One party -- let's call her Sissy -- sits in a room at her computer, logs onto safesexplus.com, and connects up to her partner, Bob, who might be in a room 1,000 miles away. There's a computer cam trained on Sissy, who lies sluttishly in bed in front of it. (If she looks anything like the promo photos I received, she's wearing white high heels, a bad wig, too much makeup, and appears very tired and a bit frightened.)
"STRAP ON THE LOVE SAUCER," Bob types in as he watches -- the caps to give it that commanding he-man edge -- and Sissy does. Buzz buzz buzz it goes on her clit, and Sissy types "Oh Bob Ong Beb" to him, and via his mouse Bob makes Sissy's toy go faster and slower, faster and faster, until Sissy finally types in "MOTHERAMARYFUCKMEJESUS" and lies panting in front of her computer while Bob finishes his, uh, business. Love renewed. Though far far away from each other, the couple is once again . . . a couple. And Bob doesn't have to worry anymore about that randy paperboy who knocks on the back door asking where Sissy is.
I requested a demonstration of this cyberdildonics thing, but it took a week for the toys to arrive from WebPower, the gadget's parent company, which runs both the free site, safesexplus.com, and the free-plus-pay-per-view iFriends.net (it stands for Intimate Friends Network). In the meantime, I hop onto iFriends to check it out. Lawzy me! Who would've guessed guys would pay to watch women masturbate with a cyberdildo! Cheyenne, for instance, charges $2.50 a minute to watch, $2.99 for the guy who wants to work his own little mouse and play with her new toys.
Finally, a plain white box arrives, and, like a kid awaiting her cereal-box decoder ring, I tear it open with glee. Inside a Radio Shack plastic bag is an assortment of gewgaws in boxes plastered with pictures of orgasmic women in silver outfits. The Mega Clit Saucer -- "unbelievable vibrating mini saucer" -- looks pretty interesting, a nubby plastic UFO-looking thing in a stylish purple. Then there's the Powermate-3 Single Bullet, another purple item, small and egg-shaped; and the Deep Stroker II, a hideous latex dildo with "Up & Down Action."
Not being online at home, I arrange for Dildonics creator Dominic Sardone to call me at the Weekly on a day when no one should be in. Even so, I tape a big sign to my office door: "Do Not Enter," it says. Immediately I find that very very funny.
DOMINIC SOUNDS LIKE HIS NAME: EAST COAST, BIG GUY. He talks me through the process: to the special place on the iFriends Web site where I'll find him, and then how to connect up the apparatus. The transformer gets plugged into the wall and also into the little white box that sticks onto the computer screen. The specially modified toys get plugged into the little white box, and presto!
Connecting takes me nearly an hour, although "experts can get on in less than a minute," says Dominic. Once I've logged on and the little white box is receiving signals through my computer screen, Dominic appears: an attractive goateed man sitting in a room with a basket of laundry. His image is refreshed about every two seconds, giving his laughter a strobe effect. "Ah . . . ha . . . ha . . ." takes about six seconds. Now, if he were watching me, manipulating my flying saucer, say, my orgasm would appear like this: "oh . . . big . . . ka . . . hu . . . na . . . ye . . . ssss . . . ssss . . ." (but silently, unless I also typed it in at the same time). I would writhe in stroby flashes, like a very slow old kinescope.
A lot of the "exhibitors," Dominic says, (those who charge others to watch) pay to have faster modems, smoothing out the video. They're making plenty of money, even $2,000 a week, he tells me; they can afford it. Dominic says 2 million "everyday people" have registered to watch, and another 5,000 have cameras. "There's girls that make in excess of $100 an hour." WebPower Inc. splits that 50-50.
I don't have much luck with the toys. Though the flying saucer emits a pleasant sort of landing-on-Mars vibration (in my hand, guys, above the desk), the other two barely hum, and they don't react at all when Dominic tells me he's slowing them down or speeding them up. The thing is, he explains, they were sent to me direct from a demonstration in New York where maybe, he guesses, they got dropped on the floor. He sent me used sex toys?! (Turns out there's a loose connection in the stick-on box.) Even if they did work, the wires mean that the user stays tethered about three feet from the computer. Mmm. Sexay.
The most fun of it all is watching Dominic laugh. He types a few messages to me: "How do you like this, baby, woo woo!" Then he laughs -- a rich, sexy laugh -- and I enjoy the image series of laughing Dominics. It pleases me. Laugh some more, I would order him were I paying for his time. Tell me more about your son's Little League game, and then laugh some more. It's the girl thing: Connection means talk, connection means physical closeness; why complicate your life when you've got a hand and several fingers to choose from?
Though women can pay to manipulate male "exhibitors," like most "adult entertainment," this Rube Goldbergian setup has been engineered for men, from the cheesy pictures on the toy boxes to the experience itself. It offers the excitement of sorta-sex with the live image of a stranger, but it also gives the man the illusion of control: He believes he can make this woman come with a flick of his hand on the mouse. Whether the gizmo is working or not, she'll comply: She's being paid to. (Idea for Dominic: vulva-shaped mouse?) Alternately, if she's in charge of his toy, he can pay to boss her around: Move the mouse faster, honey. Up and down up and down.
But as for the Bob and Sissy types -- the nonpaying, consensual lovers, the Fuller Brush man separated from his housewife -- well, maybe they manage a deep, heartfelt connection this way. Or maybe they just share a couple of hearty cyber laughs while trying to get the equipment to work.
As I exit the site, the pop-up dildo that's done little but purr contentedly like a cat in the sun performs a scary surprise power surge. Woo woo!
Cyberdildonics will be demonstrated live at the Erotic LA Convention, at the L.A. Convention Center, June 1113. See Calendar Events listings.