The new joy of sex

Textual Intercourse


The intimate merging of text and reader allowed by the hypertext environment results in what can be called textual intercourse Ů a close communication or dealing between reader and text. Imagine, if you will, the linear book that allows minimal direct input, if any, beyond simple observation. Just drop in your 25 cents and enjoy the visual show while perhaps using your imagination to interact with what you cannot touch, hear or direct in any way. Hypertext allows more than a peep show, so to speak. It's tactile interface through the use of a mouse (or perhaps a touch sensitive screen), the capability for sound and movie clips and the continuous necessity for direct interaction between reader and computer helps to create a New Joy of Reading. It is difficult to simply shift centers and say Hypertext is "better" than a linear book, especially in light of Landow's utilization of Derridean theory within hypertext. Certainly, it allows a more involved, if not richer and fuller, experience than what is offered by the non-hypertextual since imagination can now be coupled with participation. Calvino not only skillfully portrays the pleasure of what a hypertextual or hypersexual reading paradigm figuratively and literally would encompass but clearly differentiates between a linear model and a non- linear one:

Lovers' reading of each other's bodies (of that concentrate of mind and body which lovers use to go to bed together) differs from the reading of written pages in that it is not linear. It starts at any point, skips, repeats itself, goes backward, insists, ramifies in simultaneous and divergent messages, converges again, has moments of irritation÷finds its place, gets lost. A direction can be recognized in it, a route to an end, since it tends toward a climax, and with this end in view it arranges rhythmic phases, metrical scansions, recurrence of motives. But is the climax really the end? Or is the race toward that end opposed by another drive which works in the opposite direction, swimming against the moments, recovering time?÷every experience is unrepeatable. What makes lovemaking and reading resemble each other most is that within both of them times and spaces open, different from measurable time and space. -- (Calvino, 156)

Sex differs from the reading of a book in that it is not linear, while the non-linearity of hypertext stimulates interaction; grants the power to make choices; encourages all the experiences Calvino describes in the above quote; allows for textual intercourse. So go ahead, lock the door, disconnect the phone (unless your hypertext is online and your using the modem), dim the lights, turn on your favorite music and stroke that mouse until your forearm falls off. Just be careful, you never know when the wedding bells will ring and when the hypertext will demand an engagement.