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No, I’m neither talking about filthy cyber sex sessions, nor the development of an unnatural attachment to a joystick, but rather a new software package that promises you an Instant Internet Boyfriend on your Computer! Yes, who’d have thought it, eh? Tenderly flicking the enter key and caressing the space bar could lead to a long-term commitment (if you’re lucky, of course) with the “make-believe cyber hunk of your dreams!” OOO errr, you say…tell me more Abby, tell me more….

Well, ok then! Those cheeky scamps over at Lagoon Games, probably realising that a large percentage of men and women are, at any one time, without a mate (no, not a friend, but rather someone they can bump uglies with, split a mortgage with, and eventually share the kids with on weekends), and are presumably then so socially obtuse they are sat at home, skulking around grubby websites, lurking in Internet chat rooms, desperately hoping to be felt-up by someone’s rogue cursor in the hope of getting some sort of cheap electronic thrill. Sexcellent.

There are two programmes available catering for those who would like an Internet boyfriend or girlfriend, and while I suppose they could feasibly be used by gay men and women, they seem to be designed exclusively for heterosexuals owing to the stereotypical relationship woes the blurb on the back of each CD bemoans. It’s for women who are “fed up with guys who don’t call” and “sick of boyfriends who don’t appreciate you for who you are,” and men who are “fed up with always making the first move”, and “sick of girlfriends trying to turn you into something you’re not.”

Firstly, I am always tentative about anything that draws on prevailing belief systems, just because such writing confirms archetypes as opposed to challenging them. Secondly, while I am a heterosexual woman, I can only assume that single gay/bisexual men and women would like the option of developing a relationship with a cyber man or women if they saw fit, or would at least like to be able to rest easy knowing that there was an industry also catering for their needs even if they do not want to make use of it.

So, what does this say about the perception of gay relationships? On the plus side it could mean that unlike us heterosexuals, it is not considered abhorrent to remain without a partner for a prolonged period of time, and it is generally accepted that you can function perfectly well on your own. You will not grow old and wither away from lack of sunlight. You will not supposedly develop cobwebs in your crotch area. You will not be considered a failure for still living alone at 35 and exploring your penchant for fine wine and dildos. On the other hand, the implications could be more sinister, suggesting that it is not as important for homosexual men and women to develop a personal attachment with another person, their relationships devalued by the pre-existing characterisation of the “gay scene” as superficial and promiscuous. Not only does this undermine the wants and desires of gay people who want a relationship, in the same way as some heterosexual singletons yearn for a partner, but suggests that it is not suitable for mainstream discussion.

Secondly, I wonder to what extent the promotion of purely fictional relationships (while a good laugh, and who doesn’t like a chuckle?) can generate unrealistic expectations of desirable partners, meaning that we are destined to be disappointed as unfortunately very few people are likely to meet someone who fits our personal stylised templates of what constitutes perfection. I attempted to create my own cyber stud yesterday (oh yes, no messing around with me) but the promises made are likely to leave me permanently stamping my feet in anticipation of more the next time I am in a relationship:

Once you’ve got your desired virtual love god, he will keep in touch via e-mail sending messages to make you feel adored. Then you can show off to all your single friends what a magnificent specimen you’ve managed to attract thanks to your charming personality and good looks, naturally…Never fear, at any point in the relationship you can ditch the guy and get on with your exciting life. Be prepared for begging messages though – virtual boyfriends have feelings to.

While I am the first to admit I enjoy getting new exciting e-mails of an afternoon (I bloody love it, in fact) I’m not entirely sure how I’d feel about receiving computer generated messages each day from someone who doesn’t exist. You are required to complete a questionnaire before you are allowed to get going, and are then matched to one of six possible lovely lads (the whole spectrum of personalities condensed down to just two multiplied by three!! Interesting). You will also get sent a photo and a screensaver so you can show your beau off to your colleagues, friends and family members, should you feel the need. Although I think a big problem with this is that it promotes the idea that relationships are good competitive fodder, and that in order to have validation of your “personality and good looks” you have to be in a partnership. I have both (yes, yes Abby, some may say you do) and have been single for so long that my girly bits are likely to blush and giggle the next time she encounters a man in a mutual state of undress, but hey, as a wise woman once said; “I don’t need no man to take care of me.” Double negative aside, the essence of the sentiment is sound.

There’s an 18+ age limit on this software, so presumably these love notes can be of an, ahem, saucy adult nature at times, which is not problematic should the object of your affection actually exist, but who wants to invest time and energy and emotions into replying to these faux sentiments, knowing that in reality you’re probably being sent messages from discontent employees working in a stuffy office having a set quota of desperados to respond to each day. Everyone probably gets the same message telling them how much they want to get laid, or the likes, and the sad thing is that, understandably, I can imagine some people yearning so much for that form of intimate connection that they will become dependent on this to feel valued, which, while probably not typical of all users, is damaging for the small percentage who do have tendencies to easily develop emotional attachments. You can have more than one Internet boyfriend but, there’s a warning, since “you have your reputation to think about, after all…” So there you go then. Being a slut is bad, but whoring yourself out online is also apparently a big no-no! When can we put it around?

I’ve not tried the Instant Internet Girlfriend programme yet, but if anyone out there has I’d be interested to know what you think about it. This is not hugely offensive, and it’s not likely it’ll cultivate a nation of e-mail addicted emotional time-bombs (and I did find it quite funny in parts and would recommend it for a bloody good laugh alone). I did wonder if it’s very existence was representative of larger social problems, which were worth getting out there, so cosider it done. Big deal over nothing, or trivia to be ignored?

[Edit: my bad maths has now been rectified! Yep, 2 to the power 3 is 8!duh!hehe]