Dos Hombres “Pen Pal” is an application on the iPhone that I discovered a few months ago while browsing through the multitude of applications in the iTunes app catalog. It’s basically a pen pal application, where you compose a message and then flip the envelope into the sky (literally) when you are ready to send it – and it lands where it lands.
The algorithm of how it lands is a mystery to me, but one thing I started to notice was that I was getting a multitude of messages from people with short messages like “I like to talk dirty to girls, hit me up if you are a girl and like to talk dirty” or “send me ur nekkid pix!” That disturbed me, considering that I have written several messages and “flipped them into the sky” only to end up talking to a teenager from Germany, or a 30+ Interior Designer from New Jersey. Regardless, I found it odd that the system did not regulate itself in order to protect minors, and there was no settings on the application to state you wanted “adult” conversation only.
The question that I proposed in my experiment was, if this is a “Pen Pal” application and it was being used to solicit heterosexual adult conversation, would homosexual conversation (in a non-adult approach) receive responses? If so, would they be welcomed or would they receive angry responses? Since the application reaches a global audience, is homophobia global on my iPhone?
So I caved. I sent out approximately 50+ messages (flipping them into the unknown by composing the message, and then flicking the envelope off of the screen – the app is symbolic, much like casting a bottle into the ocean…) anyway, so my message went something like:
“My name is Jake, and I am a 36 year old gay guy who lives in Kentucky. I’m a writer, Producer, Director, and a blogger who loves muscular tattooed (lol) guys who have “secrets!” I have lots of girl and guy friends, love to chat, and I can keep a secret! Let’s be friends! You can learn more about me at (I gave them this URL), and chat with me here! Remember, if you are a tattooed hottie dude …. then make my day! Chat soon?”
Ok, so that was my message that I flicked into the sky – my thought process was that I would implement several key words into my message to see if it used an algorithm to match my message to people with OTHER messages that had the same key words – in theory, that would make sense. I used “muscular, tattoo, gay, 36, chat, day, secrets, and chat.” What did I get back?
Of the 50+ messages that I copied and pasted into the app and sent out, I received eight messages back this morning, three girls and five guys. One girl I had already been chatting with about life in general, the other girl was from California and wanted to be friends “even though she wasn’t a muscular guy” and then there were two very interesting “haters.” The rest were gay or bisexual men who just wanted to chat with me, and most of them were from overseas.
Homophobia is a global epidemic, and while my message was about liking muscular guys – it wasn’t dirty, crass, or controversial in a sense that it asked for anything dirty or nasty. The keywords were “gay, muscular, tattoos, chat, etc…” not “send me pics, lets fuck, lets get crunk, I do hard drugs…” whatever. Anyway, one guy from Ireland sent me a nice long message that read something along the lines of:
“You disgusting faggot, if you went to the gym more often then maybe you would not have to spend all your fat ass time on your iPhone trying to hook up with other guys. Why do you faggots always turn something innocent into something disgusting? Fat ass!”
Seriously? First of all this is coming from a guy with a profile picture in the app who is bulbous and obese himself, and hails from Ireland (home of nothing but gay icons, all I kept thinking of was little green leprechauns and green clovers…. damn, now my fat ass wants Lucky Charms) Indeed, homophobia is Global, my letter into the sky landed into the lap of a bigoted Irishman all the way across the Globe, who replied to my message with a barrage of insults. I was confused by the insult, considering that I had received numerous messages much MUCH worse than mine in my inbox from heterosexuals who indeed were much more forward, and the only thing I did in my message was hyperextend the association between gay, muscular, and tattoos – to downplay anything feminine. I may have introduced implications to chat with these types of guys, but I never stated I wanted to do anything nasty or perverted – nor did I request “nekkid pix.”
Another hater was a guy named Brian from Long Beach, Florida – who’s profile picture was that of a cheeky fellow that looked like he got his haircut from a old woman forced his head under a Tupperware bowl. He stated to me that “I was disgusting, a fatty, and that I was something that God shit out.” He went on to preach that he “hated gay people, and that I made him sick.”
He was the only hater I wrote back, and my reply was simple and honest…. “Nice hair, Froto.”
Then I received other emails from across the Globe from guys who were gay and lived in Germany, Turkey, Iceland, and in the USA – all of which were so amazingly charming! Some guys were quick to point out that they were not so muscular, but had a couple tattoos – and the one guy from Germany was a gay punk who had facial piercings and loved hardcore music.
So what does this say about my experiment? I sent out 50 messages, and got 8 replies. 7 of them counted as legitimate responses to my “test” message, and one of them was a previous response from an earlier non-test message. 2 of the messages contained hateful bigoted responses, and were from people claiming that I was disgusting and all that blabber…. and yet, their messages were much more offensive and derogatory than mine! So what does this tell you?
Hate is disgusting and offensive. When individuals, regardless of implication, utilize the masculine verbiage along side of the word gay, it immediately offends those who are easily aroused by their own internal anger. Hetero-acceptable people are accepting, and gay or bisexual men are more apt to respond.
I could have been an obese teenager on the brink of suicide from not being accepted by my peers, and a hate message like that from an anonymous person could have set me over the edge. Words can kill, especially the young and impressionable – all things considered. Of course I was never more honored in my life to have had two messages of hate come in my direction, because it meant that while they ultimately read my message and were quick to reply with something to try to hurt me, it made them have to think for a moment about themselves – and apparently they didn’t like what they saw.
And for YOU……Brian in Long Beach – I understand why you don’t like what you see! I will literally cut you a check to go to a salon and get rid of that Three Stooges ” haircut that makes you look like a cheese making monk.
Jake A. Wheat