Robin Hamman appeared live by phone from the UK on South Africa's Radio 702 Internet Show with Kevin Garber on 25 April, 1997. The sound quality of the tape I was given of this interview is poor, so I've made a transcript of this 15 minute interview. Where the speaker is Radio 702 - the person speaking is Kevin Garber.
<scrambled tape - first minute is missing>
Robin> ...whether it's on IRC, America Online, CompuServe, I've found that about half of the chat rooms have sex related names.
Radio 702 - As many as half?
Robin> Yes. Real numbers are hard to come up with and that's largely due to the anonymity of the Internet. Also, the wide variety of places that cybersex chat can actually occur. It can occur on web sites that have chat options, online services, MUDs, many places.
Radio 702 - But Robin, do you have any indication at all, perhaps taking note of the anonymity, would you be prepared to say what percentage: 1%,10%, 90% Is it just a buzzword? I mean, various magazines have said that real sex is mainly something people mainly talk about but don't do, is a similar thing with Cybersex?
Robin> It's hard for me to give you a definite number. I'd have to say to say that anywhere between 10% and 30% of the people on AOL are having cybersex. Now of the people I've actually met on AOL and other services, 50% of those I've met there have had or admit to having had cybersex, or at least to having had an interest in Cybersex. Now not everyone who is using the Internet or online services is going to be using the chat rooms so that I can meet them and speak with them there, so it is really difficult to say exactly what percentage of these people are actually having cybersex.
Radio 702 - I was on IRC earlier today and I was hanging out at channel #sex, desperately trying to get someone agree to go on the show, a regular cybersexer be it male or female. They were all very willing to answer questions online, as I'm sure you found Robin. I tried saying I'm from 702 in South Africa, I want to speak to you on air about cybersex. Many of the people, they switched off totally and were not interested, even if they were a million miles away and no one would recognise them here. It was interesting to see that, but what did interest me Robin is: the male to female ratio is overwhelming.
Robin> It is.
Radio 702 - Would you say that this is because males traditionally have access to these technologies, or just because males are testosterone driven?
Robin> A little bit of both maybe. (laughter) I think that the gender ratio you see online is mainly due to who has access to computers. Things are changing in recent years: women are getting high quality training in schools and universities on how to use computers, but I do think it will be a number of years until we see an equal number of women online.
Radio 702 - In terms of your typical profile, are they introverted, extroverted, in touch with their sexuality, not in touch with their sexuality. Can you give us some loose kind of profile of a typical cybersexer?
Robin> Sure, I did interviews with about 40 AOL users and a few on IRC. In addition to that, I spoke with hundreds of chat room users in the course of research - people I met along the way. Most of those people are pretty normal computer users A lot of them work with computers at work or school and are fairly comfortable with them. All of the people I actually studied were between 14 and 50 years old.
Radio 702 - Now that is something I wanted to ask you about. When I was on IRC today, most of the people I managed to speak with were definitely young. There was no doubt about, it seemed like a room full of hormonally driven teenagers. Did you actually encounter any older cybersexers?
Robin> The demographics of IRC are a bit different than on AOL because most of the people who use IRC access it from free accounts at their university, which can account for why you met so many young people there. People on AOL tend to be a bit older. After I posted my research findings on the net, I received an email from a 76 year old man who had a lover who was about 35 years old. They were both married in real life. They met on the Internet, spoke there, had cybersex for many months, felt that they fell in love, and actually arranged to meet each other in real life. Now this is kind of an extreme example, but I did meet a lot of people in their 40's who were having cybersex, and a lot of these were married.
Radio 702 - Were they doing it without the consent of their spouse?
Robin> A lot of them had real life partners who knew that they went online, and that they had friends there, but I don't think that most of the partners knew exactly what they were up to online.
Radio 702 - If you have a husband who is using the computer, they could just say "honey, I'm going to use the computer" and the wife would have no idea what they were doing.
Robin> As long as the door's closed! (laughter)
<break for commercial>
Radio 702 - Someone once said, Robin, that online chat rooms are the singles bars of the nineties. I think that this is a very useful thing. Robin, in you research, why did people say that they had cybersex? Was there something about it mentally, or was it just because they could? When you asked people why they did it, what did they say.
Robin> There are a number of reasons which I have identified in my research. Due to the anonymity of online chat rooms, people feel safe to act out their sexual desires, dreams, and fantasies that they couldn't otherwise. A lot of these people are isolated, either geographically, socially. These people tend not to have the opportunity to have cybersex with ideal partners, so they go online, find a person they have an interest in, or think is beautiful looking, and then they have cybersex. It is the anonymity of the Internet that allows them to do this. They don't have to worry about waking up the next morning and not knowing what to say or what the person's name is - problems that people around the world encounter when they are into the bar scene.
Radio 702 - Now this idea of anonymity really interests me. What bothers me about it is that you don't know who you are speaking to. Now on IRC, there are ways to see who a person is sometimes. But one of the problems I see is that, if I'm a guy and I think I'm talking to Laura who is a 19 year old blonde - she could be a 35 year old married gay person who gets a kick out of stretch bras and...
Robin> that does happen quite often
Radio 702 - ....does it not seem to bother people that you can't be sure who you are getting involved with?
Robin> Well, pretty much everyone thinks that bad things won't happen to them. They think that they've just heard about it, and they will know that the person on the other end is really another guy or another woman and that they won't make that mistake themselves.
Radio 702 - It's pretty easy to tell most of the time, but when things are getting really confused, and if someone does it real well, how would you know?
Robin> yes, I actually met some people in my research who did exactly that. Would you like me to talk about this now or wait for the break?
<break for news>
Radio 702 - In a while we will be talking with Niki and Alexis from pleasuregirls.com and we'll find out what is out there for paying customers who want live online sex....
Robin> When I was doing my research, I met a man named Rob who switched his gender online. It's really quite a widespread thing...
Radio 702 - Is it more males pretending to be females, or females trying to be males?
Robin> I'd have to say that it is more often males, but this might just have to do with the demographics of the net. I do think that some females do it as well because a lot of times, as females go into a chat room, they get hassled by men so switching gender gives them a break from this. Now in the case of Rob, he would go into a chat room and start having cybersex with other men who though he was really a woman. he would get the man, or in some cases boy, on the other end all worked up, leading him on, and then when they were about to have climax, Rob would say "hey, I'm really a guy." Some of these times he did other things which were even more despicable: he would have cybersex, save the transcripts, and then email it to the boy or man he had victimised and then to other people the transcript as well! On AOL there is a feature that lets you look up people by name or geographic area - Rob used this to send emails of the transcript to other people his victim was likely to know.
Radio 702 - I'd have to say that guy was somewhat of a pervert, I mean misrepresenting himself like that and throwing things like that at people when they aren't expecting it.
Robin> yes, but I don't think that most people who gender switch online do so with the intent to hurt other people. They do it to learn what it is like to be the other gender online.
Radio 702 - Yeh, I mean, it would probably be a good experience for myself to go on to IRC as a woman and see what it's like to be hassled. I remember doing role playing during my final year of school and it was a great way to learn. Robin, a final word - Cybersex, the future. Where are we going to head? perhaps this will increase? Or will people get bored with it?
Robin> Well, despite people faking their gender to abuse others, it is safe sex. In a world where we have STD's and sexual abuse, I think that it will become more popular. As more people start using the Internet, bringing it into other facets of their lives, more and more people will naturally use it for sexual purposes. There are already several novels on cybersex, "Confessions of a Cybertramp" is the one on the top of my mind. In the UK there is even a magazine called "X-Net" which is a men's magazine all about porn and XXX rated sites on the Internet. There is even a guide, net.sex, to having cybersex. I do think that the Internet is on the verge of becoming the singles bar of the nineties, if it isn't already there today.
Radio 702 - Thank you Robin, this has been an absolutely fascinating topic. We'll pump your web site up on our mailing list. Thanks very much for being on 702 Radio.
Robin> Thank You Kevin.
© 1997 by Robin Hamman, Kevin Garber, and Radio 702
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