Chatroulette: The Live Penis Steam

Chatroulette. By now, you've probably heard of it. Video chat with random strangers from around the world, mostly masturbating men, all through one website. The allure is obvious: Cure your boredom by interacting with strangers you will most likely never see again. It seems like the ideal way to procrastinate when you should be on Facebook. It's the perfect amount of innocent conversation mixed with unexpected nudity.

Recently, I was on Chatroulette and a man asked me if I thought he had a deviated septum. I took a good look at his video-streaming nose and told him that it looked perfectly fine. He insisted that it was crooked and that he would need to get plastic surgery. We went on to talk about his girlfriend (he showed me a picture), and the woman he had proposed to but who rejected him (he showed me the box from Tiffany's -- heartbreaking). I also found out that his new girlfriend was "a freak" in bed.

This is a rare experience. Most of the time on Chatroulette, you either get a naked man, a group of drunk teenagers, or a spam loop-video of hot women. It's especially fun when you are with a group of drunk people and you are chatting with another group of drunk people. Oh, the Internet. 

Unless you get very lucky (or unlucky, depending on what you're looking for), you will undoubtedly come across the bottom half of a naked man, touching his own genitals. The site rules are simple: You have to be 16 and you can't show obscene, offending or pornographic images, otherwise you get banned from the site for 10 minutes. Regardless, naked men are the standard at Chatroulette.

Why do they do this, though? What is the appeal of anonymously masturbating on camera to giggling groups of college students? If you were turned on by exposing yourself publicly, yet didn't have a giant trench-coat to flash with (and didn't want to get arrested), Chatroulette would be the perfect place to hang out. All the voyeurs you want watching you jerk it -- with none of the legal consequences.

Exhibitionism is, in fact, listed in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as a sexual or gender identity disorder. Many paraphilias (or fetishes) are listed in the manual as mental disorders, because they are unusual sexual practises or obsessions. Exhibitionism as a mental disorder means that at least 5% of Chatroulette users are mentally unstable. Voyeurism is also listed as a phychosexual disorder, so that takes care of the other 95%. Evidently, Chatroulette is for the insane. The DSM also lists Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) as a mental disorder, which would conclude that most women are crazy, so watch out for then, too.

The potential dangers of going on Chattroulette may make the site less popular, though judging by how slow it has been running lately, I'd guess it isn't. Possession of child pornography is a serious crime in Canada, and watching a minor masturbate on camera, regardless of whether or not you can see their face, counts as child pornography. Distributing pornography to children is also illegal, and there is no question about the number of minors using the site. Though it would be impossible to prove birth years on an anonymous site, the liability remains one of Chatroulette's greatest flaws.

A New York Times article about the creator of Chatroulette reveals him to be an 18 year old living in Moscow, Russia. Andrey Ternovskiy, who created the site last year, apparently writes most of the site code himself and wishes to introduce other exciting elements. “What is currently stopping me from adding other features,” he says, “is that I am not even sure what Chatroulette is now.”

Nobody is quite sure what it is. Chatroulette can be used as a time killer, an honest way of making new friends from around the world, or, apparently, a dating site. The Craigslist Missed Connections section is overflowing with people searching for their Chatroulette partners who “accidentally” nexted them.

'Nexting' itself is a fun way to get used to rejecting people (or to getting rejected). Whenever you get bored with your randomly assigned chat partner, you can push the 'Next' button and move on to a new partner. They, of course, can do the same.

In this way, Chatroulette is the ultimate preparation for real life. Some people want to be friends, some people want to date you, some people will reject you, and some people will anonymously show you their junk. No big deal.

Sarah Vitet

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