Let me take you back to an October night six years ago. I’m sitting in a karaoke bar with several friends, a second can of hard cider on the wooden counter in front of me. It’s a cold evening. We’re not far from the front door and I have to zipper my sweatshirt and tug the hood over my head, because guys keep the door ajar when they leave the bar to smoke. It’s amazing, how much chill three inches can admit. But my little group is laughing, and daring each other to sing certain songs when our turns come, and having a silly good time.
My phone buzzes in my jeans pocket. I pull it out. Check the screen. It’s from Blogspot. When someone comments on my blog, the site sends an email with the automatically-posted content.
Frequent comments not an unusual occurrence, then; my blog is at the height of its popularity and notoriety. One mention on a single website brought me over twenty thousand new visits on a single day, not long before this night. The blog has brought me several opportunities I wouldn’t have had, otherwise. I’ve been asked to contribute to a book; I’ve had one of my essays solicited for a quarterly of literary erotica. Sure, I’ve had a couple of run-ins with hostile passers-by who want to lecture me about having either too much sex or about celebrating sensuality without apology, but I’m still feeling the first flush of my notoriety, such as it is.
I might’ve encountered a couple of bumps along my road, but no potholes. Not until that night.
The email from Blogspot is a cold, wet slap to the face. You fucking asshole I am going to track you down motherfucker how dare you how dare you how dare you oh you just know I am going to get my revenge you have seen nothing yet, sssssnake.
The frost in my veins isn’t from the open doorway. It’s my own blood, freezing me where I sit. What the actual fuck is going on?
In my hand, my phone vibrates once more. Another mail arrives in my box, also from Blogspot. I know all your sssssnake sssssecrets and soon the world is going to know them and won’t that be a pretty picture, you shouldn’t have opened this door but it’s all your fault all your fault and you can’t run or hide because I know where you ssssslither, it reads.
What’s happening on my phone, as I stare at the screen, unable to react or move, is like a scene from a bad techno-horror summer popcorn movie from the nineties starring Sandra Bullock as a programmer who has stumbled into a dangerous back alley of the internet on her Netscape browser and discovers Secrets She Shouldn’t Have Stumbled Upon. Email after email from Blogspot pops up on my screen at an accelerating pace, as if someone on the other end is pounding at the keys as fast they can and smashing the send button.
I can read the first lines in my mail program.
When your family finds out what a ssssslippery sssssnake you really are. . . .
I am going to find you and then you are going to pay. . . .
You are a missssserable sssssnake and I am going to. . . .
There’s nowhere you can hide from me because. . . .
Dimly, it occurs to me that every one of these horrible emails is at this moment visible as a comment on my blog.
Back in those innocent days, you see, I was so confident that the reception of my sexual adventures would be so uniformly positive and welcoming that of course I allowed my readers to post comments anonymously, without moderation. All someone had to do was to type in the box, hit the little button, and it would immediately appear.
This is the night that changed, if you haven’t yet figured it out.
My phone is fairly new by the standards of six years ago, but that night it seemed glacially slow as I use my smokin' hot 3G connection and a palm-sized browser to connect to Blogspot and manually delete the . . . holy fuck . . . fifteen threats! . . . from the same poison pen that have already been posted.
The problem is, however, that the guy is penning comments at a manic pace. I delete one, and two pop up in its place. I delete those only to find six more. They’re like poisonous little cyber Tribbles.
The poster catches on that I’m deleting comments, and soon he begins taunting me. Hahaha ssssssnake I can keep this up all night there is no ssssssilencing me, not after what you said about me. All your sssssssecrets are going to come tumbling out and you will be exposed and everyone will know what you really are, ssssssnake!
Not only is he now posting, but he’s doing so to multiple entries, all over the life of the blog, so that I have first to find the entry, let it load, and then delete it.
While I panic and stab at my little touchscreen with my thumbs, life is still going on around me. My friends are laughing and drinking, the karaoke is still blaring, people are trying to engage me in conversation. All I can do, however, is sit glued to my bar stool in a panic.
I know that there’s an option on Blogger to moderate comments—that is, to set it so that it won’t automatically post this guy’s unhinged stream of consciousness to the blog. The problem is, it takes me a while to find the right page . . . and then it takes my smokin’ hot 3G connection even longer to connect to the damned thing. Finally, though, I find the toggle deep in Blogspot’s recesses and flip it.
My phone keeps vibrating, but that I expect. Blogspot is still sending me every single email, which by now was in the forties or fifties. But at least the vicious taunts are no longer sullying my pages.
The phone is now buzzing so insistently that my friends ask if someone is trying to get in urgent touch with me. I laugh and make excuses while I expunge the last two dozen hateful remarks. Who could have such animus against me, so strongly and suddenly? Not after what you said about me, he’d said. So it wasn’t a random stranger. It had to be someone who knew my blog. Who in the world. . . ?
Then I know. I know beyond a doubt who has become unhinged. Welcome to your tape, Mr. BipolarCockSucker!
There used to be another blogger known as Mr. BipolarCockSucker. No, that wasn’t his actual name. It’ll do. Some of you might even remember him. Our blogs were both quite popular at roughly the same time. People still ask me about him today. Mr. BipolarCockSucker kept a very specialized sex blog that featured photos of men sucking dick in public. Each x-rated shot he’d accompany with a few paragraphs about his thoughts. Sometimes he’d speculate on when or where these men learned to suck; sometimes he’d get visceral about the sensations he himself experienced sucking dick, himself. Quite often he’d post video footage of him sucking—he had a busy XTube page at one time (though it seems to be gone now).
I liked Mr. BipolarCockSucker’s blog. He was a wry writer with a sly sense of humor. All of his posts were sexy. Clearly he knew what he was talking about, when it came to dick and public cruising. Mr. BipolarCockSucker obviously was an educated man who had a lot of sex and relished sharing his experiences. Like me, he was unapologetic about his favorite hobby.
I commented on his blog frequently; sharp-eyed readers can still find his comments littering my earlier entries. We had a good back-and-forth rapport. Or so I thought.
However, Mr. BipolarCockSucker had a pattern that, repeated a half-dozen times, eventually annoyed me. He’d carry on with his blog at a brisk pace, posting half a dozen entries per day. Then, eventually, he’d start to complain. Why were readers commenting only on the posts with photos, he’d wonder?
And why, when he’d write a straight essay, did they complain MOAR PIX? Why wasn’t he getting more comments? Enough comments? If he didn’t get more comments, he’d grouse, he’d take down the blog altogether—and just how would his readers like that?
His concerns were valid, I think. But instead of either rolling with the punches or being grateful to the readers (myself included) who continued to post comments, Mr. BipolarCockSucker would eventually fly into a huff, write an ultimatum, then delete his blog entirely. The whole thing would vanish overnight, without a trace.
Then, months later, Mr. BipolarCockSucker would start up a new blog with the same themes with a slightly different name at a different site, as if nothing had ever happened.
As I said, I suffered through Mr. BipolarCockSucker repeating this pattern five or six times. The first couple of disappearances, I was sympathetic. I knew what it was like to have readers who were obnoxiously demanding, posts that received no comments, and followers who would get aggressive and demand less wordsmithing, more fucking and how about some goddamned pics?
Around the third time, though, my reaction was more along the lines of, Sheesh, not again. Then I actively started rolling my eyes when his hissy fit and subsequent disappearing act would happen, as it inevitably would.
Someone can fill me in on the details if I’m wrong, here, but there was also a really weird incident in which Mr. BipolarCockSucker’s blog vanished, then started up again a couple of months later, per usual, only to disappear after a good run—and then Mr. BipolarCockSucker basically showed up in its place and said something like, “Sorry guys, I don’t know who that last Mr. BipolarCockSucker was, but he was a fake! It wasn’t me. I’m back now!”
And I was supposed to believe, somehow, that the faux Mr. BipolarCockSucker wrote exactly like the real Mr. BipolarCockSucker, provided the same kind of content as the real Mr. BipolarCockSucker, and was indistinguishable in all ways from Mr. BipolarCockSucker, but wasn’t really Mr. BipolarCockSucker?
I lost patience. I mentioned something in my blog about him.
I didn’t write, as I’m doing now, an entire Mr. BipolarCockSucker expose. I barely mentioned him, in fact. In the entry in question, I recall complaining more bluntly about another, different, much more vile blogger, who recently had written a post in which he was rude and derogatory about one of his fucks. The blogger had called the poor anonymous guy a ‘fatty’ and made it sound like the guy was a charity fuck—despite the fact that the blogger himself was pretty chubby and a quite frankly horrible person. I’m not body shaming either man here—I was pissed at the time, and still am, that the blogger in question would ever betray and violate someone he slept with by calling the bottom names behind his back, just so the top blogger could feel more studly than he really was.
My feeling is that sex bloggers are already in a oddly precarious relationship with their sex partners. They rely on them for material—so they should honor them by treating them with a respect they’ve earned . . . if they’ve earned it. Sex partners deserve respect, and so do readers, I said, even when they aren’t one and the same.
Then, in passing, that I remarked somewhat vaguely that I thought other bloggers did their readers a disservice when they’d complain about reader comments and then make the entirety of their posts inaccessible.
That was it. That last fleeting sentence was all I said about Mr. BipolarCockSucker. I didn’t call him out by name. I didn’t say I thought any less of his blog. But less than twenty-four hours before the barrage of hate mails commenced, I’d made an allusion to him, and it seemed mighty coincidental that now I was receiving anonymous hate mail about it.
(I knew the blogger I’d really gone off on wasn’t the perpetrator. I’d have said the same things to his face—and I have.)
That night I received over two-hundred emails from Blogspot, all of them Mr. BipolarCockSucker’s increasingly insane comments on my latest post. Long after I turned off my phone so that it would stop buzzing, they kept coming; he must not have slept at all that night because the time stamps on the emails started shortly after ten in the evening and they were still coming in at two, three, five, eight, ten o’clock in the morning.
Ssssssssssssssssssnake ssssssssssssssssss, many of them read. I was freaked out by the onslaught. At this point in my blogging career, I’d never encountered anything like it.
It wasn’t as if I actually thought Mr. BipolarCockSucker was going to leap out of a closet with a knife. For one thing, he’d have to detach himself from his keyboard to make the journey from Illinois, and that didn’t seem likely. But the fact that one offhand remark could send someone on a fucking crazy bender of hate mail boggled me. If this was my first exposure to the drawbacks of internet ‘fame,’ it felt like someone chained me to the explosives of a building scheduled for implosion, and pushed the plunger.
As if there were any doubt to the identity of the poison pen, the very next day Mr. BipolarCockSucker made a post in his blog that I was his public enemy number one and that his readers should let me know what they think of me by boycotting me and sending me hate mail.
Oh yes. Really. It was fan-fuckin-tastic, man.
Only one of his lackeys followed his orders, however—a loyal Mr. BipolarCockSucker lapdog who, every day for months (until I figured out how to block his IP address), would post a blog comment along the lines of dude ur blog is a shitty ripoff of Mr. BipolarCockSucker and u are really ugly too lol. At least the stylistic difference between the two made it easy to tell, in the coming months, which poison pen was which.
That’s right. Mr. BipolarCockSucker did not desist. Not for a while. The two-hundred- posts-per-twelve-hours frequency decreased, but only gradually; I’d say—conservatively—during the first week after the incident I received a little over a fifteen hundred hate mails from the guy via Blogpost—none of which appeared on the multiple pages to which he posted, but all of which I had to read as I sent them, one by one, to the reject bin.
Day after day I had to read this trash. After a month, the messages trailed off. I thought I was in the clear. Then three weeks later they started again, five or ten or twenty at a time, for a week, followed by silence for another three weeks. This vaguely lunar cycle endured for a good couple of years until at last he ceased completely.
Now, I didn’t give Mr. BipolarCockSucker his soubriquet for no reason. It was clear to me the entire time that he was actively sending me hate mail that the guy was living with bipolar disorder, or something very like. I have life experience coping with people living with the condition. I know its signs and expressions. The lifetime of his blog followed a general cycle of posting during the up phases and retreating and deleting during the down. With me, he’d go through manic periods in which I was his persecutor and betrayer and enemy number one who had to be warded off through massive amounts of sinister and increasingly incomprehensible hate mail about sssssnakes—and then he’d retreat once the high wore off. There were times that clearly his meds were working less efficiently than others, and then his irrational hatred and feelings of persecution would flare up out of control.
I feel now, and I reluctantly felt back then, a certain degree of sympathy for Mr. BipolarCockSucker and his medical condition. It didn’t really excuse what he was doing, but at least it helped me understand the compulsions behind the hate mail. Oh, that poor old sod is off his meds again is easier to think, than to lie awake at night and wonder why, why someone out there would have an vendetta against me.
Honestly, though, the realization didn’t make receiving all those hundreds and hundreds of hate mails from both Mr. BipolarCockSucker and his one loyal puppy dog any easier. To a festering wound, it was the mildest of balms.
I’ve said before that I’ve been writing these entries all out of order. Chronologically, this essay perhaps should have been the first. Before Mr. BipolarCockSucker, writing in my sex blog had been sheer enjoyment. Sure, I ran into the occasional person determined to put me down—but I’d never encountered anyone so off-balance that I worried for my safety.
From Mr. BipolarCockSucker I learned that one offhand remark could result in years of undeserved harassment—and that if I wanted to avoid a repeat, all I had to do over the blog’s lifetime was to guess which one phrase out of the hundreds of thousands I crafted might be incendiary, and not write it. Thanks to Mr. BipolarCockSucker, quite early on in my blogging career I found myself overthinking every word I set down: judging it for possible offense, weighing its implications for my future peace and sanity. Instead of writing and expressing myself, he taught me that it was safer to keep my damned opinions to myself.
There have been times, looking back, when I think to myself that a wise man would simply have shut down his blog right then and there. Of expunging it, so it couldn’t be used against himself . . . as mine would, time and time again.
If I’d followed the wise man’s route, I’d have been guilty of disappointing my readers—the very thing I’d suggested that Mr. BipolarCockSucker did every time he closed and relocated. But I might have avoided every single disappointment yet to come.
But, I try to console myself, I would’ve avoided a lot of joy, too. The joys of meeting new people. The joys of self discovery through sex, and through writing. The joys of accomplishment.
None of those are inconsiderate happinesses.
Sometimes, in my darker hours, I wonder, though, if I might have found other ways to be happy. Because as much as I dread it, starting next week I’ll be writing about my darkest hours yet.
During my hiatus, I’ve received from readers a lot of very sweet emails wishing me well. Most of them have recognized the amount of work I’ve poured into my blog and have expressed their thanks. I’m so grateful for those sentiments.
Many people who’ve written, however, have made the assumption that the reason I have decided to take a break is because of the so-called haters—that is, the men who leave nasty comments on my blog, and those who go out of their way to make sure I understand how contemptible I am to them.
I’ve had plenty of haters over the years. They wear me down, yes. But more than anyone, the men who have sucked the joy out of my writing (and to a certain extent, my life) are those who meant well. They’re men who claimed to admire me, who wanted to meet me—and many of them did—and who then, whether out of clumsiness or fear or whatever, failed to recognize they’d gone too far. A man can only withstand so many successive blows to the ego (even an ego as Jericho-sturdy as mine) before it begins to tumble.
What’s more, every single one of these men read my blog. They’re men who subscribed to my point of view, who enjoyed my writing. Or read my writing, at least. Some of them wanted to be written about. Others never intended me to know they were blog fans.
Maybe one of these men is you.
If it is you? Although there’s a small and petty part of me that wants to flip a finger in your direction, I’m not going to. I’m moving on as I write this series. A friend of mine shared with me something his grandmother used to say that I truly believe: People do the best they can. If they could do better, they would.
My advice, if you think you recognize yourself . . . or even if you don’t: do better.
All of us could stand to do better.