With a pounding pulse, you read Time magazine’s incendiary coverage about rampant filth polluting America’s innocents. Gosh, this Internet thing must be hotter than Hugh Grant’s impatient loins. Sex in cyberspace is everywhere! And you want some.

Well, I’ve been there, downloaded that. But you don’t want to be a wallflower at the orgy. Since there’s no Red Shoe Diaries on cable tonight, let me escort you on a midnight cruise over the back roads of the info highway. Past Newt ‘n’ Al’s bright but empty cyberschool, we’re headed down to where the modem lights glow deep, deep red.

Your first stop: the amorphous, amoral, undulating Usenet. Bring something else to read, because the lines are thousands long at the popular joints, alt.binaries.pictures.erotica and alt.sex.stories. But those are merely the anchor sites, the big draws, like Sears and Macy’s at the mall. Specialty needs are serviced in the equivalent of boutiques, the dozens of related subgroups like a.b.p.e.blondes; or –.cheerleaders; –.girlfriends; and –.amateur, alt cetera, alt cetera.

Alas, like the boutiques at any mall from Springfield to San Francisco, even the offbeat discussion groups reveal dispiriting similarities. Chipheads in the know cross-post, filling each forum with the same material and effectively erasing any distinction claimed by the seductive titles. Go ahead, log on to alt.sex.fetish.orientals and spend 20 minutes scrolling past page after page of tedious discussions of why America Online sucks, why censorship is bad, and especially why Sen. Exon’s proposed bill to regulate “cyberporn” is the first step in the coming New McCarthyism.

That’s not why you spend $20 a month for ‘net access, is it? No, you’re in hot pursuit of salacious tales and saucy image files. Scan that monitor closely, because most often a likely looking prospect turns out to be subliterate, or sub-shocking, or at least nothing new. In almost every newsgroup you visit, you may salivate at the promise of PAMELA ANDERSON TOPLESS! But wait…didn’t Pam already flash her assets in Playboy—available at almost any newstand, with more dots per inch? She’s already saved you the trouble of downloading and decoding.

Oh, don’t leave yet. Things might be heating up over in alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.breasts, where Wayne is wondering “puffy or long nipples?” No, it’s only an idle, unanswered query, lost in the Exon debate. Nothing puffing here.

Still, it’s a hopeful sign. So you smack your lips upon entering alt.sex.oral, only to find everyone worked up over “The TRUTH behind the U.N. takeover of the U.S.” The only sucking here remains AOL.

If you’re starting to feel pathetic, check out the depths one can descend to in alt.sex.voyeurism:

This happened about 20 minutes ago. It is a fine day in Seattle and I walked the waterfront for lunch. I just had a couple of puffs from the old single hitter and was in the groove. About 50 feet from me a young (19-20ish) blonde was walking with her young (2-3) daughter.

The mom was shapely, about 54, wearing her hair back in one of those “nasty ponytails.” She was dressed in a red sweater, a black “ultra mini” skirt and black kneehighs. A nice view in itself. All the sudden the daughter decided to lay on the sidewalk instead of walk with mom. Mom went back to retrieve her errant daughter. Standing over the child she assumed the standard aerobics “feet, shoulder width apart” and “BENT AT THE WAIST”…..Her miniskirt, sensing that I was watching, gave way to a wonderful sight….Just thought you would like to know.—mike

Feeling all warm and wiggly? Didn’t think so.

Even sadder are the exclamatory postings in the voyeur group offering “video capture” images of actresses’ appearances on David Letterman’s network television show. Potentially more intriguing, yet also a clear cry for help, is this from the companion group, alt.sex.exhibitionism: a GIF file promising a view of “My Awesome Wood.”

OK, you’re still unaroused and a tad frustrated. That combination might lead you to cross over the line—to alt.sex.bestiality, where computer-literate deviants encourage “safer sex” with animals:

So-o-o-o, maybe you’ve thought about trying to make it with a stallion…after all, they sure look like a good time. Here’s a few tips on how to make the experience more rewarding for both of you.

1.) Find a stallion: preferably somewhere where no one will hear him grunting and snorting….

So much time, effort, and disk space. So little titillation.

Ahh, but the cover charge here is low enough to let anybody in. Let’s see if anything’s clicking over on the more exclusive World Wide Web. The Web is burlesque to the Usenet’s peep show—a gaudier, slicker, mouse-friendly enterprise, but still kinda seamy. Here you’ll find signs of the creeping commercialism destined to overtake the entire online world.

Netmart.com offers a $30 videotape featuring “Krista,” a “fun, lively 18-year-old college Freshman in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is very athletic with long brown hair, a dynamite figure and joyful smile.” Click past the tiny, poorly lit topless image, and discover that the purported Krista “first had sex just last year in high school and has only slept with two guys. Refreshingly inexperienced, Krista will tell everything and show everything, but she won’t touch it!”

My advice: Keep the Mastercard in the wallet.

On the other hand, the “Tits of the Week” page asks little more than a tolerance for frat-house juvenilia. The site makes extensive and obvious use of Photoshop’s “spherize” function to enhance a trio of routine pinups. Arousing? No. Embarrassing? Sure.

Before I go wash out my modem, I present this verbatim excerpt from “Xavier’s Story,” found on alt.sex.stories. As the predominant topics for erotic fiction seem to be incest, pedophilia, and incestuous pedophilia, this semiliterate tale of a youth and his dear old ma stands as a fine summary of this night on the ‘net:

My interest to spy my mother grew with me. When I was around 12, I found a latex bag with a hard plastic pointed object with the diameter of a thumb and about four inches in size, and several little holes on the top. It was not clear to me how this artefact was used, but I was sure that it was something related with ladies. Next time she took a shower, I was watching her with a small mirror that I introduced under the door. She undressed complete and it was the first time that I could see her completely naked. She was just a little bit over weigh but I did not care, she was my first naked woman. Before taking a shower she carefully filled the latex bag with worm water….’

“Worm water” is apparently an aphrodisiac in some circles.

A couple of days latter, before gong to bed; she removed her panties before going to bed. TV was still on and could see her almost naked with help of TV light. As soon as lights and TV were off, she faced the other side of bed. After a few minutes, I moved towards my Mom and since my penis was already hard, I touched her buttocks….

In a nutshell: Sic, sic, sic.

So, now you know what’s happening online—the same stuff that’s happening offline: a lot more talk than action. Me? I’m stepping out to rent a Zalman King movie.