Beating the odds on Chatroulette

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February 12, 2010

12:05 AM

_Warning: The content of The Flat Hat’s Daily Grind blog contains adult themes and explicit language. Please contact the editor-in-chief if you have questions or concerns._

So there’s this website called Chatroulette my roommate heard about a few weeks ago. It’s a pretty simple concept: you turn on your webcam and the site pairs you with another user. You stare at each other, wave back and forth, and type messages until one of you gets bored and clicks the “next” button. It seemed harmless at first glance, but after I spent more time on the site I realized I’d fallen down the rabbit hole with this one. This site and the people who use it imply a lot about how computers have become inextricable from many of our sex lives. Maybe you all can help me piece together just what the heck’s going on here.

Even as I write this I can’t believe my roommate and I spent as much as an hour on this site. The initial gee whiz factor is addicting, sure, and the rapid-fire “next” option means you never have to linger too long on some weirdo smoking a cigar through a ski mask (yup, we saw this). But the ick factor comes when you remember that whoever’s on the other side of the screen can “next” you too. He or she is judging you as hard as you’re judging them, and if you don’t measure up, you’re gone. Add that to the fact that loads of guys are using (or trying to use) this site for straight-up sexual stimulation — and if you don’t measure up _there_, you’re gone just as fast — and Chatroulette is just the game minus a gun.

Here’s the thing: Chatroulette has the potential for uniting vastly different people through the internet in a pretty novel way. It’s an interesting concept in general, it’s fun to use and it’s safe and anonymous. But let’s keep it real; most of the users on this site are guys or groups of guys looking for girls who’ll take their tops off.

(Side note: these guys usually bust into a fit of incredulous giggles when I tell them that, despite my long hair, I’m actually a dude. Sorry, boys. No tits for you! Another side note: my friend Alex managed to hold an hour long conversation about indie music with a group of wine-sipping British kids he stumbled upon, but let me tell you that was certainly an anomaly.)

So yeah, there are plenty of bros trying to get you to flash them a li’l something-something, but other users have taken a different route. Instead of “nexting” you if you’re a guy/brazenly asking for a boob show if you appear to be a woman, some guys will show you their Mars bars without you even having to ask. Plenty of “nexts” bring close-up videos of some faceless male playing with his Pennsylvania, and invariably he’ll type “u like what u c?” And most of the time, no, I don’t.

So what do you think? Have you used this site? Is it yet another sign of the times, an unavoidable indicator that computers equal sex for so many of us? Should I just quit my bellyaching and embrace the notion that I can beep-boop-beep my way to sex whenever I want? And, perhaps most importantly, is it wrong to stuff your shirt with socks and camouflage your adam’s apple so that straight guys will flirt with you on Chatroulette?

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