Gay love & sex on AOL
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I'd turned to the web as a way to meet guys. Someone for an enduring relationship would be ideal. Someone I'd like to see more than once would be sufficient. It was a long time before I thought of AOL.
As popular as it was with mom, dad 'n' sis most people with a slight touch of geek who'd used a PC before Windows 3.1 introduced used bookshop to the masses thought AOL the haven of the clueless.
Time-Warner finally brought cable modems to Durham. . When I got mine I decided to invest $9.95 a month in the Great Satan of online services.
My first screen name was the one I used everywhere: RichardEvansLee went online on AOL. Since I had six screen names it seemed unthrifty to not use them all. Restless I'd kill one and dream up a replacement.
Discovering how many gay men on AOL cited their straightacting.com rating (mine was 0 - you can only get that by never visiting the site) I created DurhamQueerFag. At the time the name seemed to make a point, exactly what point I'd be hard pressed to say. Very few people IM'd DurhamQueerFag.
FemGuyFanNC got nasty IM's from bears and other sissyphobes. (Just like I'm getting on weblog as I type.) Softboys emailed and IM'd me if only to thank me for merely being there. Really sharpened my awareness that the commonplace nellyboys of the 70s had become pariahs. The guys were always too far away (maybe I should've learned to drive) or too young (as tempting your sixteen year old - if you aren't really forty-seven - flesh may be, sweetheart, I've been to jail and didn't like it)..
DurhamKinkTop migrated over from Yahoo! and gay.com. Many people were interested in him. Creepy people. (His obverse came along as well but even Charles doesn't know that one.)
One of my favorites, AtheistHatesTV never got a response. I did see a "wha- the fuck" or two in the chatroom.
IlikeFrailGuys met and settled down with a frail guy. But I'm getting ahead of my story.
I'd wander through the NCM4M chatrooms. I'd sign in and out so I could change screen name. Many people bitched that most people never chatted in the chatrooms. Many of us weren't there to exchange banalities. I was in the chatroom to draw attention to my AOL profile. (The overlap among men on AOL and gay.com chatrooms at any given moment is high.)
I ventured into a few other chatrooms but always left quickly. Finding a transgendered chatroom I couldn't decide if the 'girls' were hookers or just fucked up. The tg admirers were as disturbing as is usual with their wont. (Who came up with 'admirers' anyway? Who was it applied to first, BBWs? I don't admire any class of people except the class of admirable people.)
My notions about AOL were wrong. Simple size of membership whether from ease of use or sticking CDs in almost every magazine in the US meant that all sorts of worthwhile gay guys were on AOL.
Not that the clueless didn't abound.
"a/s/l" hadn't flashed up on Yahoo but was a regular IM on AOL. Go look at my profile was my only response. They never came back. Ever curious I'd look at some of their profiles. Typically claimed to be seventeen years old and living in Arizona.
As I've said I was regularly bawled out for liking feminine men. This was when my annoyance with sissyphobia hardened and probably later found expression in many Live Journal entries.
There's no escaping from the dreaded married men, an army of hungry penises stalking the Internet. One fellow emailed me repeatedly demanding that I take him as lover. I guess I should've been grateful his profile admitted that he was married even if it said nothing else.
Some guys would refuse to look at my profile. That never made any sense. Surely the name RichardinDurhamNC had no magic charm.
There were the gay guys who'd email me a photo of themselves naked, bent over so I could see their ass. As irresistible as a smooth butt is, I don't think they really understood what I was looking for.
I'd get lots of offers from submissive guys. Sad how a liking for feminine men gets interpreted as a hunger for submissive boys (not that there's ever been anything unappealing about the last). One of the regular male prostitutes offered to let me slap him about for free. Honestly, I was tempted but his IM came right before I was going to bed and I was too tired to slap anything.
Disgustingly IlikeFemGuysNC got messages from 'fem boy admirers' who wanted to know if I didn't agree how great it was to have a guy in panties. Having never had a panty fetish regardless of the gender all I did was shiver.
Has been obvious or not? Online I try to treat feminine gay guys with respect and maintain a small amount of psychic distance. The latter may be almost too strong, perhaps reserve instead of distance. I don't want to reduce anyone I've talked with over the web as an object, mostly strongly not as a fetish. On and off I've found many a guys' web persona erotically beguiling (even if there was a photo that wasn't objectively appealing). Few people seem to understand that an online personality can have sexual charisma even if there is no image to attach to it. Anyway, my point is that discomforting admirer species make me as though I forever need to be circumspect less I reduce someone I like to a device for assuaging an appetite.
But I did get a fair number of IM's from guys who did look at one of my AOL profiles. Each profile was tailored to each screen name. Not that I tried to deceive anyone: each profile had my real name and location. Given the limitations of AOL's profiles (expanded since I think) you could only reveal so much of yourself. The profiles mostly differed in detail and shifts of emphasis. (Although you can think of this the next time you listen to the Pet Shop Boy's Young Pretender).
After a time I figured out how to cram the most possible words in an AOL profile. Each profile linked to an AOL Hometown webpage that amplified the theme of the profile and pointed to my website and Live Journal.
All that bother may sound like a chore but I had a good time contriving the profiles and web pages. Once my self-presentations were finished it all took up little time.
By this time I'd left personal ads and profiles on I'll never know how many websites. If all the blog communities had existed back then I'd've replicated my Live Journal across all of them. It was simulcast on DiaryLand (richardlee) and Blogger (Pansexual Guy in Durham, NC). I even used cruisingforsex.com. (Was amused to read a survey a mall bathroom I sometimes stopped at for a piss.)
It did bring my obsessive streak to the fore. Discover jazz singing, like ice cream, riding a bike, obscure belles lettres. Once you start why stop.
Keeping up with all the ads, profiles, personals would've been impossible (at least for someone as idle and slothful as myself) so I didn't try. I'd put a CD on, open a book and entertain myself, breaking for the occasional email or IM. Which often meant no often more than hitting Del or Alt-F5.
It was thorough enough for a sociologist's paper but much too fun for anything as dreary as the social sciences.
Paragraphs back I said that some surprisingly worthy gay men were to be found on AOL.
Seemingly ineluctably many of them lived in other states. Probably found me by searching profile keywords. One fellow, scenery designer for operas, was going to come to see my but by the time he was able to I'd found Charles. Never heard from him again.
Some guys would compliment me on the individuality of my AOL profile. One actually lived in Durham. Like me he used his real name and photo so I was able to find him on Google. He was a fine artist and commercial book illustrator with plenty of gallery shows and awards. When he invited me to drop by his house I screwed things up when I said that I didn't meet strangers for sex nowadays. He wasn't looking for sex, just thought I seemed distinctive. My attempt at repairing things didn't get him to repeat the invitation. Funnily enough I'd been riding by his house on the way to work and continued to after our exchange. I hoped to catch him outdoors but never did.
Many of the nice guys I communicated with when single and looking on the web were professional artists, writers, musicians. Not a big surprise. I've had, often fruitlessly, an affinity with the aesthetically inclined gay guy.
Dale, 26, was a cook. He liked to dress up in girl's clothes and be held (before what he called the 'horizontal boogie' a phrase that works well enough for me). Touching and tenderness were important to Dale. I was enchanted. The day we'd arranged to meet he had a minor personal disaster and couldn't come. Later when he was able to come I'd met Charles and told him that I couldn't. Angrily he dismissed me as a "typical AOL asshole."
FemGuyFanNC attracted too many off-putting 'admirers' and I dropped it for IlikeFrailGuys. The latter received an IM from a guy in Raleigh. He sent me his telephone number. I called and young fellow with a quintessentially Southern nelly voice answered. It had been so many years, my friends, since I'd heard that beautiful, wonderful sound. I think I said it made me want to turn cartwheels.
He visited a few times. I was tickled to do whatever he wanted. Then I went to spend a week with him in Raleigh. We blew far too much eating at nice restaurants. His weak wrists were too strong for me. Applying cajolery and wheedling he came to live with me.
No surprise that his name was Charles. The verdict on our relationship is still out. It has been an interesting if expensive adventure.