Companies that have attempted to prevent their technologies from being
used for sexual purposes have often failed. One reason often given for
the victory of VHS video tapes over the Beta format is that Beta refused
to let their tapes be used for pornography. Similarly, many believe that
AOL triumphed over Prodigy because of Prodigy's refusal to allow sexually
oriented chat rooms or sexual content.
The Internet has contributed to the spread of pornography more than any other technology to date. Now, a large variety of pornographic chat rooms, photographs, and videos are available for little or no charge to anyone with an Internet connection and a little patience.
We have reached the point where broadband connections -- high speed connections that allow for transmission of high quality video -- are becoming commonplace. It is estimated that 100 million people worldwide have access to the Internet , and of those, an estimated 2 million people have access to broadband through a digital subscriber line (DSL) or a cable modem. 
There is an abundance of porn on the Internet, and it is popular. The
Playboy website averages 5 million hits per day. Adult entertainment is
estimated to be the highest grossing sector on the Internet. It is difficult
to estimate the number of sexually explicit sites on the Internet, but
as of November 1998 there were 60,000 sexually explicit sites on the Internet
in the United States, and the adult industry has reported a growth rate
of 40% yearly since 1997. 
Advancements in computer technology have sparked a revolution in online pornography. Instead of simply being viewed, pornography can now be experienced through virtual reality and teledildonic devices.
Companies such as Safe Sex Plus, VR Innovations, and Digital Sexations
manufacture products that provide a virtual sex experience. The products
sold by these companies serve as an interface between the computer and
one to four sexual appliances. The sex toys can be controlled by a remote
partner, a DVD or streaming Internet video, or by clicking on links on
a web page. Often, the appliances can be stimulated at various intensities.
These devices vary in their function. For example, Safe Sex Plus's SSP Adapter (priced at $24.99) is designed to facilitate cybersex between two remote human partners through the Internet. The adapter is simply a small box with light sensors that attaches to the computer's monitor with a suction cup. The adapter has a port for one compatible sexual appliance. The SSP software simply brings up a square window that the adapter is placed over. A user is able to control the movement and intensity of a remote partner's sexual appliance by adjusting the color and brightness of the window.
The Virtual Sex Machine, manufactured by VR Innovations, takes a different
approach to computer aided sex. (The Virtual Sex Machine, at $370, is
significantly more expensive than the SSP adapter.) Their product, which
connects to the computer's parallel port, is a machine that fits over
the male genitalia. (A female version is in the works.) By combining the
sensations of massage, vibration, and vacuum, The Virtual Sex Machine
claims to be able to simulate a wide variety of sexual interactions.
In some ways, this device exceeds the ability of a
"real" sexual partner, as the sensations are longer and more intense.
Not only that, the machine NEVER gets tired.
The Virtual Sex Machine is controlled by specially formatted movies that stimulate the machine in concert with the action on the screen. The user is able to pause, fast-forward, and rewind the video without the machine getting out of synch. The movies can either be viewed from a CD-ROM or DVD, or through streaming Internet media.
The product put out by Digital Sexations (retailing at $49.99) provides a combination of the two products listed above. Their "Black Box" connects directly to a computer's serial port, and supports one to four compatible sex toys. The product can be utilized while chatting, reading erotic stories, or watching pornographic videos.
The Digital Sexations chat interface is basically a updated version of the SSP adapter. It is logistically more convient to deal with a serial port than suction cups. The user has the capability to stimulate each of the possible four sex toys that the remote partner is using. Also, the interface contains an advanced setting that will search for specific keywords in the conversation and stimulate the toys accordingly. The Digital Sexations device also has the ability to respond to embedded signals in specially formatted movies in a similar manner to the Virtual Sex Machine. One additional feature is that the software is advanced enough to allow instructions for the devices to be embedded in hyperlinks in web pages. For example, clicking on a link in an erotic story would cause the sexual devices to be stimulated in a manner relevant to the story.
Vivid Entertainment, a leading player in the adult industry, has developed
a full body "cybersex suit" with 36 sensation-delivering sensors.
The sensors are able to deliver five different sensations - tickle, pinprick,
vibration, hot, and cold. Through a combination of these sensations, Vivid
believes that their suit can reasonably approximate a variety of sexual
sensations. The suit is expected to cost about $170, and will be available
as soon as Vivid irons out a few safety issues, most of which deal with
varying electrical sources in different countries. 
Our current computer-based sex technology ranges from extremely simple
to moderately advanced, and it is inevitable that as virtual reality technology
advances, cybersex will be on the cutting edge. We have reached the point
in our society where technology is advancing at such a rate that our social
values have trouble keeping up. Sex is such an integral part of human
nature that we must start considering how the advancement of cybersex
will affect our society.
1. Cyberporn Facts At A Glance. [back]
2.The Washington Post. "SEAMY AND STEAMY; A Group of Savvy Entrepreneurs Is Exploiting the
Latest Technology To Pioneer the Web's Full Commercial Potential--They're Smut
Merchants" By John Schwartz. p. G06. May 17, 2000. Lexis Nexis. [back]
3. Filtering and Pornography. By Courtney Glazer, Zaz Harris, Wendy Marinaccio, Dave Panitz, Katie Pittman, and Mike Zhu. [back]
4. teledildonics - the proposed use of virtual reality to mediate sexual interaction between computer users operating in different places. (Oxford English Dictionary) [back]
5. Sex toys blaze tactile trail on Net. By Mike Brunker. [back]
6. Scientist cooks up virtual sex technology. By Laura Rohde. [back]