Eros in Fantasyland

Erotic role play is one of those things like a taste for olives. Either you like it or you can’t imagine why anyone would.

I imagine there are countless reasons why people engage in ERP. Certainly some people do it out of loneliness or because they are feeding a fetish they cannot indulge in their fleshly life, and some people do it for the same reasons they spend hours in chat rooms, as an aid to masturbation.  Regardless of motivation, the bottom line really is that ERP is another way to have a good time.

As most people know, making virtual love with an on-line partner or partners is called cybersex or cybering. Cybersex has probably existed as long as people have been networked. I’m sure there are stories of people engaging in glacially slow exchanges of racy messages on CRTs at the dawn of computing, but cybering entered mainstream awareness during the formative years of the popular internet when America Online chat rooms were over-run with joyous explorers and deviants of every sort. Sexual identity became transitive and the concept of extremity in intercourse – at least in the realm of imagination – expanded immeasurably. Early Multi-User Domains (or Dungeons), the ancestors of today’s MMOs, enabled cybersex in a fantasy context, and true ERP was born.

So, what’s the difference between cybersex and ERP? Any answer to that question is likely to be conditional and subjective. For some people there is no difference at all. Their goals for cybersex in an anonymous chat context are the same as their goals within the framework of a fantasy world – to be aroused, to arouse, and probably to achieve a one-handed climax, but for many people who roleplay erotic scenarios, there is a huge difference.

The bottom line for most ERPers is that ERP is fun. With a smart, articulate partner, the exchange of erotic dialogue and action (through “emotes,” which are essentially descriptions of what the character is doing) is stimulating, funny, dramatic, engaging, and arousing. To play an ERP scene with a pixelated lover can be an exercise in fast-paced creativity, repartee, innuendo, and surprise equal to reading a first-rate erotic novel – only you get to respond in kind. There is sometimes an intense intellectual and emotional tension, even a competition between two (or more!) ERPers, to see who can ratchet up the eroticism or better convey the sensation of the moment. As a writer of erotic literature, I always find it an exciting exercise and one that sometimes gives me an insight into the way a lover might think.

But such pleasures do not come without a price. Although many ERPers are indiscriminate in their partners, the act being an end in

itself, I fear I am not so liberated and I have always (well, nearly always – we all have our wild spells) been very discriminating in my choice of partners. There are many degrees of trust in ERP. At a minimum, you are trusting that the person on the other end of the pipe won’t ridicule you, but that’s really only the tip of the iceberg.

Although most gamers who engage in ERP will tell you there is no emotional connection between them and their on-screen partners, for me,  this is hard to imagine.  I am a woman, so I can truly only speak from my own experience and the conversations I’ve had over the years with many folks who choose to engage or not engage in ERP.  Many women – myself included –  stake some measure of emotional currency on sex acts – even cyber ERP encounters.  Call it biological hard-wiring, or just a desire to perhaps want something more, but regardless of the reason, it’s not uncommon for people to look upon ERP encounters as they might skinspace sexual encounters in their lives – fondly, wistfully, or sometimes painfully.  

Next time around, I’ll talk about some of these trust issues and how they can be played out between people who are in a relationship in the real world as well as the cyber world.

Stay sexy, whichever world you’re in!

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