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But the safer substitutes for sex to be found online offered whole new kinds of titillation.To talk (or type) about sex constituted its own kind of intimacy.

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The author of The Joy of Cybersex, Deborah Levine, had spent several years counseling college undergraduates at the Columbia University Health Education program. Like earlier safe-sex activists, Levine used bullet-point lists to introduce the sites her readers should know and to teach them the language that they would need to thrive on them.

Levine encouraged them to use their computers to flirt, start online relationships, and explore their farthest-fetched fantasies without taking real-world risk. The pages she cited ran the gamut from tutorials for geeks, like to resources for free lovers like the Open Hearts Project and

The cyberlove of your life could turn out to be little more than a mirage or a private psychosis.

“When internet lovers leave the computer to go to other activities,” Gwinnell reported, “they may feel as though the other person is ‘inside’ them.” Finding your soul mate online could also leave you feeling dissatisfied in real life.

When my sister, searching for images of her favorite British pop stars, accidentally typed “Spicy Girls” into Yahoo, the search results made her run, shrieking, from the family computer. “It is probably no coincidence that this sea change comes on us at a time when AIDS lurks in the alleyways of our lives,” a writer for The Nation mused in 1993.

Months later, the New York Times reiterated the point.

For the first time in history, dating let young people seek mates and life partners on their own behalf, in public places.

Spaces like bars and boardwalks shared many features in common with chat rooms. Sure, people worried about other people misrepresenting themselves.

In the interim, using the right expression at the right time was the only way to flirt and bond.

Like The Joy of Cybersex, the first issue of Wired magazine came out in 1993.

But the ambiguous setting of these cyberdates made many people nervous.

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