Even more than sex, or commercial sex, during my days of “addiction,” I was compelled by web sites about sex, web sites that promised sex. There are a few categories of these, ranging from the utopian ones that promise free and easy sexual connections with an infinitude of willing partners (Craigslist’s “casual encounters” section, Adult Friend Finder, and the more fetish-y sites like CollarMe) to ones that are, or cater to people who are, somewhat more selective (Ashley Madison, a dating site for married people, more conventional dating sites like OKCupid), to those that cater to men seeking sex for money.
Within that last category is a wide range of sites, from the skeevy (Craigslist, Backpage.com) to the purportedly upscale (Eros, a marketplace for providers of various sorts). And then, there are the sites associated with individual providers (escorts and upscale “body workers” and tantrikas and surrogates and all sorts of other fancy names for sex workers… anyway, all these women often maintain their own sites) , or agencies (each city has anywhere from one or two to ten or fifteen), or venues (“incall” massage parlors often have sites; my peregrinations never took me to an incall “full service” location – a brothel – or even to the web site of such a place).
And then there are the sites, like SeekingArrangement, that provide yet another variation – bringing together individual “sugar babies” and “sugar daddies.” Where the other sites for commercial sex all make the commodity and transactional aspect of what’s on offer front-and-center, SeekingArrangement is modeled after a dating site, and whatever the reality (neither the men nor the women there are, I suspect, settling down with just one sugar partner), the sites’ norms dictate that everyone pretend that’s what they’re hoping to do.
Finally, there are the web sites devoted to helping “hobbyists” – the name by which johns refer to our/themselves – navigate the available options. The are a couple of different review sites, places johns post their reviews of individual providers. The one I found most compelling was TheEroticReview. But there were others – BigDoggie is a name I remember, though I don’t think I ever used it.
During the bulk of my dark days, I made frequent, and long, visits to all of these web sites, but in particular, I would spend hours and hours on SeekingArrangement, Eros, and TheEroticReview. Each of these offered me the promise of, well, you know, the perfect sexual encounter – the one that I was looking for. I imagined that if I only could find the right woman, the right encounter, then I would be, you know, done. I imagined I was on a quest, a quest that had a grail.
On some level, I knew this wasn’t true, and I even knew that it was the quest itself that was my grail. This is why I could spend so long on these web sites. Because I could surf on them, and imagine all of the perfection that awaited me, without tainting it with the stain of reality.
I think this probably is something addicts have in common with one another: we imagine that the next fix will be perfect, will somehow not just be the last one because we’ll finally get our shit together and stop, but because we will, finally, have found what we were seeking.