How I lost my virginity on Habbo Hotel 

Published June 20, 2023 
Is cybering sex?

Sex, or sexual intercourse, requires communication or dealings between individuals that involve the processes and activities linked with physical attraction.

Today, I imagine the majority of young people experience their sexual awakening through the internet. Whether that’s by watching pornography, messaging, or pure observation. We experience love and attraction through the physical, but it’s often easier to explore our burgeoning sexual desires online, especially at a young age, where physical outlets might not yet be appropriate or accessible.  

According to this definition of sex: “communication or dealings between individuals that involves the processes and activities linked with physical attraction,” cybersex almost fits seamlessly, but gets hung up on the very last component. Physical attraction.

The attraction is physical to us, although the other’s material body is absent. We are not attracted to them physically, but virtually. Still, we experience the chemical and biological reaction of arousal. Does physical attraction require the embodiment of another, laying before us? We experience a physical response to desire, that which attracts us to others. Through the virtual, there is no tangible being to be attracted to. We desire their image, the fragment of their person who we see online. We don’t require the totality of a person to feel this attraction. Desire is largely based through the optical, while sexual pleasure is tactile.

Cybersex involves the arousal of the individual, but projected towards the idea of another. In cybersex, there is a necessary sense of mutual attraction— towards an avatar, a video, an AI, a fragment of another person. The entire act of cybersex is hinged on desire, never reaching total consummation with the other. But still, desire is for the other. Sexual contact is being made, although it is not physical. If there are photos or videos involved, then there is a bodily form onto which we can project our desires. But in the case of chatrooms and AI bots, we are drawn in only by their text. It feeds our imagination as we type back and forth in real time. The anticipation of what the other will say next brings excitement.

The issue of the avatar here is a peculiar one. When there’s a representation of another body involved in cybersex, our attention must surely fixate on it as the object of our desire. But am I truly attracted to this avatar, or am I tempted by the idea of the person behind it? This depends on personal preference. There is also the idea that the on-screen setting is pornographic. I’m watching the two (or more) characters in a virtual scene, and it arouses something within me. But there is an added layer of an interactive component; I can involve myself in the narrative, I can dictate where it goes. The avatar is driven by me, but takes on a new identity through its virtuality. You may choose to either express your thoughts plainly, or role-play another character.

Cybersex feels both masturbatory and interactive. The physical loneliness of the act forces you to pour all attention into the other. You feel fully drawn into the virtual. The exciting part of cybersexual interaction lies in the potentiality for it to be real—we long for the physical nature, and imagine it while we have cyber sex.

The fact that cybersex is dependent on desire alone and never consummation, suggests that it is not truly sex. But still, the other is there for me. I hold their full attention just as they are holding mine. Our interaction is in real-time, and we feel a certainty of mutual desire.

The online escapades of my youth frequently involved logging into Habbo Hotel, an avatar-based online community that takes place in a virtual hotel. Reaching their peak around 2012, they had 600,000 monthly users and 316 million registered avatars (Habbos). Every Habbo was given their own hotel room upon registration, which they could design and acquire furniture (“furni”). Users could visit rooms in the hotel, play games, and chat.


In the game, two Habbos would often enter into a private hotel room and start chatting intimacies back and forth. In 2012, Channel 4 did a two month long investigation and found excessive ongoing cybersex. There was concern that adults were coming onto the platform and engaging sexually with younger users, pressuring them to take the interaction off-site to Skype or MSN. This exposé caused Habbo Hotel to lose their top 2 investors, and subsequently suspended all chat capabilities for a month, an event known as “The Great Mute.”

From that moment I was immersed into a whole new world of ‘cybering’ (cyber sex). I had little cartoon boys coming up to me and saying they were feeling my boobs, following me to my bedroom and having sex with me, all without my permission or encouragement. At first it left me feeling slightly dirty and then pretty quickly, outraged.
    - Channel 4

Although Habbo Hotel had a black-list of profane and sexual words that couldn’t be used on the platform, users found alternatives. A popular phrase on the site was “bobba” — if you typed an explicit word into the chat, it would automatically be replaced with “bobba.” While bobba was a catch-all term that referred to any explicit words, it was commonly used in a sexual manner.

While Habbo was meant for teenagers and young adults, it felt as though the majority of its userbase was 11-16 years old. If you search the internet for evidence of this mass pubescent cybersexing orgy, little comes up: this Channel 4 article, some Youtube videos, this Reddit post. It has largely been scrubbed from memory. In preparation for this article, I asked a few of my friends if they had been on the platform and remembered such events.

It feels as though this was setting a precedent for the new normal. While online chatrooms aren’t as popular as they were 10-20 years ago, it remains obvious that sexuality is a part of our online identities from young teenagehood onwards. To express one’s sexuality online feels safer than doing it IRL. The pang of rejection is lowered, the confusion of sex can be lessened. These methods of sexual expression will find different channels as our social media platforms continue to shift. The chatroom era feels dead, but cybersex prevails into new mediums. As we live parts of our lives online, we indulge parts of our sexuality.

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USURPATOR is an online magazine sharing essays and interviews about the user experience of our current virtual landscape

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