Have you ever posted a Nerve personal? I did once, maybe five years ago, for a story I was writing. I had to do it for research, sure, but I also wasn't adverse to having fun.
I remember feeling awkward about the age and weight questions... you're supposed to lie, right? No one on the site appeared to be over 35, or 130 pounds. That's the Law of Personal Ad Illusion.
But Nerve had some relief; they posed some fun questions to answer, about my taste in books, movies, politics, and the worst lies I've ever told. I typed merrily away.
Then there was the photo. I wanted to put up something sexy and exciting, and I have a few of those. I picked one from the Bound set, where I'm in a latex corset, my makeup is done right, and my hair is like Brigitte Bardot.
But this is not what I look like when I might show up to meet someone for coffee. I don't go to the post office in latex.. well, not often. I don't put on makeup unless I am on a movie set! So even though I picked a photograph that was absolutely me, with no retouching, I still felt like I was spoofing.
I was inundated with replies. I was surprised how many men wanted to know if I wanted to get it on, in say, the next ten minutes. Could I meet them at the airport? The Olive Garden bathroom?
I failed to see why I would be motivated if they told me nothing about themselves, and there was no picture to even get my juices flowing. For the right glint in the eye, I might show up at the Olive Garden... but ya gotta give me something.
I kept thinking I was missing some crucial understanding of how this was supposed to work. Should I have published a more modest picture of myself, to receive more genuine replies?
Then, the "Nerve" thing happened. I got a letter from a woman in Sacramento who replied to what I said about myself, not the photo. She was similarly candid. She was funny. She was insanely smart. She had unruly red hair. She had a playful feel for sex, and even though she was mischievous, she was kind. Her realness was so refreshing. I had discovered my first real Nerve Personals Pal. I even let her see me out of latex.
I came to realize that in New York City, and a few other big cities, this Nervy sexual friendship circle was huge. They prided themselves on the iconoclastic triumph of defeating the normative cynicism and fakery of Personal Ad Hell.
Well, these very same Nervy Activists are up in arms these days, because their playground has been sold to a new personal ad corporation, called Adult FriendFinder, who are known on the Internet as a black hole of sleazebags and spammers. As my friend Jamey reported on his blog: Nerve personals have gone bunk.
Nerve, the online magazine itself, is still the original McCoy, with stories, essays, and pictorials that make you sit up and take notice. I think they publish some of the best new fiction online, of any genre, and they've been absolute pioneers showcasing erotic digital photography. I mean, where would we be without Siege? He's down in Mississippi right now, with his smithereen'd family, and we're getting to see another side to his beautiful vision.
But the new personal ads— you have to remember, this was the most popular part of the site— do indeed look different. The photos of the prospective girl-dates look like porn stars posing as the peachy girl next door, with sayings like: "Why you should get to know me: My goal is to become an international human rights lawyer." Yeah, right. As soon as you can finish paying your plastic surgery bill.
After my brief foray, I didn't keep up my personals interest. I'm all but married, and I'm in Santa Cruz, where we have the same cruising scene at the Farmer's Market. But I have empathy for the death of something that was literally "too good to last." Because it was a commercial enterprise, it was inevitably going to be sold to the highest bidder.
According to Jamey, some compromises have been made since the outcry, and there is also an alternative universe springing up on LiveJournal. Get those Phoenix ashes stirring! Have any of you been a Nerve aficionado? Have you bonked any international human rights lawyers lately? Inquiring minds want to know!