March 10th, 2006

Cybersex is an art. To do it well requires a sensitive grasp of language, an earnest attention to detail, and a good ear for rhythm. Perhaps in real life we can simply lie back and enjoy the show. But online, without the responses of our physical flesh to keep us interested, we must remain constantly active and involved in order to create pleasure.

After all, cybersex, like its real-life equivalent, is not just an end result, it’s an act. Even if real-world thrusts have become type-written lines, they have to be performed… in their entirety. The act of typing — with all of it’s ups and downs — has comes to stand in for physical. So, if the act of typing does not take place, than neither, in a sense, has sex.

Enter Xcite!, an in-world Second Life company that produces and sells, among other things, interactive genitalia.

When I first heard about Xcite!, I was playing SL as Velouria Collingwood, a nice girl with red hair and cool gloves, who was, boringly enough, fashioned after myself. At the time, Velouria wasn’t doing much cybering, and Bonnie thought Xcite! sounded cool.

Since then, having created a kinky alt and embarked on a sex mission for science, I’ve come head-to-head with my share of Xcite! bits (even when I beg, “Can’t we just text!?”). And whatever I thought Xcite! was like before, boy was I ever wrong.

Xcite! parts, when you boil it down, allow your body to speak for itself. True, it doesn’t proclaim things on its own accord. But by simply clicking your partner’s, let’s say, right nipple, and then choosing from an extremely limited set of sexy actions, you can read in the text of your chat how Linden Subject A pulled the nipple of Linden Subject B into her mouth and sucked it.

Who wrote that? Not you. Certainly not me.

Many of the other SL users I’ve talked to have justified the popularity of Xcite! (and products like it) as simple laziness. At the end of the day, it’s easier to click through a menu than describe a sexual act in your own words, in your own tiresome strokes of the keyboard.

But what then is cybersex? When we’ve become too weary to type, can we still rightfully demand the ability to stroke another player’s ass? If sex is the act, and the online act is typing, it seems Xcite! leaves you only to the intercourse of some uncreative, mechanical other.

Put more simply: why is Xcite! play attractive? Convenience and homogeneity — two things the setup does offer — are hardly tantilizing. What happened to the writerly skill, and the spice, of cybersex?

Tags: Blog

14 Responses to “If This Clit Could Talk”

  1. Sam Kelly Says:

    One thing that occurs to me is that it’s down to increasing the disconnect between the participants – not getting the text makes it more of an anonymous encounter, more generic, certainly more predictable. The golden arches of cybersex, in fact. If you’re not used to getting the good stuff, this’ll look normal to you, and if you’re not used to forming – or don’t want to form – a personal connection with your partner then getting something you know is generic is fine for you.

    Oh, and the usual postmodernist vortex-of-signs applies. “Let’s not, and say we did.”

  2. Bonnie Says:

    If you're not used to forming – or don't want to form – a personal connection with your partner then getting something you know is generic is fine for you.

    Is it? I’m not doubting what you’re saying; I mean, I see the evidence of it all around. I just don’t understand. Generic sex, if totally uncreative, can, I suppose, still be enjoyed on the physical level. But generic cyber sex? If you know what’s coming, how does that pull you in? It just seems to me, when your actual body isn’t being stimulated, your mind has to be…

  3. Sam Kelly Says:

    I get what you mean, but I don’t think it’s ever so simple as direct stimulation – there’s not just the physical sensation, there’s the knowledge that it’s happening, the whole recursive hall-of-mirrors effect, and you get all those tasty feedback loops between mind and neurochemicals and vascular system. So there’re always multiple perceptual layers, and those can be more or less important depending on the person.

    So I don’t see a big difference between body and eyes at the bottom level, once you can get into it – and if your mind is used to getting into it, if it’ll expect and work from a particular stimulus, it will set you off.

    (I might be biased, since generic physical sex doesn’t work for me.)

  4. Duncan Says:

    This just came to me… but what if it has more to do with who is making and demanding the cybersex gear. Follow me for a second.

    Men experience sex in a much more visual way than women. Sure, we like all that physical stuff too. But the reason so much pornography exists, and so much of it is picture or video, is because the people demanding and creating it are primarily men. There is a lack of desire to have intellectual porn, so stories and dialog and all the rest of it get ignored for an experience that is much more visual, and easy to consume.

    So what if the same driving force is behind the majority of cybersex? The male counterparts may have no direct problem with cybering through a pre-defined interface. After all, the system now supports better visuals and animation. It’s easier, its faster, and it connects directly to the visual pleasure sense of the men.

    And leaves women (such as yourself) feeling unsatisfied. Women experience sex as a much more intellectual and emotional experience. So naturally, typing and receiving a tailored and imaginative response activates your imagination, connecting to what turns you on.

    —–
    As a tangent, it might also make men playing as women toons more at ease if they no longer have to roleplay gender correct responses.

  5. FerrousBuller Says:

    Random theories:

    Those involved are easily stimulated: even that kind of perfunctory, rote, repetitive, pre-programmed behavior is sufficient to arouse their sexual imagination. [Hey, kinda like real sex! ;-]

    Some people just aren’t very creative when it comes to sex – real or virtual – so they need someone else to provide those bits. Just as there are a lot of bad writers out there, I’m sure there are plenty of bad cybersexers. :-)

    Some people are too self-conscious – even in the online arena – to talk dirty: e.g., afraid of looking incompetent. [“Gee, is that the best you can do?”] Things like Xcite! provide an extra layer distancing the player from the act, to increase their comfort zone: after all, if everyone is using the same limited set of pre-programmed actions, they’re less likely to think you’re incompetent at it. This is related to the last point, but there is a difference between being bad at cybering vs. thinking you’re bad at cybering. Many men are not able to appraise their skills accurately in such matters, either over- or underestimating their abilities.

    They aren’t doing it to be sexually aroused, but for other reasons: `cause it’s funny, it’s a way of hanging out, whatever. In much the same way one might play a violent online game for reasons other than satisfying your bloodlust: e.g., to be social, because you enjoy teamwork, etc.

  6. Jeffrey Bardzell Says:

    I don’t disagree with the main argument presented, that Xcite genitals are a bland and homogenized alternative to text chat. I also agree that a collaborative fantasy through skillful writing remains the key to cybersex.

    But I do find value in Xcite genitals beyond some of the suppositions offered here (e.g., that people are self-conscious, or that there is a visual dimentsion). Xcite genitals put one into the world in a unique way. Sure, my partner and I can climb onto a poseball and type away, and that is a richer experience than cybering in a pure IM environment.

    But the Xcite genitals take it one step further by making my (avatar) body directly manipulatable by my partner, who can touch or not touch when she or he wants to. There is a certain thrill when someone takes control over your body (even if it is a virtual one). Now, such Xcite-enabled surrender can become canned and bland in the hands of a lousy cyberlover. But in the context of a compelling chat-fantasy, this thrill can be unexpected and a compelling part of the experience.

    So I would agree that Xcite genitals can be a hindrance to good old-fashioned cybering, but I also feel they can add a new component to the collaborative fantasy that is well suited to the medium (Second Life).

  7. Big G Says:

    I would like to point out that Second Life has other providers of less scripted genitlia. I agree that the words are the powerful afrodesiac that makes cyber sex worth while. I do like the visual interaction. However I have also met women in SL who like a less scripted approach.

  8. Bonnie Says:

    Men experience sex in a much more visual way than women. Sure, we like all that physical stuff too. But the reason so much pornography exists, and so much of it is picture or video.
    Good point! Especially when you think about the fact that male-oriented pornography, like videos, magazines, etc., is visual, whereas female-oriented pornography, like romance novels and slash, is textual.

    As a tangent, it might also make men playing as women toons more at ease if they no longer have to roleplay gender correct responses.
    Also a great point; I hadn’t thought of that! I have found though that even male-presenting players (who, from the best I can tell, are male) use Xcite! constantly. Maybe, like you suggest, the overall performance, whatever the gender involved, is daunting.

    They aren't doing it to be sexually aroused, but for other reasons.
    Hmm, maybe I’m misunderstanding you. The majority of people I’ve come across definitely seem to be using Xcite! for sexual arousal.

    But the Xcite genitals take it one step further by making my (avatar) body directly manipulatable by my partner, who can touch or not touch when she or he wants to.
    I think that’s where things get fuzzy. In situations like the ones you’re describing, I think Xcite! can be a great tool, but it requires a careful balance, and that’s almost more difficult to maintain than a purely textual one. But, like you say, when you get there it’s a great experience.

    I would like to point out that Second Life has other providers of less scripted genitlia.
    You’re totally right, and, I admit, I have next to no experience with them. Which others have you tried? What has your experience been like?

  9. Big G Says:

    I have tried the one from Stroker. It requires typing in your response such as get hard, get soft, orgasm, etc. It requires something like /99 Name of your genital get hard. I think this is too much typing when you’re in the heat of the moment … but … some other people that using Xcite is being lazy. Who can say???

  10. Fred W Says:

    Why not have a choice? Some people like to write flowery prose when they cyber, others simply do not. Who is forcing you to click those bits and use the automated messages rather than using your own words? Xcite provides a choice, nothing more. You can use the automated messages, or you can customize them to be your own words, or you can type whatever you want and silence the bits.

    If the author above had a bad experience, she had only herself to blame.

  11. Tamara Wake Says:

    Indeed. Why not have a choice and let the flowery prose AND the clicking of bits arouse the avatar simultaneously? Why not let it all depend on your mood and the situation?

    Being a scripter I set out to solve this and now have TrueLove which works to my satisfaction and that of a 100 other residents. TrueLove is an add-on to products like Xcite and Sensations. It analyses the flowery prose on erotic keywords and forwards the resulting arousal to Xcite (pending partnership) and Sensations (available now). At the same time one can still click the bits.

    TrueLove has enriched my virtual sexlife and that of my friends.

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  13. Lori Chambers Says:

    The Xcite genitals are customizable though. (I’m just delving into it) By editing the notecard inside the object you can change what it says, and in theory express your sexuality in your own words, just with less typing. ^_^

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