O what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive! - Sir Walter Scott
Some of my readers may be familiar with The Real Princess Diaries, the blog of a supposed escort and sex educator named “Alexa di Carlo”. The blog was very popular (over 2 million visitors in its lifetime) but also quite controversial due to the fact that many of “Alexa’s” posts were…well, creepy. “She” advocated unsafe sex practices, said a lot of things which revealed an astonishing ignorance of our world and attacked and tried to discredit sex and/or prostitutes’ rights activists. The reason for all these things is that she was, as many of us suspected all along, a dude pretending to be a woman. On October 22nd a blog called Expose a Bro revealed that “Alexa”, an escort hobbyist named “Matt” and a precocious teenage girl named “Caitlain” were all aliases of a civil-service computer programmer named Thomas Bohannan who played his various online personas off of one another in order to excite himself, manipulate escorts and solicit nude pictures from teenagers. I cannot possibly tell the story as well as you can read it directly from the source, nor could any commentary I might make on the downfall of “Alexa” be remotely as brilliant and dead-on as that written by Furry Girl in her blog of last Wednesday (November 10th).
But the whole tawdry affair got me thinking about the larger issue of why so many men like to get up in what I call “cyberdrag”. Obviously, as I discussed in my column of September 20th there are plenty of men in real life who like to dress in drag for one reason or another, but on the internet it practically constitutes an epidemic. Since I cannot believe that every guy who pretends to be a woman in chat rooms is a transsexual, a transvestite or even a closet homosexual, something else must be going on…but what the hell is it? I suspect the major reason is attention; women get more attention than men, so an easy way for a lonely geek to stand out in a crowded chat room would be to present himself as female. The fact that he’s not homosexual might be immaterial for the same reason trolls delight in sowing discord in order to provoke angry replies: to the immature psyche all attention is good attention. Just as the troll values insults equally with compliments, so the heterosexual gender-bender might value male attention equally with female. And just as the troll may find a sense of power in being able to manipulate others’ emotions, so too perhaps the gender-bender relishes the power an attractive woman has over men. This theory is supported by the fact that female personas adopted by males are always claimed to be sexy and young; I daresay no chat-room gender-bender ever pretended to be a fat old grandmother!
Another possibility is plain male horniness; if a heterosexual man wants to create an interactive pornographic story with someone else to wank himself to, the game will require one participant of each gender. And since vastly more men than women are interested in “cybersex”, the chances are highly in favor of any willing parties he meets being male; he therefore needs to create a female character in order to get a two-way interaction going. If this theory is correct such a man isn’t really identifying with his adopted female persona; he’s just writing words for her character to create a porn story. Some other practitioners of “cyberdrag” are certainly homosexual or gender-confused; still others may be cops or reaction-forming perverts pretending to be young girls in order to entrap men in sexual conversations. It puts me in mind of a signature line I once saw: “The internet: Where men are boys, women are men and children are cops.” And also, this video.
So, which of these, if any, was Bohannan’s motivation? It appears to have been mostly about attention, power and sexual gratification; his “Alexa” persona gained him plenty of attention from fans and allowed him to function as a sort of uber-troll messing with people’s reputations offline as well as on, and his pose as an “expert” perhaps gave him the respect he could not command in his dead-end job. Also, as “Alexa” he could forge his own escort referrals to “her” favorite client, “Matt”, who was a fan of the sort of misogynistic porn activities I discussed in my column of October 28th. In the final analysis, though, I have to agree with the writer of Expose a Bro: The man was a sociopath and needed to be “outed” in order to protect people from his malevolent manipulation.
I’m going to cut the column short today to give you more time to read Expose a Bro and Furry Girl’s Feminisn’t, but I want to leave you with one more thought: Please notice how this genuine predator was exposed. It wasn’t by an expensive multi-state FBI operation arresting hundreds of women who were just trying to make a living and feed their kids, nor by sleazy cops pretending to be hookers and/or clients, nor by neofeminists or trafficking activists working to “rescue” people, nor by crusading journalists courageously fighting “for the children”. He was found out by a number of perceptive members of the sex worker community, working to remove dangerous vermin from our midst. Similarly, a group of prostitutes in Dayton, Ohio recently helped to catch a serial rapist (paraphrased from Brandy Devereaux’s TCAA site):
A tip from an outraged prostitute led to Friday’s arrest of a suspected serial rapist, one of whose alleged victims was a 15-year-old girl snatched off the street on her way home from school. “We received a call from a ‘lady of the night’ who was appalled that the girl had been raped,” Sgt. Tom Flanders said following the arrest of Billy Balidbid, 26, of Fairborn. “She said she’d seen the sketch of the suspect and said he had contact with him…She got the ball rolling.” That led detectives to other prostitutes who said they had been beaten and raped by the suspect. Though police did not have a name, they had enough information on the suspect’s behaviors and patterns to set up a sting. Friday morning before dawn, when Balidbid pulled up to an officer disguised as a prostitute, detectives swooped in for the arrest…from the information that Balidbid gave detectives, they have connected him to at least five other rapes dating back to early this summer.
What the prohibitionists refuse to recognize is that if we were allowed to, we could do this ALL THE TIME. If prostitution were decriminalized we could report those who rape us, attempt to manipulate us or give our honorable profession a bad name by exploiting young girls. If you really want to fight “human trafficking”, lobby for decriminalization so we can work with the police and root out the predators where they live.