Net Gains: First-time fakers

On Tuesday, two "typical all-American kids", Mike and Diane, will lose their virginity live on the Internet via an "unobstructed" webcam video.

Well, that was what we were told was going to happen, when the Our First Time site launched three weeks ago. Apparently, the idea belonged to Diane who, like Mike, is a church-going high-school honours student. Diane was inspired while watching a birth at a Florida hospital live on the Net on 16 June. She got talking online to a California web-page designer, Oscar Wells.

"She thought [the birth] was educational, but said that if they showed someone making love it would be considered obscene," says Wells. "She made the off-hand remark, `If I could, I'd lose my virginity online to make the point.' I said, `If you're serious, I can facilitate that'."

In fact, the whole thing was a not very convincing hoax, as was revealed after the first week of media pressure, during which the site crashed offline because the software could not cope with the millions of people trying to visit it.

A new, powered-up Our First Time site then bounced back, with the sponsorship of a condom retailer, Condomania, which insisted that the controversial live video was ditched and that the site come clean. Our First Time has since continued, with a curious day-by-day diary of Mike and Diane in words and snapshots as they prepare for you-know-what. The motive now, according to the sponsor, is to promote safer sex.

What will be presented on the concluding Tuesday remains a mystery, but the quality of the adventures in the past week has not been inspirational. First there was the visit to the Condomania store in Los Angeles (Mike: "This condom store has every possible condom from around the world. Both male and female, as well as every other safe product available. There's also fun stuff like games, postcards, silly food products, and a few other assorted toys." Diane: "I'm telling you now, you can forget the toys. I don't need anything but you." Mike: "I'm yours for ever"). Then there were the Aids tests - why, or is there something Mike is not telling us? Strangest of all was the day they revealed to Diane's parents what they were going to do (Diane: "They told us that they did not think that this statement is one worth making, but if we do, then they will support our right to do it. They just asked one thing: please do it with class - and be very careful. I am so lucky to have parents like these").

In a way, it's a relief the site bears so little relation to reality. (Do you think your first time would make a good video?) But you can guarantee that eventually a bona fide couple will lose their virginity on the Net. We have already had a birth, with the hospital where it took place now planning to screen live surgery.

There is an established business in sites with webcams permanently trained on real people's bedrooms - the most famous, JenniCam, now charges $15 a year to subscribe. Voyeurism is big business, as RPTV (real-people television) endlessly proves. And perhaps someone will be inspired by one of this summer's hit films, The Truman Show, in which Jim Carrey grows up to realise that his entire life has been broadcast as a soap opera using hidden cameras. And you thought Mike and Diane were scary.

Our First Time with Mike and Diane

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