December 19, 2024

Any bedroom

I've been speaking about concepts such as amateur porn, seduction, and coercion in purely abstract terms, which is a luxury. Its a luxury to create a vacuum for yourself to speak into. Its cleansed of effects and no one can hear you outside the glass.

An article in the New York Times today reminds me of this--Through His Webcam, a Boy Joins a Sordid Online World. It's about a kid named Justin who spent his teen years operating his own online webcam which attracted a cadre of creepy men who paid him "hundreds of thousands of dollars" over the years to pimp out his own body over the web. The story the article tells in and of itself is creepy, but the whole package--accompanying videos, sidebar story on how the male journalist took on this kid as his mantle, befriending him, detoxing him, and turning him into a Federal witness--is creepy and voyeuristic and sensational as well. The article has flaws beyond its packaging--how does this change our notions of victims and predators, for example? But in the end its about a kid who is probably pretty fucked up.

I speak about the technologies of the web and the erotics they produce as though they're interesting and liberating...but obviously that's not always the case. It may even be the case only rarely. Coercion adapts to wires and chatrooms and webcam images. Power flows both ways and few come out clean. The kid is both CEO of his own porn conglomerate and its exploited victim, addicted to coke and afraid for his life. The story is sad, the story of the story is sad. It complicates the simple binaries we rely upon--victim vs. predator. It indicts twenty-first century culture...what else are webcams used for? what does it mean when a kid can start up his own internet company at age 13? how does capitalism and its attendant desires manipulate identity and destiny?

Anyway, I just want to say that I'm not an appologist. To say that a phenomenon is "interesting" requires a distance, and that's a luxury. Sometimes it pays to take a few steps closer until you find you can't just call it "interesting" anymore.

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Posted by jason at December 19, 2024 11:59 PM

The New York Times article is more Geraldo than Times, at least pre-Jayson Blair/Judith Miller Times. Buried in the story is an interesting piece of information, that the Times reporters assisted Justin in contacting the feds. In other words, the Times created the story and now is reporting on what they created. Pure tabloid.

The Times has also massaged the story significantly. They've fit it into the hoariest of melodramatic formulas. To do that, among other things, they have finessed the complicity of Justin's parents in his prostitution--his father evidently overtly, his mother less directly but just as surely. (What mother lets her teenage son go off to "camp" in a different state without checking on anything about it?)

The Times put a lot of resources into this story, so of course there's going to be a story. The Times, like the Bush administration, is in need of a crusade to divert attention from other things, and this is made to order. Stay attuned.

Posted by: glen at December 19, 2024 01:22 PM

what does it mean to say something along the lines of, "this kid was ruthlessly, adamantly engaged in his own coercion"?

Posted by: jason at December 20, 2024 11:49 AM
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