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“This is A Naked Lady” Sex is a virus that infects new technology first

[Author’s note: Below is the first book I ever edited and published on what later became “The Internet/Web.” That was in 1985 and the book was, to say the very least, ahead of its time. The author appeared in my work again in the first issue of Wired in 1993 (also shown below). I have no surviving copies of the book but this is the article.]

Back in the dawn of online when a service called The Source was still in flower, a woman I once knew used to log on as “This is a naked lady.” She wasn’t naked of course, except in the minds of hundreds of young and not-so-young males who also logged on to The Source. Night after night, they sent her unremitting text streams of detailed wet dreams, hoping to engage her in online exchanges known as “hot chat” – a way of engaging in a mutual fantasy typically found only through 1-900 telephone services. In return, “The Naked Lady” egged on her digital admirers with leading questions larded with copious amounts of double entendre.

When I first asked her about this, she initially put it down to “just fooling around on the wires.”

“It’s just a hobby,” she said. “Maybe I’ll get some dates out of it. Some of these guys have very creative and interesting fantasy lives.”

At the start, The Naked Lady was a rather mousy person – the type who favored gray clothing of a conservative cut – and was the paragon of shy and retiring womanhood. Seeing her on the street, you’d never think that her online persona was one that excited the libidos of dozens of men every night.

But as her months of online flirtations progressed, a strange transformation came over her: She became (through the dint of her blazing typing speed) the kind of person that could keep a dozen or more online sessions of hot chat going at a time. She got a trendy haircut. Her clothing tastes went from Peck and Peck to tight skirts slit up the thigh. She began regaling me with descriptions of her expanding lingerie collection. Her speech became bawdier, her jokes naughtier. In short, she was becoming her online personality – lewd, bawdy, sexy, a man-eater.

The last I saw of her, The Naked Lady was using her online conversations to cajole dates and favors from those men foolish enough to fall into her clutches.

The bait she used was an old sort – sex without strings attached, sex without love, sex as a fantasy pure and simple. It’s an ancient profession whose costs always exceed expectations and whose pleasures invariably disappoint. However, the “fishing tackle” was new: online telecommunications.

In the eight years that have passed since The Naked Lady first appeared, a number of new wrinkles have been added to the text-based fantasy machine. Groups have been formed to represent all sexual persuasions. For a while, there was a group on the Internet called, in the technobabble that identifies areas on the net, alt.sex.bondage.golden.showers.sheep. Most people thought it was a joke, and maybe it was but in the country you became alert for stained damp sheep with an extra plaint in their baas.

Online sex stories and erotic conversations consume an unknown and unknowable portion of the global telecommunications bandwidth. Even more is swallowed by graphics. Now, digitized sounds are traveling the nets, and digital deviants are even “netcasting” short movie clips. All are harbingers of porn to come.

It is as if all the incredible advances in computing and networking technology over the past decades boil down to the ability to ship images of turgid members and sweating bosoms everywhere and anywhere at any time. Looking at this, it is little wonder that whenever this is discovered (and someone, somewhere, makes the discovery about twice a month), a vast hue and cry resounds over the nets to root out the offending material and burn those who promulgated it. High tech is being perverted to low ends, they cry. But it was always so.

There is absolutely nothing new about the prurient relationship between technology and sexuality.

Sex, as we know, is a heat-seeking missile that forever targets the newest mass medium for its transmission. William Burroughs, a man who understands the dark side of sexuality better than most, sees sex as a virus that is always on the hunt for a new host — a virus that almost always infects new technology first. Different genders and psyches have different tastes, but the overall desire seems about as persistent over the centuries as the lust for bread and salvation.

We could go back to Neolithic times when sculpture and cave painting were young. We could pick up the prehistoric sculptures of females with pendulous breasts and very wide hips – a theme found today in pornographic magazines that specialize in women of a generous endowment. We could then run our flashlight over cave paintings of males whose members exceed the length of their legs. We could travel forward in time to naughty frescos in Pompeii, or across continents to where large stones resembling humongous erections have for centuries been major destinations to pilgrims in India, or to the vine-choked couples of the Black Pagoda at Angkor Wat where a Mardi Gras of erotic activity carved in stone has been on display for centuries. We could proceed to eras closer to our time and culture, and remind people that movable type not only made the Gutenberg Bible possible but that it also made cheap broadsheets of what can only be called “real-smut-in Elizabethan-English” available to the masses for the very first time. You see, printing not only made it possible to extend the word of God to the educated classes, it also extended the monsters of the id to them as well.

Printing also allowed for the cheap reproduction and broad distribution of erotic images. Soon, along came photography; a new medium, and one that until recently did more to advance the democratic nature of erotic images than all previous media combined. When photography joined with photolithography, the two together created a brand new medium that many could use. It suddenly became economically feasible and inherently possible for lots of people to enact and record their sexual fantasies and then reproduce them for sale to many others. Without putting too fine a point on it, the Stroke Book was born.

Implicit within these early black-and-white tomes (which featured a lot of naked people with Lone Ranger masks demonstrating the varied ways humans can entwine their limbs and conceal large members at the same time) were the vast nascent publishing empires of Playboy, Penthouse, and Swedish Erotica.

The point here is that all media, when they are either new enough or become relatively affordable, are used by outlaws to broadcast unpopular images or ideas. When a medium is created, the first order of business seems to be the use of it in advancing religious, political, or sexual notions and desires. Indeed, all media, if they are to get a jump-start in the market and become successful, must address themselves to mass drives – those things we hold in common as basic human needs.

But of all these: food, shelter, sex, and money; sex is the one drive that can elicit immediate consumer response. It is also why so many people obsessed with the idea of eliminating pornography from the earth have recently fallen back on the saying “I can’t define what pornography is, but I know it when I see it.”

They’re right. You can’t define it; you feel it. Alas, since everyone feels it in a slightly different way and still can’t define it, it becomes very dangerous to a free society to start forbidding it.

And now we have come to the “digital age” where all information and images can be digitized; where all bits are equal, but some are hotter than others. We are now in a land where late-night cable can make your average sailor blush. We live in an age of monadic seclusion, where dialing 1-900 and seven other digits can put you in intimate contact with pre-op transsexuals in wetsuits who will talk to you as long as the credit limit on your MasterCard stays in the black.

If all this pales, the “adult” channels on the online service CompuServe can fill your nights at $12.00 an hour with more fantasies behind the green screen than ever lurked behind the green door. And that’s just the beginning. There are hundreds of adult bulletin board systems offering God Knows What to God Knows Who, and making tidy profits for plenty of folks.

Sex has come rocketing out of the closet and into the terminals of anyone smart enough to boot up FreeTerm. As a communications industry, sex has transmogrified itself from the province of a few large companies and individuals into a massive cottage industry.

It used to be, at the very least, that you had to drive to the local (or not-so-local) video shop or “adult” bookstore to refresh your collection of sexual fantasies. Now, you don’t even have to leave home. What’s more, you can create it yourself, if that’s your pleasure, and transmit it to others.

It is a distinct harbinger of things to come that “Needless to say…” letters now appearing online are better than those published in Penthouse Forum, or that sexual images in binary form make up one of the heaviest data streams on the Internet, and that “amateur” erotic home videos are the hottest new category in the porn shops.

Since digital sex depends on basic stimuli that are widely known and understood, erotica is the easiest kind of material to produce. Quality isn’t the primary criteria. Quality isn’t even the point. Arousal is the point, pure and simple. Everything else is just wrapping paper. If you can pick up a Polaroid, run a Camcorder, write a reasonably intelligible sentence on a word processor or set up a bulletin board system, you can be in the erotica business. Talent has very, very little to do with it.

The other irritating thing about sex is that like hunger, it is never permanently satisfied. It recurs in the human psyche with stubborn regularity. In addition, it is one of the drives most commonly stimulated by the approved above-ground media (Is that woman in the Calvin Klein ads coming up from a stint of oral sex, or is she just surfacing from a swimming pool?) Mature, mainstream corporate media can only tease. New, outlaw media delivers. Newcomers can’t get by on production values, because they have none.

Author Howard Rheingold has made some waves recently with his vision of a network that will actually hook some sort of tactile feedback devices onto our bodies so that the fantasies don’t have to be so damned cerebral. He calls this vision “dildonics,” and he has been dining out on the concept for years. With it, you’ll have virtual reality coupled with the ability to construct your own erotic consort for work, play, or simple experimentation.

Progress marches on. In time, robotics will deliver household servants and sex slaves.

I saw The Naked Lady about three months ago. I asked her if she was still up to the same old games of online sex. “Are you kidding?” she told me. “I’m a consultant for computer security these days. Besides, I have a kid now. I don’t want that kind of material in my home.”

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • ghostsniper August 27, 2018, 1:12 PM

    I first became aware of Newsgroups about 1994 when a client told me to look up “warez” online. At that point I had been on Compuserve and AOL for years and BBS’s even longer. I started with Outlook Express like everybody else but quickly changed over to Forte Agent and the world of rar’s and par’s opened up.

    I was building my own machines in those days and built 3 more with multiple hard drives and burners in each in order to keep up with the throughput coming through our new DSL unlimited dedicated lines. It got to the point my burners couldn’t burn fast enough, using Nero, though I had the fastest available. What a relief when 24X DVD burners became available.

    When we moved to the great white north in 2006 I had over 1000 DVD disks (bought in 100 disk spools on ebay) and 40 120gb hard drives of “stuff”. Media files. Audio, video, and text. Agent could be programmed to find specific files so I only downloaded full music albums in mp3 format in the 240-320 range, 18,000 albums. More than 100,000 ebooks spanning 15 file extensions. 1000’s of movies of every genre and 10’s of thousands of other types of video. And thousands of computer applications, mostly hacked and/or pirated.

    My computers ran 24/7 and were rarely turned off and mostly ran automatically once set up. I ran em wide open til they broke, fixed em, then ran em again. They would monitor all the pertinent newsgroups and download everything instantly when it was posted. I was one of only 3 people worldwide that took on, and completed, the largest download in web history. This venture spanned more than 3 continuous months of solid downloading, uninterupted, through 8 different newsgroups. The poster was in germany and it entailed more than 300,000 individual files, rar’s and par’s, of all 156 episodes of “The Twilight Zone”.

    My wife and I only watch TV, almost always DVD’s of old pre-60’s TV shows, during supper and about 5 years ago we watched all the Twilight Zone episodes end to end and it took 6 months. Then we did “The Fugitive”.

    With technology what it is today I imagine the gargantuan download I completed back then has been dwarfed. Google took over the newsgroups around 2010 and they haven’t been the same since. I don’t even know if they still exist.

    Tidbit of the day:
    In the late 1990’s the newsgroup, alt.clinton.whitewater.impeach was the most active newsgroup of all. Many people I met there are still online associates today, 20 years later. Hitlery Klintin herself was a regular in that group, though in an exposed alias, and everybody in that group found out about Princess Diana’s demise before Dan Rather did by way of a european participant that saw it go down. The internet used to be an amazing thing, up until Gore invented it, then it started going downhill.

    • gwbnyc March 15, 2022, 8:40 PM

      my newsgroup was “alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.vintage”, my handle was “jack@cha.throat”.

      I favor old anthology series, TZ, of course, Hitchcock, etc.

      I made a website for my wife, and included a link that was a letter in the title that led to a java scripted “Asteroids” game, as faithful as the arcade version. some found it, others not.

      then there were all the forums at “bianca.com”.

      …and “Bill Shit”.

  • John The River August 27, 2018, 2:02 PM

    Congratulations! Your line “The internet used to be an amazing thing, up until Gore invented it, then it started going downhill.” is my quote of the day.

  • Eskyman August 27, 2018, 4:00 PM

    Oh, what memories this post brought back!

    Remember when you downloaded a 50K .jpg file from a bulletin board using your blazing fast 56K modem, which built the picture as you watched, a line at a time? All the while thinking how long it would take if you had to use your old 1200 baud modem instead (which you of course kept as a backup, just in case.) Then as now, most pictures were duds, but back then you didn’t know until it downloaded far enough. Anticipation was wonderful, and every once in a long while you found a good one!

    Did anyone else play “Leisure Suit Larry” on a BBS? That was one of my guilty pleasures back in the day. No graphics at all, but plenty of smut, mostly provided by my own mind!

    I enjoyed computers a lot more back then too. I had the best personal computer ever made, the Amiga 2000: a joy to use, and so much fun to demonstrate how much faster it was to run the same software as a Mac which cost 4 times more. Mac owners, seeing this happen, were a lot like the anchors on Election Night: they just couldn’t believe their eyes, could not understand it, and desperately wanted to reject what they could clearly see!

    @ghost- I don’t have Twilight Zone except on discs, but recently I downloaded “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” all 7 seasons, and that ran to 157GB. Took me about 3 days, even though I’ve got >200Mbps cable now instead of the old modem. (Yes, I know about Joss Whedon. He’s an interesting character; that is, a flaming liberal that’s come up with some of the finest TV I’ve ever seen: Buffy and Firefly. He must be schizophrenic, I guess.)

  • ghostsniper August 27, 2018, 7:03 PM
  • jwm August 27, 2018, 7:58 PM

    After spending an entire day with a new computer and camera I feel well and truly raped by technology. The new Canon EOS was just fine. But surely it was Satan’s catamite who invented Windows 10. It took an act of congress to get the freakin’ wifi going. I was glad for Geek Squad, because I never would have figured it out. And what do I have to show for a day cursing and crawling my way up the learning curve? (wait for it)

    a picture of my cat on Facebook

    I’d shake my head, but it would be too ironic to do so.
    No worries, great things are coming.


  • Casey Klahn August 28, 2018, 10:07 AM

    I was so busy working and clawing my way out of the muck, that the early internet, the Fred Flintstone days of the web, was not something I participated in. When my place of business first got e-mail (a green cursor on a black screen with green words), I said that this would never get off the ground.

    Call me a late adopter.

    My views and political interests are hardly served on the internet. Thank God for Drudge, AmDig, and a small handful of other outlets. Beleaguered as they are, they still kick booty on the likes of the legacy media. Their audience are self-righteous, smug, retards whose only thinking for the body politic is to refreshen Marx. Let them have the engines – they still have no arguments.

    We need to populate the dark web (whatever that is), movies, art, comedy houses, gathering places. We need the corporate boardrooms of the most innovative companies to be ours. Google and Facebook will shoot themselves in the foot because their business practices do not reflect their mandate. As the topic of this post suggests, they suck ass at what they do.

  • Snakepit Kansas August 28, 2018, 3:15 PM

    The web…computers…technology. I guess I was on that bubble when thing started to change. I did all my drafting training with pencil and paper, just when CAD was getting going. I did field service right out of electronics school and got very good at reading maps. I’ve done some fieldcraft to learn how to run a compass, pace count and follow a field map, or at least know where I am afield. Modern rifle scopes are incorporating computers to range find along with ballistics knowledge to calculate where a hunter might shoot when beyond 300 yards. Thing is, electronics fail, especially when exposed to heat, cold and moisture. Satellites can fail and will be targets in a future war. Batteries can run out when you need them the most on a scope, computer or flashlight. I sure like modern electronics, but having some fundamental caveman knowledge won’t hurt a guy any.

  • ghostsniper August 28, 2018, 6:48 PM

    Snake, I did plans professionally, the old fashioned way, for 22 years. From 1972 to 1994. Then I got involved with AutoCAD in 1994 and 2 year later put my drawing tools away. Still have all my tools, including 2 hair dryers for drying ink, and a small 30″x42″ drawing board with Mayline parallel bar. One of these days I’m going to build my own Mayline Ranger 6′ drawing table and buy a tall swivel chair to match and get back into doing perspective rendering in ink. One of these days. Maybe when my XP machine fails and my AutoCAD (2004 version) no longer works. My AR has a Barska 1-6 variable scope and Magpul pop-up sights. Never can tell.

  • John Venlet August 29, 2018, 9:06 AM

    Perhaps the more pertinent question to ask The Naked Lady would be, if you had remained childless, would you still be an online sex flirt, and if not, why?

  • Vanderleun August 29, 2018, 5:48 PM

    Because, as I saw, she is now deep into “The Land of the Formerly Cute.”

  • James ONeil March 15, 2022, 10:11 AM

    Never did Windows.

    Started out with Apple II & green screened monitors you couldn’t let sit static too long else text burned therein stayed forever.

    Later Maclink kept me in touch with the Window watchers I businessed with.

    8-10 years ago, when the Apple got a bit too sour for me, moved to Linux.

    Never did run into your Naked Lady on line Gerard. Hum, might have ta look for her equivalent. Dirty old men aren’t born you know, we have to work at it day after day after day

  • jwm March 15, 2022, 8:58 PM

    Just popped a memory.
    This would have been around 1984/85. My Evil First Wife had a job editing a monthly newsletter: Handy tips for Macintosh users. Getting Macintosh tips in the mail every month, imagine that.