Nov 17, 1999 at 12:00 am

Log on, stud puppets! Get wired, marionettes of desire! If, as they say, sex is 90 percent mental, then what better party for your throbbing insatiability than the ultimate zipless liaison?

No fuss, no muss, no unwanted conversation, no sloppy personal interaction – sex on the Internet is the perfect fantasy leading nowhere but to the center of all-consuming selfhood. In a culture where the customers are always right – no matter how whacked out – just guarantee a good beating of the bishop, an excellent wanking of the crank, and you’re in business.

For round-the-clock browsers, a simple click on "open location" is all it takes – no tense cruising of bars, no furtive glances, no nervous banter.

Unless, of course, a chat room is your pleasure. And there you can be all that you can be. The neighborhood mechanic slips on a black silk attitude and describes himself via his keyboard as a "tall blonde in spike heels," a "post-op transsexual with Rita Hayworth hair" or "Janet Jackson’s slender twin," and who’s to know? Your pastor, your sister, your grocer, your friend – everybody gets to play and no one’s the worse for wear.

Or are they?

What about, uh, reality? Are there any votes out there for the real thing? (Come on – it’s OK – raise your hands.)

In sexual pioneer Susie Bright’s latest book, Full Exposure, she writes that "erotic expression of any kind is a personal revolution." Considering the desperate and repressed landscape of adult sexuality in America, Bright goes a long way toward validating the horny pretending, libidinal chit-chat and otherwise risky self-revelation that happens online.

But do virtual blab and exchanging imaginary fluids lead to real-world fulfillment? Psychoanalyst and director of the Midwest Institute of Sexology, Barnaby B. Barratt, isn’t so sure. He maintains that the Web is at best an ambivalent sexual tool. "It expands the arena in which people feel free to express erotic constructs of the imagination," he says. "But, obviously, it also removes people from a sense of freedom, from any possibility to actually share the sensuality of their bodies – and that’s the estranging, alienating aspect of it."

But when asked to judge the therapeutic value (or not) of sex on the Internet, Barratt hesitates to generalize. "It has this simultaneously expressive-repressive quality, like so much of our culture."

In an interview for online journal Wired.com, MIT professor Sherry Turkle, an optimist about the possibilities of cyberspace, seems more certain. "Role-playing sounds as if it’s something we’re putting on, playing at. I’m saying these are all bona fide aspects of our self ... You have access to all of them: That’s the key, that’s what makes it healthy and not pathological. You learn to negotiate, to fit them together in some way ... We are both single and multiple voices."

Well, in that case, think of a Web address. Go on, make it up: sex.com, or cum.com, or mesohorny.com. These are all actual sites, the first two offering straight-ahead, "nasty" porn, the last a gay male spread.

What about eatme.com? Actual. Or blowjob.com? You bet – in fact, this one’s name shakes up and down when you first get there, with the explanation, "Vibration is due to the activity inside ... enjoy!"

There’s hairywomen.com, for those who like big bushes. And folks who type in asshole.com get a site called "Unfaithful" which offers "Naked Old Grannies" and "Dildocam – see what your cock sees!!!"

But when I tried limpdicks.com, this message came up: "Bad Request. Your browser sent a request that this server could not understand." (Of course, in a world of bigger, better and faster everything, trying limpdicks.com on the Internet is like asking for a poke in the eye.)

But is there a bona fide cool sex site? Sure – nerve.com, the "smart sex magazine," invites you to "take pleasure into your own hands." It contains stories, interviews, photography, features and such by an international selection of hipsters, artists and assorted erotic weirdos with an intelligent take on the topic of how to get hard, wet or off, or any combination of the above.

For more traditionally tasty (as in yum yum) fare, you might try libido.com (mostly glamour "spreads") and persiankitty.com (a hornicopia buffet of multisexual titillation).

But ultimately there are a few thorny issues of the digital age that won’t go away. If it’s computer generated, any image can be manipulated to almost any end. That gorgeous, busty yet well-hung drag queen could just as well be the PhotoShop creation of some virtual Frankenstein.

If anything is possible, then nothing is true. But, hey, who cares, right? As long as customers get what they want.

Which brings up the ultimate turn-off for those of us raised on heavy petting: Almost all the sex sites are pay-as-you-play and I never was much one for whorehouses. Yeah, the Internet is customerland par excellence, no doubt about it: Even jerking off will cost you nowadays.