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How do you come out to a bot?

The experience of getting heterosexual spam is beyond surreal when you’re gay.


Harris Sockel


Adriana emailed me today. Adriana thinks I’m cute. Adriana asks if I’m single. Adriana does not write in paragraphs. Adriana writes in lines, like free verse. Adriana uses semicolons instead of apostrophes. Adriana gives me her number. Adriana asks me to text her a picture of my “cOcK.” Adriana’s email address is Adriana signs off with this fresh emoticon:


Adriana is not the only Adriana. There’s dalissa29, with the ùnçoñvéntïonâl diácrìtics. Miss Donni Preus, who does not use periods. Jacalyn, who goes by “the ~pleasant~ girl.” An e-harem of e-women who want to e-fuck me as they reach into my e-pants for my e-identity.

We’re used to this. The suspiciously-cased screen names. The illiterate sexual prospects. And, illuminating the path toward those prospects, a cabinet of penis enlargement advisors. My erectile tutors. First lesson: “WHAT SHE WANTS IS A WORLD-CLASS WIENER.”

Thank you. I hadn’t considered it.

See, I’m gay. I’ve come out to almost everyone except the faces behind the screen names that send me more emails than all my ex-boyfriends combined. It’s strange. I want to be honest, but I don’t know how.

I guess I’m surprised my spammers haven’t figured it out themselves. I grew up on the Internet. I went through puberty on the Internet, flirted and dated and broke up on the Internet, and tripped the light fantastic across the Internet’s over-eighteen-only URLs. Facebook can figure me out. Why can’t Adriana? Spammers do not operate within a $33 billion U.S. company, I know. Still, can’t they imagine a world in which I do not want to impregnate as many vaguely eastern European women as possible? But you’re a man, Adriana mumbles to herself as she hits “SEND” for the fortieth time this week. You must be attracted to me.

Sometimes I imagine coming out to Adriana. Near Christmas, maybe, when the decorative wreaths are on the lampposts. We meet in a café in SoHo. Soft lighting. A Joshua Radin soundtrack. I buy. A little small talk:

Me: It’s getting colder, isn’t it?

Adriana: Yeah I guess.

Me: I wanted to tell you something, Adri—[she fidgets] Oh, you have to check your email? Okay, but, well—I wanted to tell you I’m—Not sure if you keep track, or if you even care, but you’ve sent me four hundred emails in the past six months. And I like dudes, so.

I let her down gently. Adriana disintegrates into a million tiny lights.

We know it’s impossible. Because “Adriana” is really a room, or a series of rooms. A warehouse floor in a suburb of St. Petersburg, with rows of cubicles and a line of offices on the perimeter. Enter “Adriana” (and dalissa29, and Jacalyn, and Miss Donni Preus) and you’ll hear CPUs buzzing, and a handful of men and women hitting CTRL+C, CTRL+V, CTRL+C, CTRL+V, Enter, Refresh, Enter, Refresh before lunch. Vasily is a junior phisher—he’s got six fake identities but he needs twenty-six by the end of the month. “Adriana” is his ace in the hole. He named her for his ex-girlfriend. She used to write to him in lines, like free verse. Vasily grabs a blini on the corner—mushroom and spinach—and he’s back. Another forty million emails out, through a network of infected computers across the Earth. Two replies. One sale.

And so it goes. Email spam might be the last refuge for shameless heteronormativity in our great wide e-fucked world. I have never received a piece of gay email spam. Ever. Just one, and my chances of accidentally installing malware would skyrocket. (Catch me on a lonely Saturday night and I just might click.) 1.6 percent of the U.S. population isn’t forty million, but it’s not nothing. You’d think, at least in this teenage ripening of our new millennium, our spammers might be a little more progressive. Or just a bit smarter.

Maybe I’ll open my own gay spam shop. I’ll rent a floor of a warehouse in Queens and blast the world with emails that use semicolons instead of apostrophes, and lines instead of paragraphs. I’ll name the screen names for my exes and hire a small team of go-getters, young and hungry and fast on the keys. Forty million emails out and, if I’m lucky, a reply. A bite. A catch. Boom.

Adriana, if you’re reading this: Thank you for your interest, but I gotta be me. Anyway, want to grab a drink, as friends? I think I could learn from your hustle. If you’re not too busy. Your call.

This article originally appeared on Medium and has been reprinted with permission.

Photo via Torkild Retvedt/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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