Torquemada Lives

I call Regina Lynn (her real name) Wednesday afternoon, February 9, 2005. She writes a weekly sex-positive technology column for Wired.com.

I discovered that she is not Immanuel Kant.

Luke: "Why do you think there are so many more women sex columnists than men sex columnists?"

Regina: "A sex column arises out of a relationship column. Until recently, it was women's magazines that wrote about relationships, which includes sex. A women audience is more primed and socialized to accept how-to and advice."

Luke: "What do you love and hate about writing a sex-related column?"

Regina: "I love the opportunity to talk to people who are doing cool stuff. My beat is sex and technology. Being a geek and a big fan of sex, I get to combine two of the subjects I am most interested in and talk to other people who are enthusiastic about those subjects. There aren't that many people writing about where sex and tech come together. I'm at the forefront, part of the revolution.

"I don't hate anything about it. Sometimes I get flamed. Someone will read my column and write that I am corrupting America's youth. I've been told that I am deluded and working for Satan. But even when I am called names, it is interesting to me to hear what other people think. And that I touched somebody deeply enough that he wanted to flame me reminds me that people are out there reading and thinking about this stuff."

Luke: "What price does your life pay for your column?"

Regina laughs: "I still have a day job [freelance tech writer]. The price I pay for writing my column is working all the time."

Regina giggles. "I'd be working all the time anyway."

Luke: "And that's about it?"

Long pause.

Regina: "Are you looking for -- have I lost a relationship because the man couldn't handle that I was writing about us? Or something? That's never happened."

Luke: "Do you think men feel threatened."

Regina: "I have not felt threatened."

Luke: "Not you. They."

Regina: "I really respect my friends, my boyfriend [of one year] and my family. I've not been in a position yet where I've had to choose between -- this needs to be said or I need to expose so-and-so. I realize that people may be sensitive about being in the column. I haven't been stuck so far."

Luke: "Your boyfriend is ok with your sex tech column?"

Regina: "Yes. He gets great benefits. As the column gets more widely known, interesting products start showing up at our mailbox. It's nice to have a willing volunteer to test some of these things out."

Luke: "Have you ever been married?"

Regina: "I have. I was a child bride. I met my husband when I was 15. We married when I was 21 [it lasted six years]. It was an amicable split-up."

Luke: "Did that [exclusive ten-year relationship] fuel your desire to sow your wild oats?"

Regina: "I hate that expression, but yes. We were each other's first sexually [he was two years older]. Here I was in my mid-twenties never having dated. Online dating was just getting started. After my split, that's when I fell into...experimenting with cybersex."

Luke: "When?"

Regina: "I can't remember if it was 1997 or '98, because that whole period of my life is dim for me. Even if it is mutual and amicable, divorce is huge. We were sad. Our families were sad. I moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I'm fuzzy on when I first went into that chatroom."

Luke: "Why do you hate the saying -- sowing your wild oats?"

Regina: "Because it trivializes your experience. It's like you are just out there spreading stuff around. A man spreads seed and a woman spreads legs. I didn't take the people I was with for granted."

Luke: "Were you having sex for fun?"

Regina: "I think you should always have sex for fun."

Luke: "Some people think you should only have it within a loving committed relationship."

Regina: "Casual? Yes."

Luke: "Do you think that did anything to your soul?"

Regina: "I think it expanded my soul. I learned a lot about my own sexuality and theirs. I spent time with interesting people."

Luke: "Have you had sex that you've regretted?"

Regina: "No. I've had sex that wasn't very good. But no, I was safe. I made sure that every year I got tested for STDs and went with people I trusted. So even when it turned out that it wasn't the best idea, I wasn't hurt by it, physically or emotionally. It's not like I went to the bar and met a stranger and went home with a stranger and didn't know where I was with no one to call. I was playing with people I had known for a while. With friends or friends of friends."

Luke: "Do you think sex is fire as a metaphor for how dangerous it can be?"

Regina: "I tend to use earth and water metaphors. I went into my experiences thoughtfully. For me, the fire metaphor would be more about passion."

Luke: "What about danger?"

Regina: "I'm not into danger. I ride a motorcycle, but not dangerously."

Luke: "Could you give me a brief sketch of your upbringing?"

Regina: "Middle class. Small town. Farming community [in the Sacramento valley]."

Regina got a BA in Writing from a UC school.

Luke: "When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?"

Regina: "I always knew I'd be a writer. I did have other things I wanted to be in addition, like, a paleo-biologist. And an astronaut. I wanted to be a jockey.

"My parents never told me, 'You better think of something else for your day job because you can't support yourself by writing.' Some teachers said that."

Luke: "You wrote in your column that sex-technology-chat stuff helped you overcome childhood sexual trauma. Do you care to elaborate?"

Regina: "Cyber gave me a safe place and a medium where I feel natural (writing and reading) to interactively write about activities I was uncomfortable doing in real life.

"When I was six, somebody [about 13, not a relation, forced Regina to do things]. My parents found out about it right away and there was a big to-do and it was all over.

"When I tried to do these things as an adult, it would be like a warehouse door shutting in my brain and my body would shut down and I'd go into this whole fear thing.

"Practicing in cyber was a desensitization therapy. It got really exciting. I took the confidence and excitement I was finding in writing with another person and bringing that into my relationships. I rewrote the part of my brain that had been scared and angry. I had a blast."

Luke: "We're not likely to see some slashing, devastating, critical columns from you on people who traffic in sex technology?"

Regina: "You never know what people are going to get from me. If someone is doing something that horrifies me, I'll probably write about it, unless I don't want to give them any publicity at all."

Luke: "I haven't seen you do that yet."

Regina: "So far there is so much to write about that's not whiny but I don't really feel drawn... I don't really feel the need...to...give a whole bunch of publicity to something that disgusts me. I haven't found out that much that disgusts me either.

"You could say that not only am I sex-positive, but I am tech-positive."

Luke: "How do you like the people that you mix with at Internext and AEE and people who make their living in sex technology?"

Regina: "They're great. They're smart fun people who can joke around and make fun of themselves and their industry, who are far enough outside of the holier-than-thou media. I especially like at AEE talking with middle-aged couples who come up with things."

Luke: "How do your parents feel about your sex technology column?"

Regina: "They're proud of me. My mom is shy about talking about sex with me. She doesn't want to hear about -- 'When I was having cybersex, blabla...' We have a running joke that mom is only allowed to read the column if I send her the URL."

Luke: "Is there an exhibitionist element to your writing and is that dangerous?"

Regina: "I'm not conscious of one. You can probably tell from this phone call that I am a very extroverted person. When I bring my own experiences into the column, I do not intend it as - whoohoo, look at what I've done! I just want readers to know that I'm not making this up. I've done what you've done."

Luke: "How do you decide what is right and wrong?"

Long pause. Regina repeats the question. I assent.

Regina: "That's a really big question."

Fifteen-second pause.

Regina: "I try to be open and listen to what people have to say, especially when I feel that kneejerk reaction to go, that's bad! I can always learn from what [intelligent] people have to say. In terms of judging what is right and wrong as in, this kind of porn is right and this kind of porn is wrong: I know what I personally feel. I don't put that in the column. The column isn't about that. I don't think the column is a judgmental column."

Luke: "Beyond the column, how do you decide what is right and wrong?"

Regina: "I have a set of values that I compare things to."

Luke: "Where do the values come from?"

Long pause.

Regina: "They are your standard values. Is anybody getting hurt? Did George Bush say it? It must automatically be wrong. That is one of those things that takes an awful lot of effort just to listen without immediately rolling my eyes and going geez, does anybody really believe this crap.

"Are you wanting something simplistic like, murder is wrong? And excrement in sex is disgusting."

Luke: "No. I'm asking how do you decide [right from wrong]."

Regina: "I think about stuff, see how it feels. I can't just define it in a soundbyte here. I don't try to decide it for anybody else, other than that I vote. How I make that actual decision is a combination of logic and emotion."

Luke: "Do you believe that you have a soul that will go on after your death?"

Regina: "That's one of those questions I can't answer."

Luke: "You either believe it. You don't believe it. Or, you're undecided."

Regina: "It's one of those questions I don't answer."