“Emotional arousal and fantasy are incredibly powerful instruments,” Weiss said.

Then one day, he started telling me what he wanted to do to me if he met me, and I, picking up on his cues, told him what I (or “Dana”) wanted to do to him.

Of course, I had no idea what I was saying; much of what I said was based on what I had seen on General Hospital and read in Jackie Collins paperbacks.

This veil of anonymity let an entire generation of young women like myself experience their sexual initiations in AIM chatrooms.

For the first few weeks or so, my relationship with Frank Zappy skirted the lines of PG-13 respectability.

“I feel like everyone who talks about it now and is like, ‘Oh me and my friends would do that all the time’ are covering up that they were probs kind of turned on too.” Like many relationships that start online, these interactions were marked by a patented, often outrageous dishonesty.

“I lied about my age, my location, my gender,” one of my coworkers told me.

Most teens of the early AOL chatroom era, or the mid-to-late-1990s, experimented with cybersex or had their sexual initiations online, in chatrooms with names like “Bored housewives over 30” or “Naughty wellhung surfer boys 18 .” In 1996, AOL had 5 million subscribers; by 2002, it had 25 million and was the biggest dial-up service in the country.

Chat had never been more expedient or accessible, so it was only a matter of time before people started using it for sex.

Rob Weiss, an expert on porn and cybersex addiction, attributes the cybersex boom of the mid-’90s to what he referred to as the three A’s: “accessibility, affordability, and anonymity.” First and foremost, cybersex allowed people to get off without the effort required to obtain pornographic material or find a new partner IRL (in real life), especially if you were taken to begin with.