Thursday, November 02, 2006

ICQ Gender Wars

For many years I have spent most of my working days alone at a computer. Alone, but thanks to the internet and messaging software, not lonely. As mentioned here before in connection with the story of Lennart, International Casanova, it's good to have a chat now and then with other solitary souls over ICQ. They become your workmates even though they may be located on the other side of the planet in meatspace terms, to use a quaint 80s cyberpunk expression.

The spidery network of ICQ contacts can also teach you a lot about gender politics. In recent years, I have increasingly been contacted over ICQ by nubile females in Eastern Europe and Asia. These chats are usually very short and follow a simple pattern. The lady in question asks me in shaky English whether I am married, if I have children and what sort of job I have. And when I reply "yes", "yes" and "not a well-paid one", the conversation ceases. With all due respect to these enterprising and fearless ladies, this did get boring really quickly. But the problem mostly disappeared when I entered into my ICQ profile that I am in fact married and have kids.

For the past week I've been alone at home a lot and so have had reason to say "Hey there, how ya doing?" to a lot of random strangers on ICQ. Most people don't reply at all to that sort of message. But among those who did, I quickly noticed another interesting pattern.

Far more males than females replied, and a lot of these males apparently hoped that I might want to have sex with them. This did not seem to be contingent on my income or family configuration, which I find kind of heartwarming in comparison to those grimly goal-orientated Eastern would-be brides. But as soon as it became apparent that I wasn't interested in penis-themed conversation, these chats also ceased.

As for the ladies, the problem was really the opposite. Those few who responded were willing to have a chat, but at the same time they were clearly very guarded. Some started out by telling me, out of the blue, that they were not interested in sex talk or sex pics. This is not how live face-to-face chats with strangers usually begin. "Errrr", responded I, "do you think we might perhaps simply have a civilised conversation?".

Cyber sex is the text-messaging equivalent of phone sex. It's a lot like having to read a very bad pornographic story line by line as it is improvised by someone who's had sex but has never written a story before. It's time-consuming, boring and in my opinion absolutely pointless. The internet is full of porn, a lot of it written and a lot of it written really well. But still, it seems that women on ICQ are absolutely besieged by men who want to have cyber sex and preferably also web cam pics of their anatomy. For women, ICQ seems to be a bit like going to a cocktail party where half of the male guests are insane sex offenders.

So I've made another addition to my ICQ profile. It now reads:
Archaeologist & all-round friendly guy.

Married, two kids. I don't do cyber sex and I don't want to see pics of your boobs or private parts, OK?
Let's see if it works.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, it all really boils down to the fact that in Homo sapiens like most bisexual species males and females follow rather different sexual strategies. Males go in for quantity, after all the more females they impregnate the more successful they are in an evolutionary sense. Females are, as you say, more goal-oriented. After all an egg can only be fertilized once, so they have every reason to be choosy. This is of course particularly true in species where the male helps in bringing up the young as is (usually) the case in humans.
The males you have been in contact with are fortunate in the sense that they do not have to mess around with picky and otherwise difficult females for sex, so of course they will tend to go straight for it.

04 November, 2006 20:34  
Blogger Martin said...

That may very well be true, but I think you're kind of missing my point. Why does the anonymity of ICQ make people focus so tightly on sex, reverting to basic evolutionary strategies? ICQ is, as I said, after all a lot like a cocktail party, where friendly and civilised behaviour might be expected.

I made a very good friend one day when this unknown guy called me up on ICQ and wanted to talk about Lovecraft, gaming and psychedelic rock. He'd found my number on my web site where I discuss those things. And though we sometimes talk about the joys and woes of female company, genitals have never been a theme of our conversation.

Wouldn't it be great if that were the typical IM acquaintance? If everyone you said "hi" to responded and expected to chat in a friendly and civilised way?

05 November, 2006 09:34  

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