Does faking it make it more real?


Why is it that the on-screen orgasm continues to be regarded as the grand finale of a sexual encounter in virtual space, despite the fact that the love-juice explosion is totally simulated? In the case of Second Life, a cyberclimax might be depicted by a graphical cloud of whitish, spiraling particles made to suggest cum, or it also could be expressed strictly via text.

Either way, why is there so much emphasis on it, especially when, visually speaking, it’s not in fact the real McCoy? I mean, if we’re talking about bona fide orgasms happening off-screen, that’s one thing, and it’s totally cool to try to simultaneously convey that in a virtual setting. But I would say that in the context of sex in a place like Second Life, that’s not always the case. It may many times be more of a matter of going through the motions to parallel an ideal that’s much more relevant in the physical world. Or perhaps it might be just to cater to the ego of a virtual sex partner, or even to validate his or her abilities as a virtual lover.

In real-life, the orgasm does in fact denote the conclusion of an intimate encounter, particularly when a male is involved, in large part because the male becomes flaccid, unless Viagra is a factor. So it’s understandable that it’s the superlative punctuation mark of intercourse.

But on-screen, there is nothing authentically biological unfolding when two digital forms fornicate inside a pseudo bedroom. So why do the users behind the avatars in many cases apparently feel compelled to depict ejaculation? Is it because it’s the only way they feel they can achieve the sense of closure that real-life orgasm provides?

In theory, avatars can keep on going and going and going like the Energizer Bunny without ever having to worry about the longevity limitations that biological genitalia have. In Second Life, for example, in many instances all you have to do is left-click to give rise to a penis’ erection.

At any rate, I guess my point is, if two avatars are having sex for a relatively prolonged period, and eventually the sparks of genuine passion stop flying, why is it that someone can’t initiate an end to the encounter merely through some tactful verbal means?

Maybe the best thing to do would be to be honest about it. Maybe in such cases, one can just gracefully and diplomatically withdraw from whatever sex position is being executed at the moment, and say something simple, like, “Oh, that was fun …” Yada yada yada. Ya know? Why does the ‘orgasm’ have to be such an obligation?

A phenomena worth pondering, I think.

* Photo taken at NuMall Mature, Tiretta, 253,9,43.


  1. Comment by Torley Linden on April 17, 2006 10:17 pm

    Because people generally like books with beginnings, middles, and ends? ;)

    Really tho, and I might just be naive about this: I thought an “onscreen” orgasm was meant to be a symbolic reflection of when someone has really orgasmed behind their keyboard, marking it as such: “Well, my avatar can keep looping in that thrusting anim, but I gotta sleep!” Or SOMETHING.

    But, natch, I don’t see many avatars chomping on ham sandwiches when they are really hungry.

    BTW, I gotta give props to qDot ‘cuz I just figured out through him I can InterCap your blog as “ApogeeVR”. For the longest time, I was thinking of it mentally as “ApoGeevr”.

  2. Comment by Noche on April 17, 2006 10:39 pm

    Hey Torley.

    Well, the thing is, I don’t think the on-screen orgasm is always sincere. I hazard to say that a lot of users feel obligated to simulate it, perhaps to avoid feelings of awkwardness, and like I said, to achieve closure.

    For the longest time, I was thinking of it mentally as “ApoGeevr”.

    Interesting! Never thought of it like that …

  3. Comment by Cinomed Tweak on April 18, 2006 5:57 am

    In my adventures in SL, we don’t usually bother with that part. A few people have, but mostly we just use text, and I found this to be much better.
    Of course I have also found the varying skill levels to be pretty bad…. but that’s sex for you huh?

  4. Comment by Bonnie on April 29, 2006 10:34 am

    It’s a good question, theoretically speaking, but I’m with Torley: even in cyber space we’re defined by our real-life needs, like physical closure. I’ve found also that when someone doesn’t obey the beginning/middle/end model(a sort of narrative approach to cybering) things start to seem almost meaningless.

    For example, I was playing with someone who would use Xcite! to cause climaxes every few minutes; even when we weren’t cybering through chat — just texting about platonic things — he insisted we stay on the pose ball, fucking away. It just became absurd…

  5. Comment by Noche on April 29, 2006 12:29 pm

    Hi Bonnie. :)

    I still believe many users simulate orgasm because of the severe pressure of expectation, meaning they may be afraid to deviate from the pattern of sex in the physical world. But like I said, when it’s sincere, it’s a different story.

    I believe you are correct to a degree when you say “when someone doesn’t obey the beginning/middle/end model (a sort of narrative approach to cybering) things start to seem almost meaningless.” But what can that perceived meaninglessness be traced to? I believe in the case of the insincere orgasm in cyberspace, it might be traced (at least in part) to that sort of empty feeling some people may get when they don’t abide by established norms.

    Anyway, as I am sure you are aware, things seemed meaningless between you and your cyberpartner because there was no sexual passion. You two were just chatting. Which brings me to my initial point: if there’s no genuine passion behind it, why do it?

    I know that may seem a little mumbo-jumboish, but I have a good feeling I am onto something, although I can’t quite verbalize it as well as I would like. I guess it requires further thinking by yours truly in order to break it down more eloquently into philosophical terms.

  6. Comment by Biscuit Carroll on April 30, 2006 10:04 am

    Quality thinking. Surely the point of a virtual world is for us to stop mimicking RL?!

    Let’s explore the virtual orgasm …

    Here’s a couple of thoughts to start.

    One person could be the designated terminator. At a time of their choosing they log out of SL. No warnings, just log out. The partner will know this is coming so there will be some sense of suspense about the timing.

    The other idea is to have an orgasm command (I’m liking the sound of that already) which you can issue only once. Oh alright, twice. The other person will not know when you activate it but if you both decide on orgasm within a specified time frame, both your avatars blow up and your avatar walks stooped over for a week.

    Well okay, they’re only first thoughts…

  7. Comment by Noche on May 1, 2006 11:50 pm

    Surely the point of a virtual world is for us to stop mimicking RL?!

    I don’t totally agree with that. I think there are in fact times when mimicking real life in a virtual setting can be rewarding and beneficial.

    At a time of their choosing they log out of SL.

    I think it’s interesting that when the orgasm is no longer an option, like we are supposing in this instance, how it might be the prevailing tendency to sort of flee the scene in the blink of an eye instead of handling the situation in some other fashion - perhaps in a way that is more rational and/or mature and would require maintaining ‘face-to face’ interaction.

    Yeah, there may be some awkwardness to overcome or deal with. And it just dawned on me that a part of that awkwardness may be caused by the nature of the existing in-world sex interface - more specifically, the sex animations themselves.

    When avatars are fucking, for example, it’s usually at full-tilt in whatever position is being executed at the moment, and there is no way of extricating oneself from those positions other than to just do it abruptly, many times leaving one’s partner still engaged in the animation. In other words, there seems to be no way of gracefully (or tactfully) ending a sexual encounter, as far as motion and visual display are concerned, anyway.

  8. Comment by Biscuit Carroll on May 3, 2006 2:16 am

    Perhaps a still frame followed by a slow fade out?

    In virtual space there is no intimacy, save for that created in conversation. “I love you” would be a nice way to complete. You are in a fantasy space, why not? It’s only our concern that this might carry some weight in RL that makes it a taboo. And an old-fashioned notion that casual sex is not to be taken as seriously as LOVE.

    If people are mature enough to keep it virtual, why not enjoy virtual love as well as virtual sex? Everyone can use a little extra love ;)

  9. Comment by Dr. Cat on May 5, 2006 1:16 am

    This seems like a strange question to even be asking. Orgasm is, in real life, one of the most pleasurable parts of sex. If you’re simulating sex for the purpose of (presumably) enjoying the fantasy of it, why wouldn’t you fantasize about (and act out) that part along with all the other aspects of sex? You might as well ask “When we simulate sex online, why do we have penetration and thrusting like real life sex instead of doing something different” or “Why do we use penises and vaginas at all?” Granted, people could decide that online sex is performed by putting on tutus and waving cucumbers around while jumping on a trampoline, instead of that “old fashioned” sexual intercourse. But I don’t think people would enjoy that fantasy as much.

    People are fantasizing about what they would like to do, whether they’re stimulating themselves with their other hand at the time or not. Most people would rather climax during sex than not, so the fantasies they choose to act out include climaxing. Males in particular like to see a graphic depiction of this (see for evidence any porn film made from the 1970s onward). So seeing that show up in online sex as well is hardly surprising.

  10. Comment by Noche on May 5, 2006 7:54 pm

    Good point to bring up, Dr. Cat. In fact, before I made the post, I partially adopted that perspective as well until I gave the matter some more careful thought.

    Basically, I don’t think all of the little acts that make up the expression of sex before climax are nearly as interchangeable with actual orgasm as you make them out to be. I believe that most users can get aroused while participating in cybersex (pre-orgasm), so I think one can expect a genuine experience in that regard while simulating it in a virtual world. Therefore, it makes a lot more sense to virtually engage in the events that lead up to orgasm.

    But the orgasm itself? If you stop to qualify what it actually means, and then ask yourself how often it may be truly experienced from behind the keyboard, comparatively speaking, it just seems kind of silly that so much importance is attached to it, given the likelihood that most people probably aren’t genuinely experiencing it off-screen. The simulated orgasm then becomes pointless in many cases.

  11. Comment by Noche on May 5, 2006 8:04 pm

    Biscuit: The fade is an interesting idea! So is the notion of saying “I love you.” More to come after I give it some more thought…

  12. Comment by Bonnie on May 7, 2006 10:07 am

    “I believe in the case of the insincere orgasm in cyberspace, it might be traced (at least in part) to that sort of empty feeling some people may get when they don’t abide by established norms.”

    I suppose it’s a question of what came first, the norm or the physical explanation for it? Normally, I’m no fan of explaining our socially accepted patterns through biology - don’t get me wrong. And I think you’re right to at least bring to light the idea of orgasm as societal expectation. But an orgasm is a physical thing, not something learned - as is the pattern of rise to climax, climax, and short after effects. I would argue that that physical condition might be what formed our social expectations: the idea, for example, of the narrative arc, of beginning/middle/end. When something is so much a physical part of us, it can’t help but shape our culture.

    I am curious though about other cultures/traditions that deviate from the narrative arc of climax. Tantric sex, for example, uses a different pattern. Know of any others?

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