A sex columnist explains how the Internet has revolutionized our love lives—and why cyber breakups hurt just as much as real-world splits.It is a whole new world. I have been conscious and conscientous about what I write because once you post it is out there and you have to assume that you can never take it back. I sometimes wonder what this all means in the grand scheme of things.
"Nov. 23, 2005 - Is the Internet transforming our sex lives as much as the birth control pill did? Yes, says Regina Lynn, Wired.com's 'Sex Drive' columnist and the author of a new book about modern sexuality. Thanks to e-mail, blogging, instant messaging, Web cams and the myriad ways we now have to stay in touch electronically, Lynn says we are in the middle of a new relationship revolution. "Forget what they told you about defense departments and universities. The Internet has done more to help us upgrade our sex lives than any other technology in history," says Lynn in "The Sexual Revolution 2.0" (Ulysses Press). And she's not just talking about porn or dating sites. Lynn contends that having constant e-contact has created new kinds of relationships and increased intimacy in existing ones. The Web has been particularly liberating for women who, she says, might not cross a crowded bar to ask a guy out, but might e-mail him first or boldly flirt via instant messaging.
There is a downside, though: keeping a lid on all those steamy notes and blogs out there in cyberspace. By default, we're creating "a transcript of a lifetime," says Lynn. And now, instead of just burning a box of old love letters, she says we may have to find "50 ways to delete your lover." Susanna Schrobsdorff spoke to Regina Lynn about the pleasures and perils of love in the digital age. Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: Has the online world changed our sexual behavior as much as the pill?
Regina Lynn: I think it already has changed us almost as much as the pill, and will continue to. It is perhaps more gradually—we're already used to using e-mail and we take it for granted that we can talk to each other and build relationships—love and friendships—with people all over the world. But it's a big change. Women feel safe to do more sexual exploring online and a shy guy might find he's got the ability to seduce in e-mail. The Internet is about communication, which is the foundation of relationships.
You say that relationships are “real” even if they are conducted mainly online.
The Internet is the tool we're using, but there's still a person on either end. Online relationships kind of happen inside out whether it's e-mail, or instant messaging. The anonymity of online lets people get right to the heart of the matter first and then they start backing out to the more superficial, this is what I do for a living, this is where I live.
How have Internet relationships changed in the past few years?
People are meeting in puzzle or role-playing games more than in sex chat rooms now. Places where you are engaged in shared imaginative experiences with other people tend to give rise to other kinds of relationships. And because of the skills required for these games it often means the people who are coming just to troll for sex have been weeded out.
With so much of our intimate communications, like e-mails, out there in cyberspace, are there new risks?
You have in the back of your mind, 'I now have no control over this.' If someone gets hostile or vindictive or becomes a stalker, they have digital copies of the love letters you sent them. I think the way to deal with it is to accept this and relax and not let it make you crazy. You can't say what if my writing is so good that he starts copying and pasting it to the new woman he's having an affair with? You have to let that thought go."
I like using my blog as a diary, but it is easy to see how someone would take snippets and segments to formulate an opinion that may not really be based upon a real understanding and instead is based upon a one sided perspective.