'WHEN we went to the Apple show last year the most respectable-looking men were buying the stuff off the stand,' said Rue Stanley, a compact disc supplier for Apple Mac computers.

'The stuff' is a range of questionable material available for owners of home computers with a facility to play a CD-ROM. Having burgeoned on the West Coast of America, where surfing types mingle easily with the most innovative computer brains, sexy CDs are now becoming easily available in Britain.

General Media International, publishers of Penthouse magazine, has launched an 'interactive' disc allowing the user to take the clothes off three models then control how they pose. But Ms Stanley's company, Emerald Creative Technology, of Wimbledon, of which she is marketing director, has decided not to stock it anyway. After six months of trying out similar titles and finding they were not good sellers, they have decided to discontinue the range.

Part of the reason was the op position of the female staff, who objected to dealing with titles such as Virtual Valerie, Secret Obsessions and Traci I Love You. 'The managing director is quite behind the decision,' Ms Stanley said. 'Some companies have decided to get the stuff rated. We're a small company and we've not got the wherewithal, the energy or even the enthusiasm to do that.'

Possibly the best known sex CD in this country is the Interactive Lovers' Guide, which costs pounds 34. It is described as 'the guide to sex and relationship skills, enhanced and adapted for CD-ROM' and purports to be an educational title, although that point is debatable.

One retailer said he did not consider it to stray into titillation. 'The interactive content is purely to enable you to choose different chapters, just as a book is split into different chapters. It has an '18' rating from the British Board of Film Censors and the buyer is given a password to stop young people getting access.'

At pounds 30 and rising (although Traci I Love You, comes cheaper at pounds 29) it does the producers and vendors of titillating CDs no end of good to bask in an acceptable degree of notoriety, but according to Ms Stanley, most of the products are 'absolutely innocuous. Virtual Valerie is a cartoon character and the image on the cover doesn't reflect what's inside, where she's an innocent-looking bimbo. Customs have apparently decided, however, that they must stop it coming into the country and have seized a number of shipments.'

One of these shipments was heading for the specialist Kim Tee, which has since abandoned Virtual Valerie because it felt it had too much to lose from educational customers by carrying such titles. Other stockists have taken the same view. Apple, which is developing a line of CD-ROM titles, says sex and porn titles are not what Apple stands for. Philips, however, has announced an agreement with Playboy magazine to make a disc for its compact disc interactive CD player. Its interactive game Voyeur, in which the player attempts to solve a murder, includes a simulated sex scene.

Passwords for adults viewing and verdicts that most of the material available on CD-ROMs is harmless, however, is not the full extent of the computer pornography picture. The avenues down which soft and hard pornography are filtering into Britain and on to the computer screen are legion.

Electronic bulletin boards, accessed on-line services or networks, have been common sources of material. This rash is expected to spread from the US. The Internet, a giant global information service, is tipped by those who know as the most fruitful source.

It is virtually impossible for governments to control this spread of information. Unlike magazines, photographs or films, which can be seen, or verbal obscenity on telephone lines which can be tapped, electronic communication is unreadable en route. A pornographic CD looks much the same as any other CD from the outside.

Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, has announced plans to bring computer-simulated pornography within the law by adding it to the photographs, film and video recordings covered by current legislation. Police will be given powers to search premises and seize obscene material.

Computer porn is considered a worrying enough phenomenon for a select committee to have been set up and to have spent several months investigating it. Among cases it considered was that of paedophiles who had used pornographic images of women to scan on to computer floppy discs, which they had then modified to appear more childlike and superimposed children's heads.

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