Not All Tricks Are Treats on the Internet

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In early September, an ad appeared on the Seattle craigslist. It seems that a young twenty-something woman was looking for a discreet rendezvous with a gentleman.

“I am 27 ... sexy str8 woman, 5 ft 7 in, 145 pounds. I am looking 4 a white or Latin only, str8 brutal dom muscular male who is arrogant, self-centered, nasty, egotistic, sadistic ... Send ur stats and a face pic.”

Many men responded to this Seattle craigslist ad with interest. They included personal contact information and, often, pictures. It was soon after the ad was posted that the information men sent in response began showing up, including their photographs and email addresses. It was later revealed to be a young man from Seattle who posted the ad as an experiment to see how many med would respond. What began as an immature prank quickly turned into a malicious trick that embarrassed many men, some of whom are married or in a relationship.

The man who posed as a woman is Jason Fortuny from Kirkland, Washington. His MySpace profile states, “See, I get away with everything I do because I understand how the system works. You sit there frustrated and bitter at people like me because, try as you might, you just can't get past yourself. And you can't see how it's possible to be like me, and that just eats you up inside. Well that's just tough shit, isn't it?” It seems clear that he feels no guilt over what many say is a morally outrageous and juvenile stunt. On his website, he brags that his actions are legal and even has posted instructions for pulling off a exploit like his own. He offers tips to those he duped: “If you were stupid enough to cheat on your wife or reply from a work address, then I have no sympathy for you. Pls go die.” And “Be the real man you claimed you were on your response, faggot. You should be able to take a hit in the solar plexus without flinching.”

So, who is to blame? Are married men who responded getting what they deserve for cheating on their spouses? Are other men who faced humiliation by having their picture posted after having sent it to what was supposed to be a private audience getting theirs by being publicly outed? Or is it the ads author, the man who tricked nearly 200 men into believing they were participating in a mutually satisfying experience that should have been kept between two consenting adults?

It’s clear to me that a man who will laugh at the many people whose privacy he violated is the one with the bigger problem. Sure, he’s getting media attention and is probably making more friends now than he ever could on his own, but what of his moral composition and general humanity? What kind of man laughs at the pain and humiliation of so many others al in the name of “experimentation” and “satire?” It goes back to the old clichés our parents used to spout off to us in grade school, those true bits of wisdom we are taught from a young age: that people who are cruel to others are only so to make their own existence seem better and brighter than the rest of ours. Their mockery and meanness are a way to cover up the black void of self-hatred and other personal issues.

One thing in glaringly clear: This is a guy for whom no amount of argument or outrage will dissuade from his own inflated opinions of right, wrong and fun. His advice to those who would criticize his actions is as follows: “…there hasn't been a single comment that has moved me or made me reconsider. I know you think you're taking a moral high ground by denouncing this shit, but you just come off as yet another idiotic, baseless, unthinking American trashbag whose flexgrips are starting to look a little stretched. Time to send yourself to the dumpster and get rid of all that shit you're carrying around.”

The only sure thing in all of this is the glaringly obvious idea that one can never trust who is really on the other end of the line on this World Wide Web. While we like to believe that people are better than this, it’s clear that there are those who would use the Internet as a forum for their sad tricks and juvenile pranks. The web offers a false sense of security in supposed anonymity for some, and an opportunity for others to take advantage of the virtual distance a computer can put between human beings. I have to wonder what would happen if Mr. Fortuny were to meet the very people he duped in person. Would he be as brave and flagrantly boorish in his speechmaking or would he crawl right back under the rock he came from after no longer being able to hide behind his monitor?

 

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