Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: being a nerd back in the day, gay teens, internet sex, irc, pipa, sopa, teenage lesbian
Yes, friends, it’s true.
When I came out, in the late 1990s, the internet was just starting to enter the mainstream. Nerds had been running around IRC – that’s internet relay chat – and Usenet – the first message board. The internet didn’t have pictures, at least not very easily, but people are people and people like porn and where there’s a will, there’s a way. (NSFW if your W doesn’t like ASCII pictures of breasts!)
Any chat room dedicated to teens was essentially everything the religious right made it out to be. We briefly mentioned other things – bands, or maybe how much we hated school – but ultimately they were about one thing: S-E-X. If you entered a room with a feminine-sounding name, or if you answered the obligatory a/s/l (age, sex, location) with anything f, you would have your pick of teenage boys who wanted to internet bang “ur hot pussy.” I still remember feeling like that, down there, on a BBS chat room in 1995 with some boy whose name I only knew as “dirtysock.” It was the first time I ever remember being aroused.
But it wasn’t until I came out as a lez that I really discovered what it was to have sex on the internet. Teenage lesbians on the internet were craaaazy – they wanted to do it constantly. Internet fingerbanging! Internet simultaneous oral sex! Internet fisting! In a world where bodies were infinitely adaptable and sex was constrained only by desire, everyone could do everything all the time. All of us teenage lez got to try on these new identities, play with ourselves and each other, and even get off, or at least get hot, in real life.
But what’s funny, of course – what you’re thinking right now – is that they probably weren’t lez teens. No! They were probably men, gross old men, gross old lech men trying to woo us unsuspecting real teenage lez into having sex with them. They were posing! Masquerading! Conning us!
Bullshit they were. Obviously, they might not all have been who they said they were. I wasn’t either – I didn’t live where I said I lived or look the way I wanted to look. They weren’t coming near me in real life, I wasn’t coming near them in real life. We all got off, and we all got to experiment, and did it even matter who was behind the keyboard? Really? I mean, really?
It feels sacrilegious to talk about teenagers having sex on the internet, let alone with pervy old men, as if it is no big deal. But guess what: it was no big deal. No harm was done to me aside from perhaps some wear on my carpal tunnels. Most of the teenagers who get abducted are not being tricked; they know they are meeting an adult and they consent to the meetings (PDF; study from the APA.) We can argue about how much consent is really possible, but that story of the tricked teenager is mostly myth. We can assume that most of the teenagers on the internet are safely banging away, and yes, they’re looking at porn and yes, they’re probably sexy texting and no, this does not make the internet a bad thing.
There has been so much tension on the internet this past year about whether or not people should be who they are in real life all the time. This was the first year of the nymwars – the wars between people (who control major internet services) who insist on fidelity to your real life experience vs. the people (who use major internet services) who understand that even in real life, there IS no one real life experience.
It’s hard to imagine my teenage lesbian internet sex fiend years without the nymwars, obviously. But this is really just the first inkling of a larger tension: how free is the internet, really? Who will control it, and how?
There is a lot of talk right now, via SOPA and PIPA, about the possibility for broad-based internet censorship in the United States. These two bills would allow for incredibly broad censorship via levelling claims of copyright violations against websites. Don’t like something? Take it down. It frightens you? Take it down. Even the US senators supporting the bill are violating its terms. This isn’t going to be fairly applied. It’s an internet version of stop-and-frisk laws: an easy way to get people in trouble who you want to get in trouble anyways.
The stuff I was doing on the internet is the kind of thing that makes people uncomfortable about the internet. It is also the kind of thing that almost everyone does at some point (don’t even tell me you haven’t ever looked at porn online.) It is ALSO also the kind of thing that a lot of people would love to shut down, but they can’t – at least not easily. SOPA and PIPA provide those kinds of rules – easy, without due process or any kind of accountability. Copyright claim and poof! That’s it.
I would argue, actually, that all that exploration was good for me. It taught me how to think about sex and how to describe it. It taught me what made me hot. It taught me to have fun, to perform about it, and even how to say no or disengage when something wasn’t fun. I want to say “sometimes a little misbehaving isn’t so bad” but the thing is, I wasn’t misbehaving – I was just doing something that makes a lot of people a little uncomfortable that didn’t hurt anyone. Here is to an internet free enough for all of us to have that opportunity.
(ps xo to Eliza Ridgeway for the assistance!)
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