involved. Do they satisfy themselves only with the technically mediated experiences? Or are these just add on-s to the material reality? I am convinced that only quantitative analysis done on large samples of subjects would give a completely honest answer to this question.
Until then, I would take the chance to rely on my own observation and I'd enumerate three categories of individuals: the very young who can practice absolutely safe sex like this, they trick their natural shyness and learn very many details that can't be found in "Sex for Dummies" and that they can't ask comfortably their parents or their partner of the same age; the normal adults who are usually trying to exhaust an excess of energy and imagination that, by accumulation, could lead to disagreeable crises in the couple they belong to or who are sometimes even trying to find a real partner and finally, handicapped people because of different reasons (physical - including old age- or psychic) who take this unique chance to live and live again sexual experiences. As we can see, two of the three categories are not denied by any reason to a concrete sexual life.
Let's now concentrate on the society where we live. Is it really so frozen to the sexual experiment? Maybe the problem could be raised partially in Romania. There are fundamentalist states where sex is really very toughly restricted (but how many citizens of these states are really present on the Web?) but in most of the Western countries - whose citizens can be found most frequently in the chat rooms - , people have a policy and a mentality sufficiently open to a sexual life within widely normal limits. In other words, the practicians of virtual sex can't be considered refugees of an isolated mentality without error.
In addition, society in the free world requires of its members more norms of personal security than anything else. And we're not speaking here of the risk of physical illness, which has become more frightening since AIDS appeared but of individuals' physic and psychic weariness, of the care for the breed and all these are common sense requirements after all. The sexual desire is in fact one of the vital impulses that doesn't spare anyone and it greatly surpass our physiological abilities. On the other side, once satisfied psychologically, the desire enhances the individual's openness and creativity.
Finally, the couple's social contract, marriage, contradicts fundamentally the desire of sexual competition which is manifested by so many mammals along their entire life. It's not that the act as such would be bad but every day we see around us individuals, men and women, bored that they are not admired any longer, bored that they cannot conquer again what they once conquered and now, of course, they love.
On top of all these, if people could find so spontaneously a way to satisfy all these frustrations without inducing major perils for themselves or the social group they belong to, should we consider that an issue to solve? Do we not take the problem for its solution? And, moreover, is not the mentality that forbids the society members to experiment sexually making us treat virtual sex as reprievable ab initio?