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Last Updated: Friday, 7 May, 2004, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
Biting into the new sex text craze
By Chris Kelly
BBC News Online, Bristol

Seedy text messaging has hit the headlines recently with claims about the private life of a world class footballer

But a craze called Toothing may soon make that look very tame.

The name comes from their use of Bluetooth - a short-range communication feature on some phones.

It is being used to find like-minds who want an anonymous intimate encounter.

"Toothers" beam phone numbers between handsets in places such as bars, restaurants and train stations.

Two mobile phones
Toothers are beaming their numbers between phones for sex

From here, they use conventional text messaging to organise their meeting place and what they want from the encounter.

The practice of "Toothing" has spread around the internet like wildfire.

One practitioner is Jon, a "Toother" living near London.

"One morning I received an anonymous text message via bluetooth," he told BBC News.

"I didn't understand what had happened, but that evening I did some research and worked out how to send my own."

The pair started to exchange messages on a train station platform; messages which got gradually more flirty.

"Eventually she asked me if I fancied a quickie in the toilets at the station we were travelling to.

"It happened, but I never saw her again."

Two people enjoying a picnic
In some ways this is a tame way of picking people up.
Linda Blair, psychologist

Since that day Jon - who claims to have had Toothing success five times - has set up a website dedicated to the practice but he admits it takes a degree of perseverance.

The forum on the website even goes as far as organising places to meet for Toothing encounters.

Psychologist Linda Blair, from the University of Bath. says the practice of Toothing is down to the human need to take risks.

"I think we protect ourselves too much in modern society, and risk is a human need. We need motivation," she said.

"In some ways this is a tame way of picking people up, it's almost a natural follow up from randomly picking people's names out of the phone book.

"It's voluntary at all stages, and has choice. As long as that's there and it's legal, then people should be able to do what they want."

Sue Peters from the Terrence Higgins Trust warned that anonymous sex can also carry a great deal of risk.

"Sexually transmitted diseases are on the increase in the UK. One in 10 people under the age of 25 have Chlamydia.

"Oral sex can also carry risk, especially through bacterial infection.

"I don't want to put a dampner on people's sexual practices, but we would advise them to be careful."

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