Network: Book Review: Formicophilia and the joy of online sex

'Sex and the Internet' by Davey Winder (Future Publishing) 128pp. pounds 12.99
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
At my local newsagent the other day, my postman was scanning the top two shelves. Unfortunately, being only a short man, he could not reach the topmost shelf. After a couple of attempts, he left coyly, sparing me the embarrassment of having to lift him up. If only he'd discovered the Internet!

He would also be able to make good use of the most comprehensive guide to sex on the Internet, in a new book from one-man word-factory Davey Winder. Winder is well known for his authoritative and accessible columns. Do we really need a book, however? Well, a surprising number of people claim not to be able to find any sexual material - although with "spamming" (mass-postings to news groups) now common, this is hard to believe. Although finding specific information is not difficult on the Net - once you know how to look - the book covers a wide range of material: sex sites, online dating and chat areas, and support information. It is "lavishly illustrated" - as they used to say of the health education magazines.

The author is not moralistic: he includes a section on parental control and porn-blocking software. This was written too late to recount some of the shortcomings of such "cyber-sitter" software: the rechristening of "Scunthorpe" because software would not accept the middle letters, for example. Along the way Winder has uncovered - and shares - some strange facts: about formicophilia (involving insects), that oral sex is illegal in Utah, and the size of the erect giraffe penis (four feet, if you must know). I had expected to find more colloquialisms for Net porn, but unlike the printed variety, these don't seem to have been coined yet; a little surprising for such a jargon-fixated industry.

It seems that any new medium rapidly becomes a channel for pornography, which soon becomes commercialised. That is what happened with photography, for example. Winder compares the current outrage over pornography on the Internet to the video nasty scare of the early Eighties, and suggests that it's likely to be short-lived. But that particular outrage led to hasty new legislation and the banning of films now considered genre classics. "Sexual issues," he writes, "will move out of the limelight, and back into the half-light of night where they so deservedly belong." Don't count on it.

Comments