For my final two months at university, I lived in a small room about the size of the CBBC Broom Cupboard. Evicted from the share house I'd been living in throughout second year (as I was the only resident left and the landlord didn't think that was financially viable), I struggled to think of a solution, and was on the cusp of sleeping on my dissertation tutor's office floor when I found - via an internet forum - a tiny room in another share house. I got an extension on two essays, moved all my stuff in a weekend, put my new room into some semblance of order, and then did the essays, getting a couple of high 2:1s as a result.
Hey, if it works...
This being the end of the final year, I didn't spend a lot of time at home. I went to band practice three times a week, spent one evening learning Japanese (it was my minor subject) in the city, and - in addition to my socialising commitments - I sat in the library taking notes, exhuming long-dead journal articles and dusty tomes of forgotten lore. Oh, and Julia Kristeva.
Weekends were spent writing this stuff up. Despite the fact that I was starting to enjoy university after the incredibly dull first two years, I'd never felt so disconnected in my life.
The late evening hours, those that came after hours of hitting things and scratching paper with pencils, were a blessing. In the confines of my little room, I sat at my laptop and dwelt on sex chatrooms.
Initially - and I mean very initially, we're talking about 16 or 17 here - I went on chatrooms looking for some semblance of sex. I mean, I wasn't really aiming to have actual sex (that was beyond the realms of imagination; it'd never happen to me), but I did manage to have cybersex a few times, and found that (as it is a matter of prose style) I was quite good at it. Armed with my gender-neutral handle, open and willing attitude and some terrible attempts at humour (and the fact that I didn't DM without asking), I waded in, and discovered over time that there was an entire subculture, and by extension community, based around this concept. I started to make - dare I say it? - friends.
Although it took me a while to rediscover the chat server and rooms a few years down the line, I reconnected in my first year. Some of the same people were still there, and by the time I ended up in my final-year shoebox, it was my nightly ritual - log in, say hi, chat for a couple of hours and go to bed satisfied. Sometimes - often at weekends, as the right people tended to be there - I had cybersex, although that had become secondary to the community, of which I had become an integral part. I wasn't an addict... I was a member.
And so that's what my third year became. Lectures and seminars and workshops and lessons; study and music and meet-ups and excursions; take-away meals and long walks to burn it all off; hot scening and sly humour, in-jokes and flirting and sexual discourse. It was a mess, but an enjoyable one: even in my darkest hours, knowing that this community was there was like carrying a light in my heart without letting on to anyone. It was my secret, turning up late to things with a silly grin and flushed cheeks, feeling well-fucked without actually having been touched in years.
GOTN's excellent post on the subject (which I found via random links last night, hence my reflections today) highlights the idea of finding someone real online (it happens, strangely enough) and the multitude of horny guys (they were everywhere!). But then there were guys like me, there because it was part of my life, there because I liked it, there because it was a safe space to laugh, to chat, to wank, to flirt. At the end of the day, I kept going back because I wanted to talk.
And so I talked.
And if I did end up having cybersex with some very attractive, very adventurous, very available young ladies who were just at chatty as I was... well then, that was the virtual cherry on top, wasn't it?