Sure, the Internet has made shopping for sex easier than ever. But that doesn’t mean that all’s well on the Web. Recalls one often-horny fellow, “I met this guy online who seemed really, really sweet, and I invited him to my place. It was only after he left that I discovered he’d stolen a bunch of my prescription drugs. The only way I had to contact him was by e-mail, and—no surprise—the jerk never answered my mail.”
To be sure, treacherous tricks have always been around. But the advent of online cruising has made it easier to get away with all sorts of stuff. It may not be a matter of theft; misrepresentation’s a far more common complaint. Another Casanova of the computer keyboard gripes, “If you meet someone in a bar, you know what he looks like. Even on phone sex lines, the sound of a man’s voice gives you some clue—no matter how partial—as to what he’s like. But online, you have no idea whether the photo some guy sends is 10 years old…or even of someone else.”
Then, too, the there’s the matter of bed-related bull. “I met this man through an online personal,” recalls our Casanova, “and he was perfect, not least because he said I was perfect, too. When he left the next morning, the last thing he said was, ‘When can I see you again?’ But then Mr. Wonderful didn’t respond to my e-mails, not one of them. He told me where he—supposedly—works, but I’m not going to phone him there and seem desperate. The whole thing left me somewhere between puzzled and peeved.”
The invisibility of virtual cruisers, and the ease of simply disappearing into cyberspace, has made such game-playing rife. No, it’s not cynical to assume that the proffered 9-incher will be no more than six when it shows up, or that an “experienced bondage bottom” has never worn handcuffs in his life. Even more often, an extended e-mail romance simply goes up in smoke without the trace of an eventual flesh-and-blood trick. Though a definite date may get made, a no-show can simply blow you off without fear of reprisal.
It’s not just a matter of romantic screw-ups, though; the dangers can be truly dire. Recalls a man in his early 40s, “I like to play with younger guys, so I put up an ad looking for partners from 18 to 30. I got back a response from a 19-year-old who told me what a hot Daddy I was, and I responded in kind. We made a tentative date, but then he confessed in an e-mail that he was only 16, and did I still want to see him? Well, I said absolutely not, only to get this really nasty note back telling me I was nothing but a sick child molester and I should seek professional help. Can you imagine if I’d fallen for the trap and said yes? I might be in jail right now.”
If you venture into the wilds of the online-cruising jungle, there are things that can help keep you safe. Be clear upfront about who you are, what you’re looking for, and what you will and will not do. Don’t discuss drugs or illegal sex. Insist on finalizing a face-to-face by phone. And when a connection seems really dubious, don’t hesitate to insist on meeting first on neutral ground—though many impatient Internet sluts may balk at doing so. If you’re heading over to a self-styled bondage master’s dungeon, leave the address with a friend. And if you’re inviting a kinky stranger over to your house, don’t leave your good jewelry lying around.
Above all, if that special online someone turns out to be not-so-special in the flesh, you’re allowed to politely but firmly tell him you don’t think it’s going to work. No matter what you may have said in a chat room, you’re not obligated to give head to guys who give you the creeps.
Remember that the adage “too good to be true” has some basis in fact, as does “easy come, easy go.” Our Casanova complains, “The ‘Net has made it all too easy to lie, and I’ve been let down a lot. Just a couple of months ago, I drove a half hour to some dude’s house, only to discover there was no such address. Unfortunately, being horny sometimes makes me stupid. But hey, there’s always the next time.”
Simon Sheppard is the editor of Homosex: Sixty Years of Gay Erotica, and the author of Sex Parties 101, Kinkorama, and In Deep: Erotic Stories, and can be reached at [email protected]. Visit Simon at www.simonsheppard.com.