Online Identity Experiments

Interview with Gay Men Who Masqueraded as Girls Online to Flirt with Boys by Lisa

Being closeted can often⁢ lead to feelings of isolation, especially during adolescence. In the early ​days of social media, it’s not surprising that some gay men found unconventional ways to‌ explore their attraction to other males.

One such individual is‍ Thomas*, who, as a‍ closeted teenager, resorted to⁣ “catfishing” boys⁣ by pretending to be a ​girl online. He recalls feeling desperate and lonely, and found an ​outlet for his feelings on early social media platforms like‌ Bebo. He would ‍add boys on MSN‌ Messenger and flirt⁣ with ‌them, an activity he now feels ashamed of.

Thomas explains that his primary interest​ was in conversation, but the boys he catfished often steered the conversation towards sexual ‌topics. He says, “It wouldn’t take long for the horny straight boys to ⁢ask for nude photos. But I initially just wanted ⁣an⁣ outlet to talk to​ cute boys because I couldn’t.⁤ While all ⁤my friends were getting off with each other and going out, I just wanted someone to talk to me in the same way.”

Thomas is not alone in this experience. Jay* shares that​ between the ages of 13 and 15, he⁢ catfished‍ several boys ‌at his school. He would take pictures from ⁤a random‍ girl’s MySpace⁤ page and use them to create⁢ a⁢ fake ​profile. He knew that most guys would be attracted to ⁣a stereotypical blonde girl ​with blue eyes, so he ‍chose ⁢those images.

Jay’s motivations were not ⁣just about being a hormonal ‌teenager. He explains that suppressing his sexuality left‍ him craving intimacy. ⁢He envied the physical​ interactions his straight classmates had and⁢ wanted to experience the same with his male classmates. Unable to express his feelings openly, catfishing provided him with a‌ semblance of ‌romantic interaction that he couldn’t find in pornography.

The term “catfish”‍ refers to someone who pretends to be someone else online.⁣ The MTV show Catfish, which started in 2012, follows Nev Schulman as‌ he interacts with people who have been “catfished” online. Catfish can be motivated by financial​ gain, revenge, or bullying.

A study conducted by social neuroscientist Eric Vanman of the ‌University Of Queensland in Australia, found that 41 per cent of catfish ⁣were motivated by loneliness. The study also revealed that catfish often⁤ have multiple “victims”, with some describing catfishing as⁢ an “addiction”.

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