The first time I played The Sims as a kid, I was hooked. It didn’t matter if my "real" family was fighting or a boy I liked didn’t text back, because on-screen, I was in control. I could change things I didn't like with a few quick clicks. And while I loved completing menial tasks like gardening my virtual crops or forcing my Sims to make their beds, the thing I (and maybe you?) liked to do best was make my Sims “woohoo.” This meant the couple would go under the covers while rose petals fell from the sky. It might not sound so scandalous now, but back then, it felt very taboo to me.
Fast-forward to adulthood and I still like to make my Sims hook up. But now, thanks to a user-created modification called WickedWhims, the hookups are a little more... graphic. The gist? The wholesome game becomes a taboo-filled playground. And yes, your characters can have an eye-popping variety of graphic sex. After I researched how to modify my game and watched a few YouTube tutorials so I wouldn’t fry my hard drive, my childhood game was successfully changed to something a little smuttier.
When I logged on, I was greeted by an extensive list of play options: oral sex, vaginal sex, group sex, solo sex, anal sex. I could have my characters randomly hook up with their neighbors, get it on in the shower, or have an orgy as casually as they could water their plants. After just a few minutes of play, I was already panting at my screen, shocked at how turned on I was.
I put my computer aside and walked trance-like into my husband’s office. He was typing an email, unaware that I had spent the last hour making my Sims have intensely hot sex with each other. I gazed at his profile, his dark hair and piercing blue eyes so similar to the character I had just played with on-screen. In one quick, fluid motion, I moved his hands off the keyboard and pushed his chair behind me. Before he could ask what I was doing, I pulled my yoga pants down and bent over his desk.
The game had turned my skin so electric, so eager, that all it took was a few thrusts before I was drooling on the keyboard. Later, after we took a moment to catch our breath, he asked what that was all about. We’re no strangers to spontaneity, but that was on a whole new level.
I tried to explain I had just played out sexual scenarios I had only ever fantasized about. Due to the realistic graphics and immersive characteristics of the game, I had been completely consumed. It wasn’t until the hormones subsided and my skin cooled that I started to wonder whether my reaction, not to mention the resulting sex, was normal. According to Gigi Engle, certified sex educator and SKYN Condoms Sex & Intimacy Expert, this type of fantasy play isn’t only normal, but it’s healthy.
“Erotic material comes in all shapes and forms. The human mind is incredibly complex and wonderful. It can be turned on by all sorts of things that aren’t 'conventional porn,' says Engle. Think about it. There’s a good chance you’ve had a crush on a cartoon character before. “If you ask around you'll find most people have animated crushes,” Engle says. “Animation gives you a sense of high fantasy, meaning it feels so surreal and almost dream-like that when put into a sexual context, it can be highly arousing. And watching cartoon porn does not mean you want to have sex with a cartoon necessarily.”
While being tuned on by a video game is normal, what is it about virtual people going at it that makes things so steamy? According to Engle, it has a lot to do with altered reality and the level of detail the player gets to manage. "There are lots of things you can do with an animation that wouldn't be possible in another form of porn," explains Engle. "You can have everything from super exaggerated, highly stylized bodies, to having sex with aliens."
Additionally, the control a player has over their fantasies is a huge reason why they might find themselves aroused while playing an animated game. “You can see your own fantasies come to life in new and interesting ways. It also allows you to have singular control over the creation — meaning it will fit your desires to the last detail rather than having them created for you in a pre-made pornography,” Engle notes.
Not only is watching and acting out fantasies normal during virtual gameplay, but it can also cue you into things you might be interested in trying IRL. “Maybe you have one character tied up and suddenly you think, ‘Maybe I'd like to explore being dominant and do some bondage with a partner IRL,’” Engle explains.
“Animation gives us another avenue to explore our fantasies (or those that we didn't even know we had),” adds certified sex educator Dr. Logan Levkoff. “Some of the ‘taboo’ is gone because 2D images cannot be ‘real.’ Our mind can turn on to all the different genders, species, body types, and activities that aren't part of our typical sexual life.”
The caveat, of course, is realizing that virtually playing scenarios are very different than living them. While an act might turn you on on-screen, you need to be cautious before trying it out IRL. "You can use gaming as another form of media to enhance your sexual life,” notes Levkoff. “[But] keep in mind that bringing in a human third party into your relationship is very different than in a game.” This isn't just true for group sex, either. Being turned on by watching anything from anal to role play, doesn't mean you'll love participating in it, so move slowly if you decide to try something you see on screen.
It’s also important to evaluate whether what turns you on is between “consenting" virtual adults. Both experts agree that if you find yourself aroused by rape play or anything involving a minor, it’s a good idea to have a conversation with a therapist to work out any complicated emotions or feelings around those subjects.
Ultimately, if you find yourself unexpectedly turned on by something new, it’s worth exploring the genre, whether or not it's at the hands of a Sims character. “Exploration is the way to find out what really turns you on about the content. Is it the fact that they're animated? Is it the sex acts themselves? Is it a character in the game?” asks Engle. “Take time to critically think about the videos and boil down what it is about this specific stuff that is getting you all riled up.”
You just might be surprised to learn what your body, your mind, and your childhood video game are capable of.
Dr. Logan Levkoff, certified sex educator