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Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Doing my part to irritate Republicans, fundamentalists, bigots and other lower life forms.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Ongoing Saga of Trials of My Online Gay Life Part 1: "To C2C or Not to C2C"

For the uninitiated, "c2c" (or "cam2cam") is chatroom jargon for chatting with someone on the internet with a web camera linked to a similar camera at the other end. Both parties can "talk" to each other via the keyboard (or by microphones connected to speakers for those who want to keep their hands free) while they watch each other on camera.

Picture one of those business teleconferences in which a group of executives gather round a conference table in, for instance, New York, while they talk with their counterparts in Hong Kong about scheduled delivery of widgets.

Oh! But since this is about gay life online, take away the fancy offices, the discussion of widgets and the business suits. In fact, take away any clothes, for that matter.

I doesn't seem to matter what technology you can name; sooner or later mankind will learn how to kill with it or how to use it in the pursuit of sexual gratification. There's a direct line between Alexander Graham Bell uttering "Watson! Come here! I need you!" into the rudimentary mouthpiece of his invention and the sweaty, anonymous voice that rasps, "Hey, baby ... I got the phone in my left hand ... if you can guess what's in my right hand I'll give you a piece of the action." (Some poor pervert had the misfortune to use that line on a big ol' dyke friend of mine once. She responded with, "Listen, schmuck ... if it only takes one hand to hold it, I'm not interested," and slammed the phone down. I can imagine the unnamed object in the perv's right hand rapidly withering after that!)

But back to the subject (ahem!) at hand: web cams. Sure, it was a great idea for businesses to save on all those plane tickets back and forth to Hong Kong. But as the technology became more common and the price dropped, soon the average computer user found he could engage in face-to-face chats with guys on the other side of the globe. Except that the idea of "face-to-face" is probably about three feet too high for the body parts digitally bouncing around cyber space.

One of my favorite gay chatrooms recently added a feature the allowed web cam users to "broadcast" their cams in the chatroom. Now, instead of the rather sedate chat punctuated by the occasional "lonely guy in Fresno looking for real time action with hot top" postings, we have guys typing things like "you gonna show for us, hotstud4daddy?" and "stroke it, SanFranCuteGuy!" I hate to get nostalgic over something that was only two weeks ago, but I miss the old "pvts" (or private messages) I'd get requesting my stats or inquiring if I was a top or bottom. Now I'm more likely to get a message from some guy in Kuala Lumpur or Vladivostok who can barely speak English but knows what "c2c?" means.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I do own a web cam. And in even fuller disclosure, I should confess that when I first got my cam last year it was exciting (in a naughty sort of way) to clumsily type one-handed messages back and forth to some distant guy while the web cam broadcast its own version of an extremely low budget porn movie. That excitement lasted about a week and a half. Coincidently, that's exactly how long it took me to learn the following three things:
  • Despite the technology, "c2c" is the same basic activity lonely guys have engaged in since the dawn of time;
  • I absolutely hate guys who think they are web cam versions of Steven Spielberg and type instructions like "give me a close up," "move the cam to the right," and "focus!" while I'm trying to ... well, focus on my own performance, and;
  • When you come to the realization that a well-aimed gob of spit provides a good excuse to turn off your cam and go back to playing computer solitaire (just as a well-timed moan and heavy breathing did for c2c's predecessor - phone sex), it means you're pretty damned bored with the whole experience.

Call me jaded, but I am so over the whole web cam thing.

Maybe not the whole cam thing. I've discovered something I like to do even more with the cam: have actual face-to-face chats with people. There's something a little more deeply rewarding about watching someone react to a joke or a description of your day than there is in watching a stranger react by even more frantically waving his weenie around to descriptions of things you would do in bed with him that would require being double-jointed and being trained as a professional acrobat (despite being neither double-jointed or having received any acrobatic training) if you only weren't on the other side of the country.

Now whenever I get on of those "c2c?" messages, my response is a quick "sorry, no." About the only time my web cam gets turned on these days is when I talk with a very special Finnish guy (and who I think I be mentioned here more frequently in weeks and months to come). There's something about watching his lips part into a broad smile as he reads something funny in a message I've sent him that's erotic in a very special way. And there's something about watching his eyes sparkle when I come up with yet another way of letting him know how special he is that makes the moment worth so much more than an entire chatroom full of waving weenies.