I can’t write as much as I used to or as pathetically as I used to, mainly because my name gets attached to odd things at higher levels than a blog, and then my “professional credibility” dips, dips, dips.
I was discussing this with Bina, a comp lit PhD from Berkeley. Her dissertation is all wrapped up and now she’s looking for work in New York City. She’s having a devil of a time with Google: at the height of Suicide Girls she also dreamed of being a suicide girl, so now there’s all these potato-quality images of her out there in defunct MySpace-like caverns for curious students/employers to find, if they cared to go spelunking. These are pictures of her in various states of undress, theatrically unhappy, posed ostentatiously alongside butchering knives. She had some real and some fake tattoos, vaudevillian and filigreed (Tim Burton-esque?), and kohl eyes; the aesthetic was mutable and porous; some girls wrote poems on their bodies with needles and India ink (she did not); rainbow colors came and went and came again. This was way before the subculture was an “adult lifestyle” brand and more a community of teenagers with lip piercings—probably when community members were still confused with “anime chicks.” My guess is in 2004?
I never understood it—I’m not going to do justice to it now—and when I asked the former-suicide girl what attracted her to the scene, she hesitated before saying, “They were fearless and unashamed to feel, and they wore that … No, everything I say about that time will be lame. I was pretty lame back then. I own it—I love it—but that was more than a decade ago, and I want it scrubbed from public access.”
I made a comparison to how dudes will feel about their posts in subreddits like Lady Boners Gone Wild or Guys with iPhones—the spornosexuals are a class-bound subculture (sure) seeking erotic expression (sure)—and why not in a decade they’ll have aged out of posting dick pics online and will really wonder why masturbation went so communal and so needful?
Bina thought for a moment. “That’s kind of a phallocentric way of looking at the relationship between the body and the body’s self-presentation,” she said, while I nodded, “but probably the same fascination and regret will play out. It’s just—being a suicide girl wasn’t about an orgasm, or sexual objectification, or sex fantasy for me. It really wasn’t about broadcasting my body for consumption in the same way these guys on—what did you call it?”
"Lady Boners Gone Wild—"
"Yeah. That’s—what is that? —No, I get it, but. It wasn’t for special delectation. We fostered solidarity and boosted self-esteem"—she grinned hugely because my expression became overwhelmingly sardonic—"um, it was more like a fandom? Also I was confused for a long time about whether or not I was turned on by my girls, so I guess there was that aspect: I didn’t know if this was a queer hangout or what."
I pointed out: “‘Lady Boners’ is a pretty recherché subreddit name, but your subculture has the word suicide in it.”
"Yeah. That was proleptic. ‘I’m gonna do it!’" Bina added, in the voice of an insane ’50s housewife, “‘I’m gonna drown myself in the washing machine!’ See?"
"Not—not"—I took a diversion swig.
"I did not feel like killing myself but I did feel dead a lot. I did some cutting to look at what it would look like: me cutting myself. The suicide part was a way of acknowledging the deadness and treating it seriously—romantically, even. I could romance my depression, my tiny depression with its spider legs, and cut my hair in aggressive fashion; it was my first serious art project, too, when I think about it. Ah, suicide girls are so arty! I was a dorky Jewish girl shuttling between New York and Tel Aviv, my parents couldn’t get their shit together, my grandparents were insane Zionists, I read Plath and Bukowski and Iris Murdoch and pretended to love Bergman films but felt boring and dead. Man"—Bina took a diversion swig, too—"I’m trying to remember … when I dyed my hair the first time. Or when I found the suicide girls. Oh. I got my friend’s brother who loved knives to pierce my eyebrow, and it bled so much into my eye and he took a Polaroid picture, and then we scanned the Polaroid and I just had this digital copy of myself looking super scary and elated on my mom’s computer’s hard drive for like a year before I found a place to post it and have it mean something more than me just looking like my eye socket was drinking my blood.”
"Did your parents know about this?"
"I was moody but I had perfect grades."
"Nice. Do you have that Polaroid?"
"I would have had to kiss him to get it and I didn’t want to a year later, he was no longer my type, just some hick in Jersey."
"Do you post in Lady Boners?"
"No—but I’ve really considered doing so for a short story I was trying to write."
Bina replied, “Mmm! Yeah?”
"Yeah. I sat up with my housemate one night—she’s a one-hundred-and-ten-percent awesome person who also prays before every meal even when we eat at Fazoli’s—so she’s Christian?—the point is she has an incredible analytical mind, but I also feel very gentle towards her sensibilities—and I was trying to describe to her how weird it is to get to ‘know’ guys on Lady Boners because you can see what other subreddits they post in. The hottest guy. The most sensitive soul. Glasses. Crooked penis. A birthmark that covers an entire cheek. A leg missing. ‘A leg missing! Where did it go?’ My housemate was confused. I explained, ‘Amputees … ’ and that’s, uh, what pulled her in. The topos of the male physique in all the guises of its surface perfections, flaws and all. Is your ideal a college Adonis? A stick bug? A guy who drives a forklift? A banker? A mountain troll? The costuming is ad hoc and still baroque. There are guys who post in actual costumes—gladiator, lion tamer, police officer. Whatever. All kinds of guys. Mostly white guys—”
"—so you get to see them naked, right! But the real undressing happens when you click through their posting history. Are they deep into creepypasta and cryptozoology? Are they addicted to League of Legends? Are they married and share an account with their spouse? The amount of guys who consistently post in Lady Boners and then also in hockey subs, pet snake care subs, Pokémon subs, and libertarian political subs, suggests a really heinous portrait of men in their early-twenties in America right now.”
Bina had a harrowed faced. “Your housemate? She looked at boners with you?”
"No. We picked out a sample size. She works in a blood cancer lab, and mucks with the genetic sequence of fruit flies. This was in the name of science. She tried to help me determine a standard or control or whatever for the information on tap. Interests. Age. Political affiliation. There’s other nuances: approach; ironic labels; pity up-voting; fetish. Some really hot guy was an aficionado of the Watch People Die subreddit. All his tag lines were ‘22yo can’t get a date this town sux,’ meanwhile his trail is an expert’s commentary on grisly shark bite photos and the sludge piles of people liquified by trains."
"He’s a suicide boy."
"He’s a student at the University of Arizona. There is too much information! The number of accounts that open and close makes you wonder about the second lives of individuals caught by girlfriends or co-workers. I was on Facebook last week and saw a defected—quit? ousted? defunct?—regular had gone on a friend of a friend’s ski trip. I remembered his user name and now I have his real name, but it’s not a special moment, it’s simply the future. I had a little in crush on him, actually—he was funny. He was classy. He cock teased with luau props and dinosaurs. Mainly he photographed himself shirtless and in running shorts. Super straight and knowingly awful at flirting. You can see how guys flirt with the Gone Wild girls—the sorority complement of Lady Boners.”
"Is the expectation with Lady Boners that only ladies get the boners?"
"No. No I think it’s generally understood that mostly dudes trawl the sub. And then hoist hot finds onto gay porn tumblrs."
"Oh. Okay, so this is interesting: the guy I live with—my homo-life-partner—not my fiancé—he showed me some tumblr porn one time. It just keeps going.”
I came back to the subject: “My excuse,” I offered, “for my incriminating online life, is that I’m an artist, and I take risks.”
Bina looked incredulous. “Have you had to use that line yet?”
"Hmm, no, sadly, no."