Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The ChatRoulette Rabbit Hole

The Strangest Party (These Are the Times) - INXS (mp3)
Clothes Off! - Gym Class Heroes (mp3)

I heard the word(s) "ChatRoulette" several times on my weekend in New York City, and when a connection up there sent me a link to this "explanation to the uninitiated" post, I read it and decided to link it for our parents... on the off chance they look at our page and read those links.

ChatRoulette allows people to connect, randomly and anonymously, to other people via webcam. Ms. Yardi describes the site very well, and she also lays out the pitfalls and concerns of the way the system works. Yet, very much like my experiences with Internet-broadcast terrorist beheadings and "the video that shall not be named," something about the ease with which one's curiosity can be ferreted and soothed drew me to pay the site a visit last Thursday evening.

Clad in my blue jeans and T-shirt, I hopped on. Two of the first five cams I encountered were singularly focused on exposed manhoods being fondled in an onanistic manner.

At that point, I hopped off and contemplated my own ground rules:
  1. Upon exposure to genitalia of either gender, I would immediately click "New Game." (Yes, the mere phrase "new game" as a way to switch "partners" is a little discomforting.
  2. I would attempt to type to anyone, male or female, not exposing themselves and not clearly prepared to do so. Any communication leaning in that direction would be cut off.
  3. I would chat with no one longer than 5 minutes.
With that in mind, I reentered.

When I was in eighth grade, I went on a school trip to Louisiana. Six classmates and our English teacher, a Louisiana native, spent a day and night in the French Quarter. Although I had by that point been exposed to dirty magazines and the like, it wasn't until walking down Bourbon Street, seeing pictures of strippers, their breasts exposed right there outside the strip club, that I realized that what I'd seen in print actually found ways to translate itself into real life.

Until then, Penthouse was a sexualized fiction. Instead of orcs and hobbits, there were breasts and penises, engaged in epic battles and exposed in ways that just didn't really happen. The letters section of that magazine were, to our minds, clearly made up. Stories of fast food workers having sex in the drive-thru window or at wild parties. That stuff was no more believable to me than tales of dragon-slaying or the Balrog.

Bourbon Street wasn't merely sexualized. It was an exposure to several new dimensions. The street performer as pseudo-art, high-end panhandling. The restaurant as cathedral. The gutter as acceptable receptacle for vomit. All of this was powerful and revelatory to me.

ChatRoulette is Bourbon Street on techno-steroids. The kind of Bourbon Street that might interest Congressman Massa more than, say, the average guy.

Over the course of about an hour, I encountered at least 200 web cams.

Only twice did another male even say "hi" to me. And both times the chats lasted only long enough for me to say no, I'm not interested in jerking off with you, but thanks for the invitation.

Only eight times did I encounter a cam with females. Four times, they instantly clicked "New Game" and ejected me. Twice I had 5-minute chats. One was a 25-year-old Brazilian woman who shared with me some of her favorite Brazilian musicians. We also talked about the World Cup. I asked her for the names of their best players.

The other longer conversation I had was with a pair of young college, or possibly high school, girls. The conversation was amusing and lasted about three minutes before it seemed to cross the line and inched into the inappropriate. (It's tough to know where that line is when their first words to me was, "OMG, it's a fully-clothed man!")

The other two times, the chats lasted maybe a minute. Long enough for them to be certain I wasn't whatever they were interested in seeing or talking to, I guess.

No fewer than 40 times did I encounter a penis.

Another 20-25 times, the cam was focused in such a way that masturbation was clearly the end goal. Cam trained on bulging underwear, or in downward-facing angle where crotch could be seen in a moment's notice.

Another 10 or so times, I encountered drawings of penises, as if that kid from Superbad had taken over a percentage of the ChatRoulette computers. (One funny one had, written beside the penis: "This is a drawing of a tree! I swear!")

Nothing about me should suggest I'm a prude. Even the best parts of our great civilization requires cesspools and garbage dumps. All part of the Yin/Yang thing. So I get it. ChatRoulette is 95% Yang. (ha.)

Thanks, but I'd just as soon go find my Yang somewhere else.

Oh yeah, and three times I encountered a group of kids. Like, middle school age. Two groups of three, and one single boy. And that's where the whole Yin/Yang, ChatRoulette, let's-make-fun-of-the-penises thing gets a little bit weightier than I can handle.

It's 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?


boyhowdy said...

I've spent two marathon sessions on Chatroulette, both successful 3 hour + jaunts.

First time, I "read" bedtime stories from my kids' music collection by holding up the pages to the screen one by one. Started with a shot of the book and a handlettered sign saying "want to read a bedtime story?" People seemed happy - about half laughed and smiled; about 1 in ten stayed for the story. Short ones work best.

Second time, I used a lifesized puppet of Ernie from sesame street, acted out a mime thing. For masturbators, I made Ernie masturbate. Had a long conversation with an unclothed female, and several long mime shows for college kids in groups.

Any ideas for next time? In the meanwhile, I'm changin' expectations, bringing the glee one screen at a time...

BeckEye said...

Perhaps changing the name to ChatJerkit would make things less confusing for people.

Daisy said...

A very scary rabbit hole indeed! Guess it is time to start studying up now... so maybe in 5 years I can be half as internet savy as my kids?

Anonymous said...

Nice wang!

Hank said...

Piano Roulette (some language NSFWish): http://thenextweb.com/shareables/2010/03/16/piano-roulette/?awesm=tnw.to_15oxG&utm_medium=tnw.to-twitter&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_content=tweetmeme

Randy said...

I love the accompanying pictures...especially the third set. That shirtless hairy dude with a lovely set of family photos in the background is priceless. Is that his mom watching everything from the bulletin board?