David Strom

The First VR Sex Scam

By David Strom


If you've heard about Sexonix, the world's first VR sex purveyors, chances are you've

been had. The company is a hoax from start to finish masterminded by Joey Skaggs,

professional media provocateur-cum-performance artist. 



Sexonix has lots of media appeal. Just imagine using the privacy of one's electronic goggles

and gloves to bring about the ultimate in safe sex and digital convergence.  So it isn't

surprising that many in media fell for the scam.



The company got its "start" at the Toronto Christmas Gift Show in the fall of 1992, when

Skaggs rented a booth at the show and called a press conference to demonstrate his wares to

under-stimulated reporters. Skagg's booth at the show remained empty: he claimed all of his

VR gear was confiscated by Canadian customs for obscenity reasons, putting Sexonix out of

business. The confiscation story was covered on TV, radio and newspapers in Toronto, and

picked up by wire services around the world. His letters to Future Sex and New Media

magazines were printed verbatim. Indeed, the editors added their own comments expressing

outrage and cries of first amendment foul play.



All well and good, except the gear never existed and he never had anything to show. The

whole stunt was done with a few well-chosen video clips from Lawnmower Man, some

actors, and help from a public relations agency to stir up press interest. 



But Skaggs wasn't satisfied with just duping the media: he went after the on-line community

as well. In July 1993, months after the initial crush of publicity surrounding Sexonix,  he

posted a press release describing the "events" surrounding his Toronto confiscation and

demise of Sexonix on several BBS's, including ECHO, Fidonet, and the Well. His posting

stimulated discussions that were active over the summer and occasionally still get a query or

two. Many "wellholes" (the term Skaggs invented to describe deziens of that electronic

community) fell hook, line, and email for the scam -- except one, a reporter who actually

checked his facts and realized who Skaggs was.



Once uncovered on the Well, Skaggs was vilified by various postings, and one on-line

hopeful tried his own counterscam by stating that Skaggs had died of mysterious

circumstances. Needless to say, Skaggs is alive and well and quite amused by all the

attention.



This isn't Skaggs' first hoax: previously he has been covered as a priest riding a mobile

confessional booth servicing potential sinners at the Democratic 1992 convention, starting up

a dog bordello, and even sending his own stooge when "To Tell the Truth" featured him (or

whom they thought was the real Skaggs) on one episode. And it certainly won't be his last. 

Skaggs claims he's a performance artist and the media coverage is his canvas.  And with

Sexonix, he has moved into using electronic communications such as email as another means

of expression. 

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David Strom David Strom 938 Port Washington Blvd Port Washington, NY 11050 USA US TEL: 1 (516) 944-3407