I am a digital romantic. Because sex online is real sex and love online is real love and everything in between is real, too, as real as your hand down your pants, your heart in your mouth. I say this for all of us who’ve ever felt our breath quicken when a particular userpic pops up on screen. For everyone who marvels that you can use a keyboard to construct a perfect rose that will never have the decency to decay. For the kids sexting each other on sticky smartphones while their parents sleep. For the fan fiction writers sending their horny fairy tales out into the dark like perfumed letters. For the student staying up late to hump a camera for her girlfriend in another timezone. For the Craigslist missed connections and the Chatroulette strangers. For the transsexual teenagers whispering lust and learning in chat rooms while small-town bigots drive drunk through their disappearing fiefdoms. For the World of Warcraft lovers.
Sexuality online is real sexuality, and it’s about far, far more than porn. It’s the children who meet each other on self-harm forums whispering their most painful everyday secrets until the night when one of them posts in crisis and the others call from across the world in voices so familiar they forget they’ve never heard each other speak before. It’s OKCupid and Fetlife. It’s the camgirls and the cryptic personals and the amateur pornographers. It’s passsive-aggressive status updates, untagging and defriending and broken-hearted blogging. It’s the second-dates who tease each other with hyperlinks and the couples who send each other cat-gifs at work. It’s every neck-down naked picture I’ve ever sent to a boy I wanted to screw.
It’s the hours positioning yourself on the sheets for the blink of a camera and touching yourself gently when the laptop shuts. It’s the shy intellectuals spinning out message-board chats into something seductive, it’s all of us who understand that how you fuck can be less important than how you talk about fucking. It’s the lonely bedroom blogger flirting with a spambot. It’s the bots who want to be loved and the lovers who want to be robots. It’s the perverts, the dreamers and the shy, reaching out across the ether and running chilly fingers over each other’s forebrains, and it’s complicated. It’s always complicated. But that doesn’t mean it’s not human.
from Unspeakable Things by Laurie Penny