What if you could have the wildest sex ever? Here’s the offer: Do anything you want, be anyone you can imagine, and then walk away unharmed and most importantly unknown. This is the appeal of netsex: total, sweet anonymity.

Right now thousands of people are online tapping out their most curious sexual fantasies. One person, not unlike you or I, can sit down in front of a computer, log on and enter a sexual dreamland that isn’t real … or is it? Tell me which is more real: a faked orgasm in real life or a fantasy orgasm on the Internet?

Roger asks, “Was it good for you?”

Fauna smiles, and says, “Yes, but you should pay more attention to my clitoris, darling.”

This is how it works. Using computers, several people connect to a chat room on a main computer or server. Each person types text into their machine and when they hit the return key, the computer sends it to the server. Then that server faithfully broadcasts the text to everyone, displaying it on their screens. The end result reads like a living, evolving screenplay.

Internet Relay Chat, or IRC, is the entry level arena for netsex. Most chat is just that, friendly banter between persons with similar interests. When you log onto a chat server, you choose an alias and a wide selection of channels with topics such as alternative music or Jesus. Once you find an appropriate channel, you join — or enter — a virtual room where everyone is sitting around talking. Get the picture?

Once you’ve grasped the concept of imaginary rooms, it’s not that hard to make the scatalogical leap to dirty chat. Taking it to the next level, servers can also set the stage by sending out a detailed description of where in fantasyland you are. It can also give you many more options than just talking. These are called Multi User Dimensions, or MUDs for short. Some MUDs are full blown fantasy role-playing games similar to Dungeons and Dragons where you search for treasure, battle monsters, and kill other users.

One popular form of MUD is called a Talker — a slicker, easier version of an IRC, but with all the flexibility of a MUD. Adult Talkers, like Lintilla’s Multiple Worlds, are a common staging site for netsex.

Once you’ve got an alias and find yourself in a room, it’s fairly easy. Each user enters a profile of themselves (or their fantasy selves) including looks, gender and interests. There is little stopping you from suddenly becoming a dominatrix, a stud or a slut.

From there all you do is pick someone that sounds intriguing and send them a private message. It’s no mystery why everyone comes here, so opening lines are nearly irrelevant. Still, most people like to spend some time chatting first. Eventually, someone will suggest going to a private room. This is where all the action happens.

Once in a room it’s all up to you and your id. Say what you’ve always wanted and fuck like you’ve only dreamed. Instructions are pointless here, but it does help if you can type fast and write with an erotic flourish. Netsex isn’t much different than phone sex, so naturally many people use it as a way to find people who’ll talk dirty with them.

Fauna asks, “Are you lonely?”

Brek says, “Aren’t we all?”

At the topic of netsex, I find most people jerk their knee, laugh and ask how people possibly type with only one hand. I’m probably giving it more of a chance than I should, for the downsides are tremendous. The lonely pathos between the lines is overwhelmingly sad. Beneath the lurid type, there are often very lonely damaged people grasping for something, anything, safe.

One woman describes herself online as a wanton 23year-old black goddess with zero inhibition. In real life, she is a 40 year-old single mother of two whose life isn’t exactly hoppin’ right now.

Another student was three months past heartbreak and just coping. A married couple (both with Ph.D.s) was there because it was a safe way for her to be an exhibitionist and for him to be a voyeur. An adult dancer was looking for ideas for her stage show and a dating advice columnist was doing research. For the most part I found only level-headed, friendly people who for one sad reason or another came here. For the most part.

There are twisted, unfriendly sorts lurking around, but obviously it’s not a big problem to fix. Just using the IGNORE command is a lot easier than self defense, pepper spray and an anti-rape vaginal spike. Just remember, never give out your phone number or address.

The last, and probably most serious problem with netsex, seems to be addiction. Many a soul has spent hours and hours every day chatting and many a love was born and decimated by netsex relationships taken too far. One friend has accumulated months of log-on time in the past few years. But was this wasted time? She jumped from netsex to phone sex to a weeklong roadtrip to Kansas, all with favorable memories.

Despite the ominous problems, I still see merit in a technology that allows us to discover ourselves and make sense of the sexual desires carousing around in our heads.