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The Nerdgirl's Pillow Book

Or, The Joy of Hacker Sex

A Brief Guide to What's Going On Here:

The Pillow Book is an unpublished (publishers, ATTENTION!) yet edge-cutting guide to applying the hacker method to sex.
Does that sound illegal, or violent? What do I mean by hacking?

Hacking is the clever circumvention of imposed limits, whether imposed by your government, your IP server, your own personality, or the laws of Physics.

(My own definition, as presented to the 1996 Hackers Conference in Santa Rosa CA.)

Who am I to explain all this? I'm a writer and graphic artist with some shady medical training. I used to be senior editor of MONDO2000, the cult magazine with a shelf date. I've gone to jail for demonstrations (demonstrating how not to stand in the street in all cases) and I've done other revolution-oriented stuff like writing a how-to manual for online revolution, HOW TO MUTATE AND TAKE OVER THE WORLD and the critically under-rated but droll CYBERPUNK FAKEBOOK. Most importantly, I've been a programmer all my life, and a rather good one. Okay, I'm a girlnerd. I'm even a hacker.

Hacking doesn't stop with computers. Every revolutionist is a hacker, hacking the social system. The nerd-heroic Wright brothers hacked bicycles before they started hacking airplanes (because bikes were cutting-edge tech: elegant cheap mobility.) Ms. Manners, a feminist hero, hacks social interactions. The hacker approach works for everything in life. At least, it will make you more likely to analyze the elements of your life. At best it will make you want to transform those elements like an alchemist.

So here it is, my hacker-style cookbook of sex, a how-to or why-not book. I compiled these ideas from clues I picked up from anecdotes or bizarre rumors, or news bulletins from Johns Hopkins. These were tracked down on Medline and then field-tested by human nerds. I then extrapolated from facts that are all verifiable: I'll give you citations if you want to look them up.

But the extrapolations are unique. These are new-and-future syntheses. You'll never find these gorgeous juxtapositions anywhere else. Moreover my approach is everywhere skeptical, suggestive, conditional: these ideas are lusciously ripe for the tasting. And ready to be refuted by your own experiments – or mutated and expanded through your own ingenuity.

Yet most insidiously, this book is a demonstration of hacker methodology. While luring you with sex it is subtly training you to think like a hacker.

It's a become-it-yourself guide.

Learn to hack!


My first shot at covering this material, titled Hacking the Wetware: The NerdGirl’s Pillow Book, was released onto the Internet in the Spring of 1994. Why did I call it a Pillow Book? Pillow books were either snotty journals kept by Japanese court ladies, or picture porn-- Shunga--left under Japanese newlyweds' pillows as a sort of hint. My book was a bit of both. Little snippets of Wetware got into Ballantine's How To Mutate And Take Over The World, by me and R.U.Sirius.

I was at a computer conference last month, and told a fellow girlnerd I was working on this book -- called something like Hackergirl's Sex Manual: Real-time Nonvirtual Sex. She laughed a lot, and then asked me, programmer to programmer, where the hell I thought I was going with that. I explained, nerd to nerd...

Sex is like anything else we deal with:

You explore the problems, you develop your solutions, you optimize them-- and then debug, debug, debug.

A non-nerd bystander found this depressing. She summed it up like this:

It's the damn times. Just when you think there's one area of your life that remains safe from engineering, along comes a book that out-techs you yet again. She wails, What about instinct, experience, women's magazines?

Ah well, I reply, there's sex, as we all think we know it-- and then there's sex, as we DON'T know it, as it lies like a pullulating fevertree jungle beyond our imaginings...

And maybe you think you know all you reasonably NEED to know. You know that jungle. You know the paths in there so well you could lead safaris through... But one day you look at the roiling wall of green stuff and think... hmmm, where's my machete?

You can hack your own path, girl. The way of the hacker(footnote 1) is the pathless path. The Way of the Nerdgirl.

(Something like that.)


End-of-Section Nerd Historical footnote.

1. In fact, this is where the term hacker came from, back in the beginning: "My code's not running yet; I'm still hacking my way through the underbrush."

Bibiography: The Jargon FIle, to be found at many URLs and FTP sites.


I always skip the introduction when I start a book. It’s like reading bloody manuals. Who needs this, let's get to the hands-on stuff. But if you are reading this intro, I’ll tell you why you should read the book.

First, unlike every other sexbook in the history of our species, this is a manual for exploration, discovery and execution of sex. This book assumes that sex can only be helped by the scientific method. That sex is a process that can be optimized. That debugging helps. That nerds are the perfect bed partners... things like that.

Hackers are problem-solving animals. Hackers are intelligent or else. Hackers are much hornier than the average person (for reasons I'll explain later), and considering all these things, hackers ought to be recognized as national living treasures. But we're buried treasures: nobody knows about us but us, usually. And although hackers don’t know all there is to know about sex, we know that we can research and learn about ANYTHING.

Nerds are natural-born search engines. And if we can't find what we need to know on the Net, there's always vulgar empiricism: we'll get in there and see what works, hands-on. And that always leads to wanting more: let's see what clever hacks we can come up with.

What is a hack? What's hacking?

"Hacking is the clever circumvention of imposed limits, whether those limits are imposed by your government, your own personality, or the laws of Physics."

--St. Jude

We search, we accumulate the hands-on data, and then... we packrat our expertise. This is what makes us ELITE. We're lolling here like dragons on these pearls, gold cups and necklaces, and too bad for the newbies.

One who speaks does not know;

One who knows does not speak.

So, if this book claims to know AND speak, what's going on? It's like this: Phiber Optik, world-class hacker, has taught at Cypherpunks1 physical meets. Phiber is a good teacher, patient and kind. He is probably the world's best UNIX hacker -- elitest of the elite-- but he's willing to share the information he's gathered. He's generous-hearted. It happens.

Seldom. Okay, let's get down to the ugly truth. Hackers want to show off their knowledge when they can. Lounging around bragging takes one only so far. Lounging around drawling hard-won hacker pearls is more satisfying. So listen up.

This book is chock with strange techniques and odd practices that I and my er research associates have invented, or extrapolated from clinical trials, and then FIELD TESTED!

If you want to learn more about sex than ordinary sex manuals will give you, and you're an ordinary civilian, you're doomed. Forget about the medical library. Like most areas of this famous oxymoron, medical science, it's a freeze-my-head-and-thaw-me-in-a-century situation. The recent Human Sexuality issues of science zines admitted this, and (apart from some hot pictures of Bonobo chimps doing what they do best) the articles all came down to this: "Well, in [my specialized research area], here's what we still need to find out." But don’t freeze your head in haste. Even if medical scientists take decades to catch up, you can have wonderful sex this year. Their limitations are your challenge. Learn to hack.


Section A: Booting Up

If you like each other, you may want to have sex immediately, just to get the expectation out of the way. But expect little: unpracticed sex is usually useless. Even if the sex is better than okay, really good sex is built on trained mutual coordination, not unlike dancing the tango. In fact, you might force your boynerd to take ballroom dance classes with you. Dancing is simultaneously arousing and satifying: in fact, ballroom dancing seems like a transform of sex. More and more nerds of all genders are learning ballroom dance nowadays, and this is probably why.

* * * *

Section B: Learning the configuration

After you both get the idea that fitting tab A into slot B is actually feasible here, repeatably, he will want to customize for the individual case. Let him practice, and don’t crowd him. Even if he’s badly trained or inexperienced, if you start out too tutorial he may quit the project before it gets interesting. Let him hack around on his own. If he’s not going to be completely useless he will discover the following things for himself:

a) While fitting A into B, merely kludging angles and pressures takes one only so far.

b) A very small vector shift can make enormous differences in sensation and response.

c) The intensity of one’s own sensation is closely coupled to how enthusiastic one’s accomplice is.

d) So, logically, you must find strategies to optimize the responses of both of you.

This is good. It’s time to hit the manuals. Machine Architecture (Anatomy). Principles of operation (Physiology). And some hands-on work. 

Discovery leads to Invention. When you've got the principles, you're better equipped for the lab work. Pass me that soldering iron. 

Reading this textbook attentively, taking the time to do the exercises at the end of each chapter, and passing the final exam will lead you logically and inexorably to ...