I don’t really think of myself as a poet, but I enjoy trying to write haiku—maybe because they’re nice and short so I have a fighting chance of finishing one.

Proper Japanese ones have a traditional structure involving a seasonal reference, a “cutting word” and a contrast of ideas, but it’s popular now simply to take a pattern of seventeen syllables—five then seven then five—and use that to create a short poem in English.

These three are intensely personal. The first expresses my basic belief in respect and in the amazing preciousness of friendship; the other two talk about the times when friendship isn’t quite enough, but is all I have. The heart is not the only part of a person which can feel loneliness.

They all began in the 5-7-5 pattern, but I’ve done some editing since. Interestingly, even seventeen syllables is sometimes too many. It’s best not to be legalistic.

Holiness

The most sacred place
is another human heart:
treat with reverence.

Dreaming

Skin against bare skin
tenderly exploring you
—I wake, alone.

The truth

Hearts need their friendships
but bodies too want love:
mine is alone.

Note

I’ve changed the last line of the second one since I first posted it. I originally didn’t like the repetition of “alone” between the second and third poems. But they’re meant as indivdual poems, so I’ve changed it to the version I most like even though it’s now a bit odd when they’re read together.

And now I’ve amended the first one slightly too . . . And the third. OK, they’re now ALL different . . . !

The site

Imagine a dating/contacts/chat site which is set up to allow sexual or erotic interaction along with the usual things. Users’ profiles include details of their sexuality and what kind of interaction they’re looking for: e.g. a straight single man simply looking for online chat, or a lesbian looking for a long-term real-life partner. Users can post pictures and videos of themselves, and most do. Some post simple face shots; some take erotic photos of themselves; some have a more exhibitionist streak and post very explicit material.

What kind of person do you meet if you go there? Mostly, quite ordinary ones. They’ve gone there for a bit of excitement, or to experiment with their exhibitionist side by posting photos they’d never dream of letting their everyday friends see, or out of curiosity. Some have gone there simply because they like looking at naked photos and there are a lot to see. And many go because at some point in the past they made friends there, and they want to chat with them.  Some of these friends may be rather special: for example, ones with whom you feel safe talking about sexual fantasies you would keep private in real life. This can be life-giving and liberating.

So there’s a sexual dimension to much but not all of what happens there. This might be anything from saying to a friend “Oh yes, I always think the back of someone’s neck looks very sexy” to wild cybersex or even (one is led to believe) meeting up in person.

Obviously a lot of this is rather personal and sensitive; we are, after all, talking about sex and sexual feelings and fantasies.

The blogs

The site also has what it describes as “blogs”, but these  are a bit different from what you’d expect if you’re used to Blogger, WordPress, LiveJournal and the like. They’re short posts of up to 1000 characters, accessible from someone’s profile page. As with a standard blog, other users can then comment if they like.

Crucially and disastrously,

  • the posts can also be accessed via a newest blogs page, which is by far the easiest way of getting to them
  • new posts can be created from that page
  • there is no forum on the site
  • users clearly feel the need for a forum.

So, what do they do? They treat the newest blogs page like a forum. Each new post, whatever it is, is treated as a public discussion space. In itself, if done by agreement, this is a reasonable solution. But it’s not necessarily done by agreement; blog posts can have many different purposes, and providing a forum is only one.

A small core of users have been using the blogs this way for so long that they seem quite unaware of what they’re doing. They consider the page to be their territory: not only a forum, but one which they own. They have strong ideas about what should or should not be posted in it, and often a bullying approach towards anyone who questions this.

Suppose someone decides they want to add a little information to their profile. Maybe some further contact information, say. They put this in a blog post. Then when they come back to the post, they’ll find it full of sarcastic responses. Suppose someone likes to post erotic stories or love poems for their partner. They do this in blog posts, meant only for that person to read, but soon there are protests amounting to “Do you really have to clutter up our page with this stuff and make us read it every day?” Well no, you don’t have to read it,  it was never intended for you and it’s not your page anyway. Try having a bit of intelligence and respect . . . !

The site I’m talking about was redesigned several months ago, and one of the changes is that blog comments there can no longer be deleted. So if you write a post and it gets misused or vandalised, the vandalism remains unless you delete the entire post. Unfortunately this effectively creates a new bullying tool: the clique know that if they wreck someone’s post, it can’t be repaired.

Try protesting about the behaviour of this small group, and they quickly become abusive. It’s likely that new posts will appear with titles attacking the person who protested. They will insist that their behaviour is entirely appropriate, saying that this is the Internet and therefore you shouldn’t post things if you don’t like the responses. They will treat any polite request to show respect for another user as an outrageous limitation of their freedom. They will say that it’s an adult site and therefore anything goes. (That’s not what the site’s terms of use say, and in fact abusive material, harassment and even swearing are specifically banned if I’ve read them correctly, but never mind . . . )

The result

The result of this is unsurprising. As the central clique’s behaviour has become worse and more  persistent, people with interesting, thoughtful things to say have gradually stopped making blog posts. What’s the point? They know what will happen. The real discussion happens one-to-one in exchanges of inbox messages, and blog posts are made almost entirely by the blog clique. There are also occasional posts by new members who don’t yet know the situation. They generally post once or twice, become very angry at the way these are treated, then give up posting.

Adults

I find the situation puzzling. People supposedly go there for various kinds of sexy and social interaction, but the behaviour is the total opposite of sexy and quite antisocial. It’s an “adult site”, intended to be visited only by adults, but the behaviour is that of the playground and anything but adult.

What, then, is an adult? The disruptive users seem to think it means “someone who is allowed to do whatever they like”. I disagree. I think an adult, among other things, is someone who

  • is responsible for their own actions
  • is able to control their behaviour appropriately for a given situation
  • uses their intelligence as well as their emotions
  • can understand the effect of their actions on others and behave accordingly.

And for reasons which should be obvious, I think that a site where erotic interactions take place requires people to behave in a more, not less, adult way, out of respect for each other’s sexuality and in order to create a safe atmosphere where such intimacy can take place. The strangest thing to me is that people will go to an adult site, behave in a way which makes adult interaction impossible, then use its adult nature to justify their behaviour. Why go somewhere then sabotage the thing you’re there for? It makes no sense.

I think an adult community does in fact require its members to behave like adults.

Note

Please feel free to comment. But if you happen to know which site I’m talking about, please don’t mention its name—I want this to be a place for free discussion, not a place for stirring up animosity between individuals.

What is this blog for? Now that I come to write about it, that seems a harder question to answer than I expected. But I’m not sure whether that’s because I have a cold at the moment and my mind isn’t working very well, or because of any real difficulty in the question.

I do know how I came to create it, though. For various reasons I want a place where I can  explore a little and reflect on things to do with sexuality. It’s a very personal exploration.

I’ve been fortunate to meet people online with whom I can discuss these things. I have also been unfortunate to meet other people, who have no concept of the sensitivity and mutual respect needed. Unfortunately, both types of person tend to turn up on the same sites at the same time. So what could be places for friendly, sometimes sexy discussion become places where the real stuff can’t be discussed for fear of attack, ridicule etc.

This is exceptionally frustrating. Why should a few people who don’t know how to behave undermine the positive interaction? And anyway it’s my exploration.

So it seemed a good idea to try to create the kind of space I need myself. And I’m still deciding what sort of thing to post and how best to set it up. At the moment it’s publicly viewable, but hidden from search engines, which should mean that only people who know the address find it. My main options seem to be:

  • Make the blog private. Only people I invite can see it, and they all have to sign up for WordPress usernames.
  • Keep the blog public but password-protect some or all posts. This means  that only people I give the password for a particular post can see it or comment on it.
  • Make the whole thing public. I can’t imagine myself doing this!

My brain really isn’t working, so for now I’ll just post this and let one or two people know the blog exists.