Everything you wanted to know about virtual sex

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The Independent Culture
Have you any idea what this job is like? Trying to think up stuff but nothing happening? Of course not. Why should you? You have troubles of your own; invoices, I shouldn't wonder, and chitties and prescriptions and affidavits and schedules and chamfered spline lugs and publication dates and whatever else you're stuck with in your brave attempts to keep the wolf from the door.

My sympathies are increasingly with the wolf. One day I shall simply up and let the bugger in to do his worst. I have been sitting here since 0830 this morning, waiting for enlightenment, staring at all my information technology, at all the books which line the walls, and the best I can come up with is: "Damnable waste of hard-earned cash."

It won't do. Perhaps it's because I've just got back from my holidays, and you know what that's like. All the exhaustion of having a nice time, then you get back home, lug the tent and the sleeping bags and the rain- sodden kit up five flights of stairs, and the washing machine goes wrong. Something has got bunged up and it won't pump out, which is more or less what has happened to my brain. No opinions, no jokes, no ideas, nothing at all, just a stomach-knotting collection of horrible worries. The worst thing about the horrible worries is that they are shadowy and inchoate, and the reason they are like that is that I won't look at them in case they turn out to be even more horrible than I thought. Which is in itself a worry, so let's not think about it.

Would you like to know some of the more manageable worries, the ones I can look in the face without throwing up? Good.

(1) Holidays. I mean, damn it. What happened to virtual travel? The idea was that we wouldn't have to go anywhere for our holidays, just stand in a little box and be transported to the South Seas. It was a good idea. Six inches of water in the bottom of a tent on a hillside in the Gower is not a good idea. Six inches of water in the bottom of a Hoover Logic 1300 full of Gower-stained clothing is an even worse idea. What we need is virtual travel. No; what we need is virtual everything, so that kindly machines can live our lives while we lie in bed, harming nobody.

(2) On the question of bed, what happened to teledildonics? You know; doing it. Online. In special rubber feely suits. With strangers who may or may not be who they claim to be. That hasn't happened either, and I'm becoming tired of the Internet filth newsgroups. I think I'm now on my third lap, and while wc-362119.jpg (the big redhead with the Great Dane, you know the one) is racy enough to brighten up anybody's Sunday teatime, the rest are growing wearisome. I've had my fill. Ban them.

(3) And if teledildonics did come about, what of the moral issues? Would Papa, sequestered in the study in his rubber feely suit, earphones in, visor on, humping thunderously down his fibre-optic data-pipe, be betraying Mama in the process? And what if Mama herself, up in her boudoir, were similarly roaming the Internet's red-byte zone disguised as Insatiable Tiffany Bigguns in head-to-toe fishnet when by chance she encountered Papa's own avatar, hunky, muscle-bound Chuck Studley? What if ... intimacy were to take place? Would that count as a licit conjugal act? And, if not, how would it be described on the divorce petition?

(4) Another thing. What about moral rights? I don't mean the ones where her indoors says: "If you ever even speak to her again, you won't know what hit you." That's all hooey. You always know perfectly well what hit you: her indoors. I mean the sort of moral rights authors assert in the copyright notice, which gives them the right not to have their work mucked about with, misrepresented, or taken out of context. Do we have moral rights over our own bodies and habits? I mean, if someone were to adopt the persona of William Hague and then whop around the net having wild virtual sex with, for instance, strange sluttish women who'd be absolute political death in a photocall (no knickers and her hand down the trousers of the carefully placed Rastafarian bongo artiste, for example) would Hague be able to sue? For what?

(5) And what about viruses?

(6) Or what if one indulged in such a wild and oceanically gratifying fashion that one simply then rolled over and fell asleep? Who would be responsible for the online charges ticking up as one snored away in one's feely rubber suit?

(7) Or look at it the other way. What if the system went down on you? I mean, there you are, warming up nicely, and suddenly there's a nasty noise and everything stops, leaving you high and dry. Could a man sue for mental anguish? (I say "a man" because women are used to that sort of thing anyway and probably wouldn't even notice.)

(8) The washing machine. Just before it stopped pumping out, it made a high-pitched keening noise. Once or twice today, my computer has made a similar high-pitched keening noise, and then conked out. The sequence of events - high-pitched keening noises followed by unshakeable inertia - is vaguely familiar. Does this mean someone is using my computer for virtual you-know-what without my knowledge? Even more worryingly, is someone using my washing machine for the same purpose? The washing-machine engineers, perhaps, which is why they won't answer their telephone?

(9) Or, even more more worrying, does it mean that my washing machine and my computer are having virtual you-know-what with each other?

(10) Is this the first tiny little harbinger of doom to come? Suppose in due course you get all gussied up in your feely rubber suit, sashay on down to Virtual Stringfellows and manage to pull some elfin but pneumatic popsy (doubtless a 47-year-old male credit-control clerk from the Bradford & Bingley in real life, but that doesn't matter) and suddenly you find you're in the middle of a vigorous, foaming Whites (Heavy Soil) program, what then? Can you sue?

Where will it end? Virtually stuck fast inside a microchip-controlled vacuum-cleaner, I suppose. There's a change. It's always been the other way round in the past. Isn't progress wonderful? !