Virtual Sleaze

The VCR became popular because now people could watch pornography in the comfort of their own homes without visiting sticky-floored theaters in scummy parts of town.

The web is popular because people can view pornography without having to be face to face with a newsseller. (Not to mention that you can view pornography that can't be bought at any newsstand this side of Amsterdam.)

So it's really no surprise that most of the very few web sites which one must pay for are pornographic. As redevelopment is closing down Times Square to make it safe for David Letterman and Disney, everyone's home has been converted into a combo porno theater and dirty bookstore.

But something's missing. You can't get a blowjob from a toothless old man while you're watching that video on your couch like you can in a theater. And you can't cruise other patrons at the magazine rack if you're downloading software.

Sure, if you're speedy at the one-handed typing, you can go have virtual sex. I read a recent interview with John Waters somewhere where he wondered how people act butch when they're having cyber-sex -- do they misspell words and type "dese" and "dose?"

There's just nothing sleazy about the suburbs. And that's what the web is like -- sleek cyber-suburbs, and most gay web pages remind me of nothing more than suburban homes with nicely manicured lawns and a rainbow flag out in front.

The web is also too horizontal -- everything is just as easy to find. If you're looking for real-life sleaze, you have to dig for it a bit. But here, everything is just a web search away.

On-line life needs to be a little more secretive. Start private, members-only mailing lists with members sworn not to breathe a word of it in public forums -- new members will be recruited by invitation only. Maybe some of the "obsolete" forms of on-line storage, like BBSes, and ftp sites, out of sight of the prying spiders, can be used to harbor a sort of self-marginalized underground.

Enough solutions for what will remain broken. Back to the real world. Read Hakim Bey's essay on Immediatism. Realize that nothing beats a real face-to-face (or face-to-name your favorite body part) meeting. The on-line life can give a false sense of connection, but your on-line buddies aren't going to be there to help you when real-life trouble comes along.


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