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“It’s Complicated” Gets Simple

December 15, 2009 Interview, News, teh inetrwebz 4 Comments

bbr

We all know social media can be a double-sided sword. As more people get on Twitter and Facebook, including employers and family members, it becomes harder to overshare as freely as we did three or so years ago when it was just a handful of us on there.

Facebook can’t roll out security features fast enough–many people I know have cracked under the pressure of prying eyes, trading self-expression and fun digital socializing for peace and security. Well, not all is lost. A new network is on the scene and they’re committed to letting us overshare our shenanigans as publicly or privately as we deem fit.

Introducing: Blackbox Republic, a site where “It’s complicated” gets simple.

Lowdown

Blackbox Republic takes quality seriously. They’re more interested in fostering a sex-positive environment for people to be themselves and connect than in exploding in users within hours of launching. To fight against creeps and spam, they’ve put in several safeguards in place: for starters, it’s five bucks a month to be a member. Not only that, but you need to get vouched by at least one other member of the community (who gets a limited number of vouches).

The site has launched with privacy settings in place, so you won’t be rushing around after an embarrassing incident trying to make everything private (ahem, Facebook). There are also two types of connections on the site, which work a little like Twitter: followers and friends. Your friends get to see and do a whole lot more than your followers–and just following someone who follows you does not automatically make them a friend. The choice of how to categorize them is entirely up to you.

Also, the founders are aware that people and relationships change, so crushes (called “wishbones”) on other people expire after a certain period of time, completely eliminating the awkwardness of un-wishing someone.

Background

Last week, I sat down for a phone chat with founders Sam Lawrence (@SamLawrence) and April Donato (@aprilblackbox) to talk about how the idea for this ingenious new social network came about.

“It started with 17 hour ride home from Burning Man,” Lawrence told me, chuckling. “April and I were in RV filled with dust and dirt and garbage. Burning is about self-expression, creativity. On the drive back we talked about how the most kick ass thing was people didn’t talk about work or houses or kids. It was a much more intimate conversation. We started asking ourselves why there wasn’t a walled-off place like that, where people don’t judge you and you can really be you.”

So they went online to see if something like this existed.

“We found two things,” Lawrence explained. “There were dating sites, which have a short-term value proposition, and which are splintered by a lot of labels, race, sexual orientation, age–all these classifications. Relationships are messy, the social web is messy and people don’t want the labels. They want to self-organize without the labels.”

The other thing they found were the social networks with which we’re familiar, like Facebook and MySpace.

“Facebook and networks like that don’t guarantee you connect with like-minded people,” Lawrence added. “Everyday in the news we see people dropped from jobs because they were drinking a beer.”

The founders of Blackbox Republic understand that for many of us, life is cleaved in two. We have a public persona, which goes to work and is involved in the community, and a private self, which is vibrant and expressive and rarely fits the mold.

“The problem is this culture, which cannot accept investment in our personal lives,” Lawrence said.

Although not advertised right on the site, Blackbox knows a lot of this divide has to deal with sexuality.

“We tried to communicate the sex-positive part of the message,” Lawrence explained. “Blackbox Republic is about getting people together and once you’re in a safe environment is that things like sex and dates and relationships will happen.”

As far as these relationships go, Blackbox Republic is pretty lax. As any poly friend will tell you, it’s a pain that Facebook doesn’t allow for the listing of more than one partner. The language is pretty standard, too: In A Relationship, Married To, It’s Complicated, etc.

“We allow people to add their own language,” Lawrence told me. Not only can you input whatever label you want on your entanglements, but the other person can pick something totally different. Lawrence’s relationship with Donato is “in love.” Her relationship with him? “Cuddling.”

Also in the spirit of self-expression, instead of favorite movies and songs, users get virtual corkboards, which enables you to upload pictures of things they like. This is mine:

cork

“There are a lot of things that don’t have a home,” says Lawrence. “Stuff like YouTube videos that are funny but inappropriate, for example. This is what we’re working for. That’s why it’s five bucks a month.”

Blackbox Republic also features a well developed events section that allows non-members access, while keeping the more expressive content associated with these events members-only. Currently, they’re working on creating groups. An iPhone app is due out at the beginning of the year.

I’m already there. Are you?

Images from Blackbox Republic. For more information about this exciting new space, visit their FAQ Section.

The Porn App Store Has Arrived (For Android)

December 3, 2009 geek, News, Technology No Comments

mikandi

As an iPhone user, I can’t tell you how much it bugs me that the Apple doesn’t carry any sexy apps in their store. Yes, we have some web apps to satisfy the cravings, but web seriously limits what developers can do for us. These are fast times! Our porn should be up to speed!

Bastards.

Well, looks like Android just got a one-up over Apple. Introducing the MiKandi App Store, the first marketplace of porn apps, now in beta.

All you need to do to access the porn store on your Android is go to MiKandi.com on your mobile browser. Voilà! Porn at your greedy fingertips. You’ll have to tell me what you think, seeing as I made the gruesome error of choosing the iPhone over the Android and can’t do it myself. #fail

Image from MiKandi. Information from Mashable, via @harrylang.

Bite-Size Sex and Love Overshares

November 24, 2009 teh inetrwebz 2 Comments

Relatious.com is social media for the oversharing sex kitten.

We all love to dish about relationships. Finally, here’s a place where you can share virtually every aspect of those sexy, messy, often complicated, but always interesting love connections. Where you can confide to friends and they confide right back. Where you swap stories from the romantic trenches and help each other claw your way out.

The site, which uses Facebook and Twitter connect (but also allows users to post anonymously), has three categories for posts: seduction, dating and breakup. You know, the natural life-cycle of a modern love affair. Only here, we get to make like Emily Gould and put it out there for all to see it.

relationus

Admit it, you already bookmarked it to scour during work.

Information from The Huffington Post.

Famous London Call Girl Identity Revealed

November 19, 2009 Culture, News, teh inetrwebz No Comments

“The first thing you should know about me is that I am a whore.”

brookemagnantiSo begins the show Secret Diary of a Call Girl, which is based on the books The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl and The Further Adventures of a London Call Girl, which, in turn, are based on the blog Belle de Jour.

Belle was a call girl between 2003 and 2004, charging $500 an hour for her services, of which she got to keep a little under $350.

“The average appointment lasted two hours; she saw clients two or three times a week, ‘sometimes less, sometimes a great deal more,’” reports The Times.

Belle’s blog was so successful, so full of wit and humor, that many wondered whether she was real at all. Was she really a woman? Could a woman write this well and enjoy sex so much? Is she real at all?

Belle has come out of the closet, ladies and gentlemen. She is a London woman. She is Brooke Magnanti, a researcher specializing in developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology with a a PhD. in informatics, epidemiology and forensic science.

The story recounted by India Knight for The Times of how complex it is to prove a person is a blogger is to me far more interesting than the fact that Brooke Magnanti is–OMGOMG–a call girl:

I am — as you would be — completely fascinated by meeting Belle/Brooke. She has contacted me because she’s had enough of being anonymous. There is also an ex-boyfriend with a big mouth lurking in the background; outing herself while she still has a measure of control over how it happens seems the sensible option.

“The what-ifs are what make me upset,” she says. “What if this happened; what if that happened? And I thought, well, there’s only one way to find out.”

Of course, having been anonymous for so long, she needs to prove to me that she is who she says she is before I agree to meet her. This turns out to be incredibly difficult and throws up interesting questions about authorship. I can’t very well ask to see her passport or utility bills — they may say Brooke Magnanti but they’re hardly going to say Belle de Jour.

Is she the real Belle? You or I could claim to be Belle de Jour; all we’d have to do is talk persuasively to someone about being on the game, using information that we could lift verbatim from the real Belle’s blog and books. (It’s rather odd that nobody thought of this: if you wanted to flush out the real Belle, surely all you’d have to do is produce a fake one.) We’re in e-mail contact before we meet; she tells me she’s in Croatia, but her agent tells me she’s in the West Country. Which is it? He says she’s recently told her mother about her former career; she tells me she hasn’t yet. She offers to show me her laptop, with her Belle typescripts on it, but I don’t have the time to wade through thousands of words checking for verisimilitude.

And yet I believe her — call it instinct. Brooke/Belle tells me her real name and provides details of an authoritative source that handles Belle de Jour’s cunningly concealed money trail. The Sunday Times newsdesk speaks to him; he confirms that Brooke is Belle and that the payments end up in an account belonging to Brooke Magnanti. After our interview, I ask her to post something cryptic up on her blog; this she does.

Read the whole thing–you know you want to.

Oh, and you can add @belledejour_uk on Twitter.

Mapping Sex

November 13, 2009 geek, Technology No Comments

It’s the age of oversharing, baby, and it just got better.

Introducing, I Just Made Love–think Foursquare, only instead of marking places you’re hanging out, you mark places you’re getting down.

Unlike Foursquare, of course, which immediately lets all your friends know where you’re at, IJML simply marks the space on the map, keeping your identity off the map–unless you let us know who you are in the comments section when you input other details of your tryst, of course!

justmadelove

Image from IJustMadeLove. Information from Mashable.

Make A Slutty iPhone Game, Win iPhone Porn

November 11, 2009 geek, Technology No Comments

If you’re an iPhone user, you know the tyrants that be at Apple are hell bent on refusing us our sexy. Lucky for all of us, the world is full of naughty people who know how to get around the rules, like folks at Pink Visual, who run one of the best known iPhone porn web apps and who launched iTouchHer, a naughty games web app this summer.

kinkygamesThey only have a handful of games, and not all of them are winners, but they reward high scores with tons of nudity and we like that, so whatever. Could it get better? You bet your sweet assets!

Pink Visual has teamed up with Fleshbot to make a new web app called Kinky Games. If you can come up with a game that’s hotter, edgier and all-around better than theirs, you score a free membership to iPinkVisualPass, the mobile porn section of Pink Visual’s site.

Don’t have an iPhone? You can watch right in your browser! Not sure why you’d wanna do that, seeing as you could just as easily find high-rez porn to enjoy without any restrictions from Big Brother at Apple, but, hey, I’ve done weirder things, so I’m not judging.

Go on, give it a shot. The official rules are on Fleshbot.

Off you go, my sweet perverts, to make app like a porn star. I have faith in you.

Here’s hoping that Apple doesn’t find a way to ruin the fun for all of us.

Image from Kinky Games, modified with a picture of a certain someone we won’t mention–hey, why use stock when you have so many friends who love to get naked?

Technology: Does It Make Sex Easier?

November 10, 2009 geek, Technology No Comments

BlackBerry and MacBook

Are the digital tools that make it easier to find sex compounding the confusion that accompanies it? New York mag’s Wesley Yang explores the different anxieties that we face in this digital dating age, based on two years of confessions in their Sex Diaries:

The anxiety of too much choice.
A fact so readily apparent that it has escaped reflection: The cell phone has changed the nature of seduction. One carries in one’s pocket, wherever one goes, the means of doing something other than what one is presently doing, or being with someone other than the person one is with.

The anxiety of making the wrong choice.
One with any game at all has unlimited opportunity. A few find this enjoyable and are up to the task: Identify the single best sexual partner available, or at least the person most amenable to their requirements at the moment. They use their cell phone to disaggregate, slice up, and repackage their emotional and physical needs, servicing each with a different partner, and hoping to come out ahead. This compulsive toggling between options winds up inflicting the very damage it was designed to protect against.

The anxiety of not being chosen.
The worry that one will make the wrong choice is surpassed by the fear that one might find himself without one. To guard against this disaster, everybody is on somebody’s back burner, and everybody has a back burner of their own, which they maintain through open-ended texts, sporadic Facebook messages, G-chats, IM’s, and terse e-mails.

Sometimes being relegated to the back burner is a sign of uninterest: the late-night booty call, the option of last resort. As often, it is a place to confine anyone who might become emotionally dangerous. The back burner is a confusing, destabilizing, and exhausting place to be, and yet none of the Diarists—even ones who appear sexually sated—appear to view it as anything but a fact of life. It is clearly less terrifying than the alternative, which is to not be on anyone’s.

The anxiety of appearing overly enthusiastic.
The back burner is a game, and while the Diarists have various ideas about what constitutes winning, they all agree on how you lose: by betraying a level of emotional enthusiasm unmatched by the other party. Everyone’s afraid disarmament won’t be mutual.

To disarm unilaterally is a strategic error on so many levels—it commits you to a degree of openness you might not be able to maintain, and it exposes vulnerabilities that your counterparty might not be able to resist exploiting. It signals desperation, clinginess, high-maintenance. Most of all, it risks exposing the fond hope, better kept to oneself, that one yearns to leave behind the serial fuck buddies, friends with benefits, and other back-burner relationships to which one had, at some significant expenditure of effort, inured oneself.

The goal of any Diarist playing the game, therefore, is to withhold one’s own expectations until one understands what is expected by the other party. These negotiations require supreme discipline. If you betray the wrong kind of avidity at the wrong moment, your counterparty will not hesitate to pitch you into the shark tank.

The anxiety of being unable to love.
True love! Who could say these words in public without acute embarrassment? It is nonetheless something that the Diarists keep referencing, despite the impression they convey that it is an ever-receding ideal. It’s an odd, negative sort of tribute—a vague longing for something all but lost, but perhaps worth clinging to nonetheless.

10 p.m. I want to love her. And I should. I just, well, don’t. She’s the best girlfriend anyone could ever hope to have. I wish that were enough to love her.

These are just five I hand-picked. If you want them all–and trust me, you do want them all–you’re going to have to visit A Critical (But Highly Sympathetic) Reading of New Yorkers’ Sexual Habits and Anxieties.

Image by Dushaun.

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Sex and the 405 is what your newspaper would look like if it had a sex section.

Here you’ll find news about the latest research being conducted to figure out what drives desire, passion, and other sex habits; reviews of sex toys, porn and other sexy things; coverage of the latest sex-related news that have our mainstream media's panties up in a bunch; human interest pieces about sex and desire; interviews with people who love sex, or hate sex, or work in sex, or work to enable you to have better sex; opinion pieces that relate to sex and society; and the sex-related side of celebrity gossip. More...