Modern Mating

When Technology and the Sexes Collide

Monday, February 27, 2006

Pimping the Internet

When not combatting the insurgency in Iraq, soldiers - even those stationed in "Forward Operating Bases" - can communicate online with their loved ones. In prior wars, a father in combat had to rely on letters and infrequent phone calls to stay connected with his kids. Now, the mothers and father on the front lines stay connected far more easily. The military sets up rooms full of computer equipment, complete with webcams, as a means of promoting morale.

These Internet connections aren't always being used for wholesome purposes, however. Online dating has become the recreation of choice for many of the US soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jokingly referred to as "pimping the Internet", it is considered one of the key ways for the soldiers - who are predominantly male - to arrange a little sexual action when they return home from the military action., for instance, is a huge hit among soldiers deployed abroad, where many of the soldiers kill time and try to meet people by posting their photos and profiles. Young and fit, the servicemen and women are ideal candidates for a site where the emphasis is on physical appeal. A buff body is bound to elicit far more attention than a thoughtful write-up. Typical military profiles read:
“Hi, I am currently in Iraq (again, geez!). Originally from Texas, I love drinking, mudding, and football.”
“Howdy! I just like to laugh and make people laugh. I am the beer pong champ! If you think you can beat me, bring it on! I like to travel to a new place every year. This year it’s Iraq, next year maybe Germany.”
“Hanging out in Afghanistan. Always looking for someone cool to email with. I'm into motorcycles, golf and running.”

There are niche sites which cater specifically to a military population like and The conventional dating sites also draw a military crowd. It's not all about the brief hook-up, however. In the Washington Post's article, A Bed of Roses , we learn about Melinda Jackson who met her boyfriend while he was deployed in Iraq as a combat medic. Their relationship began on Yahoo! Personals and continued through instant messages, emails and the odd phone call. Their relationship was virtual for 9 months before they finally met in the flesh (but after they had begun talking marriage).

Soldiers go online for more than just relationships, however. Servicemen, unable to purchase membership to porn sites because credit card companies blocked charges originating from Iraq and Afghanistan (areas considered "high risk" to the credit card companies), found a fan in Chris Wilson. His site, permitted users stationed overseas to trade authentic photos for access to the site's porn. Some of the soldiers forwarded gruesome images and videos of Iraqi war dead. This became a diplomatic mess for the US government and a legal mess for Chris.

Not long after the photos became public, the Polk County Sheriff charged Chris with 300 misdemeanor and 1 felony count of obscenity. By charging Wilson with so many individual counts, law enforcement made it very difficult for Wilson to secure bail (his family had to find a bail bondsman willing to write a bond for each charge, and though the bail was set at $151,000, the family also had to secure more than the typical 10% bail as there was a minimum bail of $100 for each charge). Wilson wound up languishing in jail for an additional day, even after his family had paid the bail bondsman the required $30,100. Though his parents secured the bail on Monday, October 12, 2005, it took a whole day for the Sheriff's office to process the 301 bonds, so Wilson was not released until Tuesday afternoon. Wilson wound up back in jail two months later, when his bail was revoked because the State Attorney's Office and the Polk County Sheriff objected to the fact that his site was not shut down. Wilson remained in jail for almost two weeks, through Xmas, until a three judge appellate court ordered that he be released immediately. The appellate court neglected to give a reason for its opinion.

Ultimately, Wilson cut a deal and pled guilty to five misdemeanour obscenity counts. No jail time was required, though Wilson was ordered to pay the state's investigative costs of $3,785.56 and to pay a fine of $500. As part of his plea agreement, Wilson agreed to shut down his website and turn it over to the Polk County Sheriff. The Sheriff intends to post a message on the site that says that the owner of the website was criminally prosecuted and that the violation of Florida's obscenity statues would be punished. Unexpectedly, Wilson was given three months to shut down his site, before the Sheriff would get possession. The reason for this delay is astonishing and inconsistent with the obscenity prosecution. Since Wilson had agreed not to accept any new customers, the court permitted Wilson's final customers, those well-intentioned consumers of porn who'd made a good-faith purchase of a 3 month subscriptions, to enjoy what they had paid for.

Though no-one may be getting laid in Iraq, it's clear that some are still getting off. --Or at least they will be through the end of March.

Friday, February 24, 2006

MySpace for sluts and other sensualists

For all the teenagers posting on MySpace about their friends and parents, whining or exulting about their lives, there's another group using the site for very different purposes. This group isn't looking to vent, it's looking to get laid.

In VanityFair's March issue, the issue with the naked actresses arrayed on the cover, there's an article heralding MySpace's role in youth culture. And where the magazine's cover is sexy (who could resist Scarlett Johanson's naked rump?), the article profiles people who are all sexed up. In particular, we get to learn about one of the site's most successful sluts - Jeremy Jackson.

Jackson is vulgar but amusing, pointing out to the author all the women he'd fucked because of MySpace. And it's not just idle boasting. The women confirm having slept with him. Even Chrissy, the female ejaculator.

While I once might have found Jeremy's assertions implausible, I don't any longer. Several pals, who are even a few years older than Jeremy, have found "friends with benefits" on the site.

MySpace is an interesting alternative to casual dating sites like Nerve and LavaLife It's even free where the dedicated dating sites charge money if you want to connect with a possible partner. However, MySpace's lack of specificity means that a different kind of investment is required from those looking for companionship.

First, those looking for friends and lovers must have a page - the equivalent of a profile on a dating site - where they identify themselves in a fun and enticing way. And then they have to go out looking for simpatico people. Straight men, in particular, must make an effort. Reminiscent of sites like, it's necessary to search for likely partners. Unlike the conventional dating sites, if you happen to be a music freak, it's possible to find someone who shares your fondness for Coldplay or The Dresden Dolls. Unfortunately, MySpace's "browse user" capacity isn't designed with the same kind of sophistication as the search functions on the dedicated dating sites. And once the search kicks up some candidates, they must next be contacted.

The advantage of an actual dating site is that users are expecting to hear from people who want to date them. On a general site like MySpace, that's not necessarily the case. As a result, the initial overture has to be a bit more enticing than the low-effort, click-on-a button "wink" found on Nerve or Fortunately, because of its roots as an indie-music site, folks may have more in common, and this must improve the chances of successful seduction.

The importance of a clever overture cannot be overstated. But fishing for action in a well-stocked pond sure helps. In the Vanity Fair article, Jackson says that he knows "guys who are not even as good-looking as me who get laid like crazy because of MySpace." Now, if that isn't an endorsement, what is?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

MySpace - is it possessed?

Poor Rupert Murdoch. In July of 2005 he spends $580 million to acquire (and the other Intermix sites), which heralds his company's first substantial foray into social networking and which represents an obvious strategy (ploy?) to appeal to a crowd a fraction of Murdoch's age (he's 74).

MySpace began in 2003 as a place where musicians could advertise and interact with their fan base. However, it quickly outgrew its initial mandate, quickly surpassing Friendster as the top social networking site. It is a frisky environment that holds particular appeal to the kind of person who is past puberty but not ready to settle down. Say, for adolescents between the ages of 14 and 40.

So far so good for Rupert....It was an investment that was heralded as genius, that is, when it wasn't accused of being an expensive indulgence. Unfortunately, a slew of bizarre and lurid tales began to emerge where MySpace played a starring role.

Zach Stark, a gay teen from a devout Christian household in Tennessee, garnered considerable attention when he wrote on his MySpace blog regarding his concerns about going to an eight week long summer camp that would try to change his sexual preference. In June, Zach blogged about coming out to his family and about how he was not eager to attend a branch of Love in Action, where his honosexuality would be "cured". Soon, activists formed the Queer Action Coalition and began demonstrating at the offices of Love in Action on behalf of Zach and other teens who might be confronting similar issues.
Zach Stark update

When two young college students in New York, Maria Pesantez and Mellie Carballo, were found dead of a cocaine and heroin overdose, rumors abounded. Were these girls regular drug users who just happened to score some unusually pure stuff, or were they victims of predators who coerced them to take the drugs or somehow took advantage of their naivete? Both of the young women had MySpace profiles which contained references to drugs, suggesting that neither woman was an inexperienced drug-user, and that their deaths, though tragic, were accidental. They took heroin and it killed them.
Maria and Mellie Get Lost, New York Magazine - Sept 2005

When the parents of Kara Borden, a Pennsylvania teenager, were found dead, it didn't take long for investigators to discover that the missing girl and David Ludwig, her missing boyfriend, each had profiles on MySpace. While their pages were reported by to very innocent, after the murders, the pages took on a whole new specter. People prowled the sites, leaving comments about the murder and messages for the teens. There was so much voyeuristic rubber-necking that access to the blogs was restricted.
When Murder Hits the Blogosphere

In December 2005, John Gaumer, a biochemistry major at the University of Maryland, beat a woman to death. Where did they first meet? MySpace.
Former Student Admits to Killing Internet Date

And where do pedophiles go to find young men and women to exploit? MySpace, of course. There have been a multitude of sting operations where police or volunteers (or TV producers) pretended to be children who engaged in online and phone conversations with men. And whenever the men suggested a sexual encounter, the "child" would acquiesce and a meeting would be arranged. In the most recent sting operation, thirteen men were lured to a Laguna Beach apartment, each hoping to seduce a teenage girl. The men arrived at the apartment with flowers, cameras and alcohol, and left in custody.
Laguna Sting, LA Times - Feb 23, 2006

Is MySpace responsible for these incidents? No. It's simply the preferred forum for teenagers and twenty-somethings, an age group not known for maturity and self-restraint. MySpace has age restrictions in place, and though they can be easily circumvented, simple supervision of Internet usage can address the most outrageous problems that arise when children go online.

These virtual environments are incredibly popular because they are far more liberating than the physical environments available to most kids. Online, it is possible to explore, engage and reinvent yourself often. Daily, even. And this flexibility and pacing is harmonized with the needs of a population still figuring itself out. The demonization of MySpace (and Xanga and other youth-oriented social networking sites) is mostly about the media doing what it always does....Piling onto an issue and perpetuating fear. Youth culture has always been terrifying to adults. From Elvis Presley, to Woodstock, to Marilyn Manson, to MySpace. Unfortunately, these stories only serve to highlight rare events and make them seem far more commonplace than they really are.

Do some dreadful acts have a connection to MySpace? Sure. But with over 40 million members, it would be astonishing if the site weren't linked to current events.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Dating vigilantes

Infidelity happens. But if a woman should discover – by whatever means – that her boyfriend or husband has cheated on her, she can expose the philanderer. was created by Tasha Joseph, herself a victim of infidelity, as a forum where the wronged woman can vent. The database includes the man’s name, age, location, and juicy details of what went wrong. Sometimes there’s even a recent photo of the offender.

In an article in the New York Times, Tasha Joseph describes her website as being like a "dating credit report." If you want a voyeuristic kick, read the entries. If you're a woman, the website is bound to make you feel better about your own relationships. If you're dating a cad, you know where to vent about him, and if you're with someone who's even just OK, you can be grateful you're not the women who wrote:
“He's been unfaithful to his ex-wife, unfaithful to his girlfriend/s and has a restraining order against him. He's a liar, very unstable, lazy and has even stolen proprietary information from his employers. He's only skilled at one thing - manipulation. WARNING-do not invest any time with this loser.”

“PLEASE watch out for this guy!! Over the two years we were dating exclusively I found out he dated and slept with several other women, including one he got pregnant. He neglected to tell me about the other woman and the pregnancy, during which time he asked me to marry him. He lied and covered up the existence of the other woman until after the baby's birth! When he finally broke down and told me, I promptly called off our engagement. He has also walked away from his child and the baby's mother. He has several different internet dating websites he frequents including and He is a total scumbag and a habitual liar.”

Of course, if you're a man, you might find the experience of reading these screeds very unsettling. The women remain anonymous, while the men are revealed. The potential for malice seems very high.

A different kind of grass-roots effort occurs on sites like Though the big dating sites like and Yahoo personals have codes of conduct, and ask that the profiles and photos be accurate, some people misrepresent themselves. There are frequent reports of married people representing themselves as single, unattractive people representing themselves as attractive, and people saying they want a relationship when all they want is to get laid. As a result, sites like have sprung up to put the liars on notice. was begun by Mark Geller, a single man in California’s Silicon Valley who was wary of dating sites because of all the horror stories he had heard. His site gives the users of dating services like and the opportunity to review the people they have met through the dating sites. Anonymity is maintained. The site asks the reviewers not to reveal any identifying information like real name, phone number, email address, about the person being reviewed. Instead, the reviewers provide the dating site the subject of their review uses, while also providing the subject’s “handle” on that site. TrueDater asks the following of its users:
“We encourage users to be fair, accurate, and objective in writing reviews-- for example, reporting that someone is 4 inches shorter than they claim or that they have gained 20 pounds since the picture they posted. We discourage you from entering reviews of the person themselves or their personality or telling stories about your date since these kinds of subjective judgments can be hurtful and may not be helpful to other people who are thinking about meeting this person.”

While most of the reviews on deal with questions of age, height and weight. However, there are many cautionary reviews dealing with issues of marital status and honesty:
“He lied to me about being divorced. He's really married!”
“This man is a pathological liar! He is married with two kids - he lies about everything including his age really is 48 pretends to have a bit of success but is an accountant with a fixed low income. He dates around on match- and yahoo his real first name is paul, uses alias last names.”
“I met this person on line with Match...he seemed great...had a job, business card, house and nice car...I never paid for anything...after a couple of weeks...there were things not adding up...I called his office...he has been out of a job for 4 day I checked my checking account and realized he had stolen my cc and paid his phone bill on line...He lied about everything!”
“She's rude, crude, selfish. Admittedly so. Just remember, she gives you fair warning in her profile, so if you get burned, you have no one to blame but yourself! Good luck!”

Why are online daters so sensitive to being misled? It's related to the medium. It's incredibly easy to open yourself up to a stranger in the initial get-to-know-you emails, which can lead to a heightened sense of emotional investment. And when the witty, charming, exciting person you thought you knew turns out to be someone quite different. Someone shorter, dumber, fatter and more married than initially thought, the sense of betrayal and embarrassment can be very acute.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Online outreach to gay cruisers

"Harm reduction" is a public health paradigm that acknowledges people will always undertake risky behaviors. The goal is mitigation of the consequences - helping people make safer and smarter decisions about risky things - rather than the complete eradication of the behaviors themselves.

It's the difference between handing out condoms while encouraging responsible sexual activities, and the Bush administration's enthusiasm for abstinence-only sex education. One approach is pragmatic, the other is unsuccessful.

A few interesting programs are being undertaken online to address the health and sexual practices of gay men. In New York City, outreach workers for the Positive Health Project, patrol sex sites like They're looking for men who engage in "party-n-play"; namely, the combination of crystal meth and sex as this has been linked to the spread of HIV and other STDs. By monitoring the sex sites and approaching those men who are open about their drug use, the outreach workers can try to discourage this dangerous activity and try to recruit the men for support groups.

Terry Evans, one of the outreach workers, is very diligent about his job. Every weekend he heads out to private sex parties where he strips down to his underwear to blend in with the crowd. That kind of commitment surely deserves a bonus!
Crystal Meth and Sex

If this approach seems a bit extreme, it's not. In San Francisco, during the summer of 1999, there was an outbreak of early syphilis among gay men who met their sex partners in an Internet chatroom. CDC Study Results

This outbreak presaged a broader epidemic which gave San Francisco, in 2002, the highest rates of primary and secondary syphilis in the country. Chatrooms and sex sites are means of both transmitting disease and of curtailing its spread.

San Francisco, given its large population of sexual minorities and its familiarity with technology, has innovated in the area of STD notification and testing. If you live in SF and discover that you have an STD, there's an anonymous service called inSPOT - Internet Notification Service for Partners or Tricks. If someone is shy or embarrassed about having an STD, the service will send their sex partner an anonymous email card.

The cards themselves are clever and graphic. One says "I got screwed while screwing, you might have too." Another says "You're too hot to be out of action. I got diagnosed with an STD since we played. You might want to get checked too." When filling out the card, users specify the STD they contracted, from crabs to gonorrhea, are given the chance to send it to as many as six different partners, and have the choice of sending it anonymously or not. And for those who receive a card, it links back to the inSPOT website where there is information on testing and treatment.

Of course, if it looks like online hook-ups are only making gay men ill, that's not the case. The Internet is attributed with a decline in the rate of HIV transmission. Gay men who are HIV positive are increasingly using dating sites which enable them to “sero-sort” – i.e., to identify and date only those who are similarly infected. By initiating contact online, these men are able to more easily and comfortably communicate their HIV status, and by limiting their sex partners to those men with the same HIV status, the likelihood of transmission is substantially diminished. In June 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the rate of new infections in San Francisco had been halved.
Drop in HIV Cases

What are your friends worth?

If you don't know how much your friends are worth, you're probably not a member of, a fascinatingly cynical site directed at the crowd.

Designed as an experiment by E. Jean Carroll, who brought us, the site tries to quantify and and monetize - for both its founder and its members - the looks and coolness of its members. It's a cross between social networking and portfolio management. Members create "packs" of 27 people (who must first agree to be a part of a given person's network). And based on the appeal of the pack they select, members can win prizes like iPods.

While this sounds innocent enough -- doesn't everyone want to win an iPod? The cynical part is that if a member of your "pack" isn't quite up to snuff, i.e., isn't as cool or as clever as the rest of the members, your total score will be lower. As a result, someone who wants to win a prize will want to trade up, exchanging lower ranking people for higher ranking people. It all makes me flash back to middle school, which in turn makes me want to puke.
Can't Buy Friends Like These, Boston Globe - Feb 21, 2006

Craigslist - more than just couches for sale

So you're on Craigslist, looking to buy a chair, when all of a sudden you realize what you really want to buy is some time with a prostitute. It couldn't be easier to browse the ads for hundreds of escorts in the erotic services section. Whether you want some furniture or a hooker -- BUYER BEWARE!

Cops in various cities have been using Craigslist to bust both prostitutes and Johns. The most recent case is in Nashua NH, when several men were arrested after replying to a fake ad, and where several women were arrested after offering male officers sexual acts for money.
Prostitution Busts from Craigslist

At least the Nashua detectives weren't arresting the prostitutes after they had performed sexual services. A police force in Spotsylvania VA got in trouble last week when it was revealed that detectives -- only single male detectives -- had spent $1,200 at massage parlors in an effort to crack down on illegal sexual services. Detectives visited the Moon Spa several times, and once left a $350 tip. The sheriff said all that contact and all that tipping was essential to gain a conviction. Uh, right. Maybe the county should deploy its undercover agents in a more productive and less titillating way.
Cops Go "Undercover" in Massage Parlor

Celebrity email indiscretions

If you're going to flirt or cavort with someone other than your spouse, be extra careful with your emails. Charlie Sheen learned he should double-check the "send to" box when writing his favorite hooker. What a shame it was Denise Richards who received the email. Oops!
Charlie Sheen doesn't know how to send email

Heather Locklear, on the other hand, discovered an email sent to her husband, Richie Sambora, that contained "provocative" pictures of a woman who used to work as Richie's personal assistant. Getting naughty emails is very different from sending naughty emails. However, Heather had previously declared the woman off-limits, so the photos -- even if they were unsolicited -- were enough to make her run to a lawyer's office. Though he's probably a little bit guilty (then again, aren't we all?), if Richie hadn't asked for the pictures or the email, it means he's gotten two unexpected deliveries. 1) The email. 2) The divorce filing. Richie gets raunchy email and Locklear files for divorce

Of course, these women are not unique. If cheating were suspected, Symantec found that 40% of women would check their partner's email, and 60% of women would check their partner's text messages.

Cons confuse me

For those who cannot handle genuine intimacy, a romance with a fellow (or lady) behind bars may be just the ticket. You wind up with a pen pal who can spend hours crafting the most touching and caring love notes. Maybe, you even get to marry the convict of your dreams and enjoy a brief conjugal visit at the prison. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, imagine what metal bars must do!

Since it used to be difficult for a lady to find the serial killer or rapist of her dreams, there are now online dating sites where these relationships can begin, like: Sadly, it's not just garden variety burglars on these sites. Recently, a Seattle woman discovered that the man who was in jail for raping her was advertising on that dating site looking for a woman to "cherish and spoil" with his love. What's a violated woman to do? Complain to the Department of Corrections and to the Internet company who posted his ad.

Ironically, most online daters are fearful of running in to felons. There's even a dating site - - that screens its prospective members against a database of U.S. felony and sexual offense convictions.

That these two sites can exist in the same country shows just how complicated people can be. Some people happen to love a dingy, shapeless, prison uniform, while others prefer clothes with personality and good tailoring. Then again, maybe it's all about the handcuffs.