Part nine of ‘The man who dated his RL boss (without her knowing it).’
“Have you ever met someone in real life who you knew in SL?” she asked him the next evening as their avatars lay naked across her bed.
“Once,” Cando replied.
“A friend with benefits?”
“I never had sex with her in SL, if that’s what you’re getting at,” he told her.
“A shame,” she mused. “I’m endlessly curious about what that would be like.”
“I don’t get how anyone wouldn’t be,” she remarked. “Aren’t you? Don’t you ever wonder whether SL intimacy would translate to RL intimacy?”
“Translate?” he queried. “What do you mean by that?”
“I mean,” she explained, “would it be easier? I mean would it be different?”
“Different from what?”
“Different from a regular hook-up with a regular guy.”
“When I met up with Spin it was like meeting a stranger who’d read up on our conversations,” he told her.
“But you said you two were never intimate.”
Presently, he commented, “I reckon that would only have made it worse. Everything she said was consistent with the content of our conversations, but my gut was screaming at me, ‘You do not know this woman!’ Imagine how much louder that scream would have been if we’d had sex.”
“Her appearance was inconsistent with your image of her.”
“And her voice. And the slightly non-composed way that she put things, as opposed to the neatness of her edited SL text communication. I’m not saying the experience was unpleasant,” he added, “it just took some getting used to. But if we’d been lovers in SL then there would have been an expectation, and that would have made things harder rather than easier, I think.”
“Pressure,” she said.
“What a shame. It ought to make things incredible.”
“How so?” she repeated back. “You don’t think that the combination of the mental intimacy of SL combined with the physical intimacy of RL would make for something amazing?”
Nick thought about that for a moment. “Mental intimacy,” he repeated. “Is that what we have in here?”
“I don’t know if that’s the official term for it,” she replied.
“Isn’t the official term, ‘cybersex?’”
“A meaningless word. It makes me think of two robots doing it.”
“And ‘mental intimacy’ is more meaningful because…?”
“Because it represents what the act of sex in SL actually is: the sharing of inner thoughts and desires you never tell anyone.”
“And you don’t think that happens in real life relationships?”
“I don’t think it happens as much.”
“So you think mental intimacy and physical intimacy could combine?”
“I don’t know,” Nick wrote, “wouldn’t the real life stuff be too big an obstacle?” Then he had a thought. “I know SL sex doesn’t come with any actual physical RL contact, but it does provide us with ‘phantom’ RL information.”
“How do you mean?”
“Physical looks. We each have an avatar and our avatars are attractive.”
“Cartoon characters,” she commented. “Hardly the same as a physical body.”
“But it’s still a substitute we consume. Would you have sex today with an avatar from 2006?”
“No,” she admitted.
“Our avatar bodies are like artificial sweetener; they meet our needs for a specific sensory input.”
“But only to a point.”
“Right. So if we met our partner in person then not only would that artificial – but familiar – sensory element be missing but it would get replaced by something completely different.”
“You make this all sound so clinical,” she told him.
“It’s not that I don’t appreciate the picture you’re painting,” he replied. “I get where you’re coming from: how incredible would it be to be in a relationship with someone in RL where you could be as uninhibited and as open about your fantasies as we tend to be with our partners in SL? Sure. I just think that if you meet someone in RL then from that point on it becomes an RL relationship and not an SL relationship.”
There was a pause, and then Curiosity asked him, “What if it were possible to meet in RL and not have the visual information that challenges your concept of the other person?”
In real life, Nick spent a moment trying to figure out what such a meeting would look like, and failed. “I don’t understand what you mean,” he told her.
“Supposing you and I were to meet in the dark, so we couldn’t see each other.”
Nick felt his heart thud suddenly at this proposition and made several typos that he had to correct as he wrote out the next sentence: “We’re talking hypothetical here, right?”
“Of course,” she replied. “I don’t do RL meetings, I told you.”
“Well,” he commented, “you told me you don’t do SL relationships – technically that’s not the same thing as an RL meet-up.”
“Ah, I see: you’re after a one-night, no strings encounter?”
“I’m really not,” he typed hurriedly. “I’m just making sure I understand you.”
“Stop panicking and consider my idea.”
“A meeting in the dark? You mean at night time? What about street lights?”
“A hotel room,” she wrote. “Lights off. Curtains drawn. We arrange it so that one person gets there at least a half hour before the other so there are no accidental meetings in the corridor.”
“No you wouldn’t,” she told him. “That’s the whole point.”
“No seeing for the whole encounter?”
“From start to finish.”
“It’s difficult to know,” he mused. “There would still be the absence of the familiar visuals. Plus you would hear each other’s voice.”
“But we could prepare ourselves for that through voice chat and then promise to keep verbal communication down to a minimum on the day. Or we could whisper when we have to talk: whispered voices are far less distinctive.”
“But if we can’t see each other and we’re not allowed to talk much then how would we communicate?” he asked.
“Through touch,” she replied.
“A touch only meeting?”
“A touch only meeting.”
“I have to admit,” he told her, “that intrigues me.”
“Pretty sensual, huh?”
“But completely hypothetical.”
“Would we have sex?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. What if we rehearsed the whole thing first in SL? We could pretty much remove the whole decision making aspect from the encounter that way.”
“But what if one of us changed our minds about something on the day.”
“Then they’d just say exactly that. We would both know that each had the right to terminate the whole thing without any requirement for explanation.”
“But look,” he wrote, “isn’t this a bit dangerous? We neither of us know who the other person is really. I could be a serial killer for all you know.”
“If we were actually planning this then of course that would be an issue. I’m just wondering aloud if such a manner of meeting would be helpful.”
“Never going to happen.”
“More of a scientific theory, really.”
“You’re thinking about it though, aren’t you?”
“Can’t get it out of my head.”
“Ready for round two?”
“I thought you’d never ask.”
Want to read another story by me set in SL? I’ve also serialised ‘The man who had an affair with his wife’ – the first part is here (scroll down past the text on NaNoWriMo to get to it).