Performance Anxiety

map Performance Anxiety

by Matt Popham

Published in Issue No. 227 ~ April, 2016

Perform

They make you believe that what you’re seeing is real. That the person you’re seeing is the person they actually are. For a performance to work, you need to feel like you’re seeing a real person experiencing real life: feeling real sensations, real emotions. Their responses and reactions need to seem genuine. It’s the only way we can identify. Or empathize. Or connect. It’s the only way we can feel anything.

So, I guess, the point is: No. I didn’t know her. Not really. Not at all, actually. She was just… She was a good performer.

It didn’t used to be that way. Performance, I mean. For most of human history, it’s been, traditionally, very stylized. But – and I think you can probably trace this back to the advent of photography, and then film – in the last century or so – unlike, say, painting for example – performance has moved, pretty consistently, towards realism. Naturalism. Behavior. Even banality. The verisimilitude of the ordinary. We’ve lost our taste for the mythic. The expressionistic. For hyperbole. And by extension, even for allegory and symbolism. We actually feel alienated by anything that seems exaggerated, amplified, or even representational. And instead of taking advantage of that alienation – that distance – and using it to try to see the performance – understand it, relate to it – in a new way, we just…turn off.

I’m no different. But it’s especially true – for me – when it comes to this type of performance. The kind of thing she did. Which, I think, actually does make me different from most other men. Not that they would want something stylized, just that I don’t think authenticity matters as much to them as it might in other types of performance. Just based on my own personal observation, their needs seem – on average – pretty basic. I don’t think other men – other people – find it as important – as necessary – to believe, in this case, as I do.

Because I have a lot of difficulty with this sort of thing. With sex work. Of any kind. In general. Not because I have any shame or guilt or even any kind of moral objection. But precisely because it is all performance. Pornography, strippers, prostitutes. Their job is to make fantasy into reality. To make you believe. I mean, I guess for some people it’s just about getting turned on, or getting off, or whatever, but then why bother with the production at all? I mean, pornography is completely – dependently – situational. Maybe less so in the internet era, but still… The scenario, at least, has to be somewhat believable. The best strippers are the ones who can make you believe they’re dancing for you. Specifically. Even if only for a second or two. And, in my – admittedly, very limited – experience, any hooker worth paying for has made a profession, not of having sexual intercourse with people, but of making them feel…special… And you wouldn’t believe how rare it is – for me, I’m saying – to really find myself taken in by it. By any of it. As soon as I sense any kind of artifice or pageantry, I’m out. I end up feeling, not just disconnected, but…exposed. Vulnerable. Manipulated, actually. Exploited. And, yes, I am very much aware of the irony inherent in that. The point is, it’s very, very difficult for me to believe.

But I believed her.

I’m not going to say, “She was different from the others.” Not only is that a hackneyed cliché, it’s – like most hackneyed clichés – dishonest. I mean, how would I know? All I can say is that, unlike a lot of the other girls I had clicked on – maybe because they were pretty, or had nice bodies, or interesting outfits, or whatever – she seemed…really engaged…with her audience. She addressed us directly. Spoke to us. She knew little details about her regular viewers. She made them feel special. At the same time, there was an awareness, an acknowledgement – most importantly, I guess what I’m saying is, there was a comfort – with what they – what we – were there for.

See, for a lot of the girls on these types of sites, it really is just a performance. You click on their rooms and they’re all dressed up, they’ve got music playing. It’s like an online striptease. I mean, granted, most strippers don’t do masturbation shows. Not on stage, anyway. But, my point is, other than maintaining a level of eye contact with their webcams, there’s very little acknowledgement of their audience at all. Maybe a quick thank you for tips…And that kills it for me. Because it’s so stylized. So artificial. All the pouts and poses seem so generic. Like they were copped from some “How to Be Sexy” playbook. They’re not being sexy, they’re trying to be someone else’s idea of sexy… Some broad, all-encompassing idea of sexy for their nameless, faceless crowd. There’s no sincerity. No connection.

Other girls use it like an actual chat site. They sit and have conversations with the people in their rooms. Maybe talk about their day. Their jobs. The weather. But they set these tip goals: Shirt Off at 200, Panties Off at 500, Pussy Play at 1000… And the whole time, people are tipping them – and, yeah, a lot of them are… catcalling, essentially… typing really vulgar requests and so forth… (you really can’t get away from that, unfortunately…) but, for the most part, the girls ignore or delete them… – and then, when they reach a goal, they… do whatever they said they’d do when that goal was reached. But always as a kind of…mechanical appurtenance to this…ongoing casual conversation. I mean, I’ve seen girls lying there, stark naked, legs spread, inserting brightly colored sex toys into whichever orifice, while nonchalantly discussing their dog-walking business. And, for me, that’s almost worse. I mean, despite there being some semblance of real personality on display, it somehow feels even more avoidant. “I’m doing what you paid me to do, and we both know what you’re doing, but we’re not going to talk about it.”

I don’t know, maybe it’s not true that I have no moral objection. I mean, there’s no arguing that it is, in some sense, exploitative. For both parties, actually. I mean, here are these girls doing things that, clearly, on some level, they’re not completely comfortable with, surrounded – even if only virtually – by these men – and I’m including myself in this – who are using them to get off. Sometimes goading them, or even – and I am always dumbstruck by this – feeling entitled enough to make really disrespectful demands. At the same time, these girls know that these men –  and, honestly, I don’t even know that they’re all men, but… they know that these men will pay – know how much men will pay – to get off. And they use that. They exploit that. But it also seems to me that both parties are aware of that dynamic. Even if the fantasy is something else, the reality is, on some level, acknowledged. Mutually agreed upon.

I mean, analogy: we go to the theatre to be entertained, to be moved, for catharsis, right? We pay for that. And the actor on stage digs deep into themselves – sometimes at great personal cost – to provide us with the emotional truth that enables our cathartic response. And they get paid for doing that. Essentially, we’re paying people to psychologically disembowel themselves in a public space for own personal enjoyment or edification. And, when you think about it like that, the whole thing can seem really appalling and grotesque. But… if you’re choosing to be exploited, is it…? Is a submissive in a BDSM relationship really a slave? Of course not. In all of these situations, you’re choosing to participate and you can choose to walk away at any time…

(Assuming you – we, any of us – have any choice at all…)

I guess what I’m trying to say is, if I have a problem…a moral objection…it doesn’t have anything to do with sex. Anymore than my personal need for a kind of truth or honesty in performance has to do with sex. (I mean, obviously, on some level, it does, but…) In both cases, I think the lack of sincerity…it really sort of underscores the fact that neither party involved finds this interaction – this transaction – to be, in any way, truly fulfilling. It’s just the utilization of another person to service some very base and simple needs. And, in addition to the fact that it utterly destroys the illusion for me…the fantasy…I also find it somehow offensive. Ethically. I mean, I don’t care what you do with or to your body, or who you do it for, or with. As long as it’s your choice. But I don’t want to feel like I’m using someone as a means without regard to their personhood. Their humanity. And I don’t want to feel used in that way, myself. And if I’m sitting there questioning your motivations…or my own…

Yes, I realize I’m avoiding talking about it. My justification – my rationalization – is that I’m setting the stage. Getting all the gory detail and uncomfortable context out of the way, sparing you any awkward questions about the surrounding circumstances. Though the truth is probably just that I…I don’t want to talk about it. And not just because of any awkwardness or discomfort inherent…

Anyway… She… “Lorelei…”

I mean, right there, right…? You see all these girls calling themselves, “alexxx,” or “wet4u32,” or “madams_organ,” or whatever, and here’s just this… this name… Not her real name, obviously, but… You know… A name – an actual name, a person’s name – that you can use when chatting with her. But also…a name that – to me, anyway – suggests a…a deeper sensibility…a literacy… Or, at least, an appreciation for the literary… A name that conjures images of sirens calling out to you across the water, luring you in… The kind of name people title songs with…or…I don’t know… Maybe she was just a big fan of Gilmore Girls, but…it stood out. Caught my attention. As long as she didn’t say anything to contradict it, I could let myself believe that the siren thing was intentional…

I never asked…

The truth is I never said much to her at all. I watched her. Watched her interact with other people… (I don’t think I’m a voyeur. Most voyeurs enjoy watching people who don’t know they’re being watched. I’m the opposite. I liked that she knew that I…that people…were watching. I liked that she liked that people were watching. Or, at least, that she seemed to…) But I didn’t really take part in the interactions. I mean… Honestly, I didn’t even tip. Which, I think, somewhat ironically, makes me even more exploitative than those who do. I mean, I can talk all I want about being uncomfortable with feigned sexual interest in the name of monetary gain – all very complacently idealistic – but what it comes down to, in this situation, is that, even as I…benefit…from her performance, I don’t even have the courtesy to … Well, no…I do have the courtesy. What I don’t have is the money, but…

Look. Obviously, the whole thing is blatantly sexual. That’s the point. And it is, by nature, performative. And you can’t get away from the fact that, on some level, it is also a commercial endeavor…a business, but…with her…with Lorelei…that never seemed to be the reason she was doing it. Her motives always seemed pure. I mean, OK, not, “pure,” maybe, but… What I’m saying is, I never felt like I was using her. Whether or not I actually was. And I never felt like she was using me…us…them, the people who…I mean, people tipped, yes. And I’m sure, on some level, she did it for the tips. Maybe she even needed those tips. But it didn’t seem like it was the money, in her case, that was the mechanical appurtenance. She – she made me believe, anyway – she was having fun… Genuinely enjoying the erotic aspect of it… She acknowledged what she was doing, acknowledged what everyone else was doing, and was very…encouraging. Whether or not it was an honest feeling or whether it was just performance, she made it seem like it…really turned her on.

She’d come on and say hello to everyone. Greet her regulars. And there would always be some casual conversation, but she also always seemed really enthusiastic…eager…to get going. She’d smile and say, “Are you guys ready? Because I really need to get off…” And she’d sort of playfully tease as she stripped, the whole time, inquiring about everyone else… Were they getting undressed? Were they as aroused as she was? And then, when people replied – no matter how crudely – she’d say something like…you know… “Will you touch it for me?” “Tell me how good it feels…” Yes, I know how it sounds, but… It wasn’t trashy or…manipulative. It was too… It was warm. Welcoming. Sensual, yes. Seductive. But also sincere. I mean, she’d ask people individually. She knew what certain regulars in her room liked and she would…make sure to play a little bit to each of them. She even took the time to read everyone’s responses – you could tell she was actually reading them – and she’d smile…this smile, like…like she was reading…not fan mail, but…love letters, or…notes from a secret admirer. She seemed flattered…touched…grateful…

And, look, I’m not an idiot. I’m well aware that that sort of behavior – if it was sincere – likely stems from some aberrant emotional need. Possibly – maybe probably – as a result of some sort of abuse in her past. And that, on some level, it’s, at the very least, questionable – psychologically speaking – and therefore unfortunate, and therefore troubling – when someone seeks that kind of validation from strangers. But… If someone truly feels the need for that kind of validation, is it really such a terrible thing to provide it…? I mean, think about that mentality. Because someone suffered some trauma that left them with this pain, this emptiness, we should refuse them any comfort or fulfillment because we deem that pain or emptiness to be, somehow, deviant…? You could argue, I guess, that that would be enabling…or compounding…a potentially problematic – maybe even unhealthy – feeling of inadequacy, but I’ve seen enough to know that refusing to satisfy that type of need doesn’t make it go away, or allow it to heal, or even diminish it. I’m not even sure it makes it less damaging. I mean, maybe I’m just rationalizing what I fear might be my own culpability in all of this, but isn’t that what all of us were doing? Seeking validation…? She was a stranger to me. She didn’t know my name. Most of the time, she didn’t even know I was there, and yet…somehow…she made me feel…wanted…desirable…worthwhile.

And, again, I know how this sounds, but let me just say, in my defense, I’m not who you think I am. I’m not overweight. I’m not a virgin. I’m not unemployed. I don’t live in my mother’s basement. Not that there’s anything wrong with being any of those things. I’m just saying, I know the stereotype and it doesn’t apply. I’m not even…conventionally unattractive. At worst, you could say I’m a little socially awkward, but not to a…paralyzing, or disruptive degree. I’ve had a handful of romantic relationships – sexual relationships – and I’ve actually got a date with a co-worker this weekend…

Nor am I some kind of Neanderthal misogynist. I believe in gender parity. Equal pay, equal rights. I consider myself a feminist. But I…I find women beautiful. I find them alluring. Arousing. Inside and out. I mean, I’m sitting here telling you that I need to be able to see these women as people – as willing, comfortable, clear-sighted participants. I am not aroused – it’s impossible for me to become aroused – when there’s any kind of…objectification involved.

I mean, honestly…I don’t even know what that means. I’ve never been turned on by an object. Never desired physical intimacy with an object. To see someone in a sexual way seems like the opposite of objectification to me. It seems like…acknowledgement. I mean, I guess it all comes back to what I said – what Kant said, actually – about using another person as a means, but… We’re all – most of us – sexual beings. Maybe not primarily, but it’s a significant aspect of who we are, and a mode of being in which, at various times, we all wish to immerse ourselves. We all want to be and we all want to feel wanted. So, I don’t think I should have to apologize, or wear some label – that, in the broad generality of its application, of late, seems to be losing all meaning anyway – just because I am sexually aroused by the sight of a beautiful woman masturbating. There was no physical force involved. No coercion. I laid no claim to her body. And with Lorelei…I found her personality every bit as attractive, as exciting, as her appearance. Maybe more so. It was her personality – what I knew of it, what it seemed to be, anyway – that I found so compelling in the first place. And even if that was just performance, she made me believe it. There must have been some truth to it. Right…?

The day it happened…

No. Wait. A couple of days before it happened – and, I don’t know, this may have nothing to do with anything, but, thinking about it now, it strikes me as…maybe not relevant, but…interesting…curious, at least, in light of what followed (and I’m probably just…this is, you know, the human mind creating patterns where there are none, but…) – there was this guy. And I’m assuming it was a guy. I don’t know. His – or her – handle, which I don’t remember, was unisex. Anyway…Lorelei is, you know, doing her thing. We’re all…doing our thing…and this guy. Very politely. He starts asking her to stop. “Will you do something for me? Will you stop and put your clothes back on?” At first, everyone just ignored him. I mean, these kinds of chats attract all sorts, right? Paying the eccentrics no mind is par for the course. But, I remember, Lorelei saw his comment, seemed slightly puzzled by it, and then casually dismissed him with a bemused, “No.”

But he kept at it.

“You’re better than this.” “You are so special. So beautiful. You don’t need to demean yourself this way.” It got weird. Uncomfortable. Some of the other people in the room, they started to pile on the guy. Protectively – of her – for the most part. Most just told him that, if he didn’t like what he was seeing, he should leave. But some were more derisive. Abusive, even. And Lorelei – and this is one of the things I loved about her – and, no, I don’t mean capital-L “Loved,” I just mean one of the really cool things about her – she called them off. “Guys, it’s OK. Let him be.” (And, let me tell you, you’ve never seen a pack of wild men heel the way they do when there’s a naked woman pulling the leash.) And she proceeded to explain to this guy – very sincerely… reassuringly – that she didn’t feel demeaned. She didn’t feel like this was something she needed to do. This was something she wanted to do. She was exploring her sexuality in a way that excited her, and she was sharing something fun and beautiful with people who also found it exciting. And she was genuinely sorry if that made him uncomfortable.

And he said – well, he typed – chatted – whatever: “You don’t understand how they see you.”

And she…

“I have no control over how other people choose to see me.” That was her reply.

And, of course, that’s true, but…it also isn’t. And that… In that moment, it struck me – and, I mean, yeah, weird moment to be struck by these kinds of thoughts, I mean, I’m sitting there with… Anyway… Look, there’s no question: we need clean, established precedents to decide things legally in our society. We’re moving away from victim-blaming and slut-shaming and all of that. And that’s good. Because we all know that looking sexy is not a license to objectify or, worse, an invitation to commit assault. People’s responses to a person’s appearance need to be their responsibility. In a courtroom, that line needs to be sharp and clearly defined.

But…

Things are messier than that in…reality. I mean, can you really absolve yourself of all responsibility for how other people see you? We’re programmed, both biologically and socio-culturally, to respond to various visual stimuli, often in very specific ways. Most heterosexual men will become aroused – and not even willfully, but involuntarily – at the sight of a “sexily” dressed woman. And though the real point is that we don’t have to compulsively act on that arousal, our perception of – and, therefore, our way of thinking about – that person has already been affected. And… and, honestly – I mean, I don’t even know if I’m allowed to say this, but – isn’t that part of the point?

At the same time, take it out of the realm of the sexual… People have prejudices. And I’m not just talking about sexism or racism, though I mean that, too. I’m saying all of us have them. We make assumptions and deductions, often based on the scantest details. We make snap judgments that often set and become fixed, regardless of any contextual or contrary information that might be provided later. And, if you’re the person being judged, you really can’t control that. You can’t make someone like you. You can’t make someone respect you. And even if you could, is it your responsibility to do so, especially if their dislike stems from some deeply rooted bias?

I mean, bringing it back, let’s say I am a sexist. Is it the responsibility of the entire female population – collectively, and as individuals – to alter my perception of them? Isn’t my ignorance my responsibility? On some level, it seems unfair to put the onus on them to educate me, to constantly inform me of my errors in judgment, to continually correct me, or worse, to uniformly conduct themselves in a way that will consistently challenge or subvert my prejudices – especially if that means behaving in a way that might, on an individual level, be inauthentic. Even if they stand to gain, isn’t that essentially demanding that they perform for me?

But then, what the hell is performance if not exerting control over how people see you? Forget the stage. We do it all the time in everyday life. From maintaining a phony air of civility while making small talk with the cashier at Walgreens because we want them to think we’re nice people, even though we really want them to just shut the hell up, to dressing for a job interview and telling your prospective supervisor why you think you’d be a valuable addition to their company, even though you both know you’re only there because you need to pay the fucking rent.

And when it comes to sex, it’s all performance. And I’m not talking about sex work, now, but basic mate attraction. I’m going to go on this date this weekend with my co-worker. And I’m going to shave and comb my hair and dress in flattering clothes. And she’s going to doll herself up and wear something to signal…whatever it is she wants to signal… And we’re both going to be on our best behavior, acting confident even though we’re feeling nervous and insecure, feigning interest in each other’s mundane anecdotes because we don’t know each other well enough yet to talk about anything meaningful, pretending to agree on things we don’t in order to avoid uncomfortable friction – essentially attempting to make each other see us the way we want to be seen, rather than the way that we are, because we both want to get laid, and we don’t want to blow it, and because, more than that, we just don’t want to feel alone.

You know what a peacock is…? A chicken in a sexy outfit.

Anyway, the guy – who, if you ask me, polite as he was, was being spurred by his own personal prejudices that informed his perspective on the situation and, seen from a certain angle, was guilty of trying to impose them on Lorelei – he eventually… He eventually left, I think. Or, no. One of the mods ejected him from the room. Things kind of went back to normal after that. I mean, not right away, but… Like I said, it may not have anything to do with anything, but… It’s not that she seemed really affected, or troubled by it. But it kind of left a…a residue… And, you know, the mood had to be… recaptured…

I just kind of feel like – I mean, bad enough that, already, here are all these guys so jacked up on their own testosterone that they feel entitled to make aggressive, primal demands of a stranger who’s sharing something – something very intimate – with them, but this guy, for all his soft-spoken, deferential demeanor, he’s really no different, is he…? It’s the same stupid dominance assertion, just in an ostensibly more respectful package. Talk about performance! I mean, you almost got the feeling like he was trying to impress her…to attract her… And, you know, maybe it’s an…evolutionary disadvantage on my part, but… Honestly, I have no desire to control anyone. I don’t want to make anyone do anything. Or not do anything. I don’t want to make anyone into anything. I don’t feel like anyone needs to see things the way that I see them. And – even though I constantly find myself in situations where there doesn’t seem to be any way around it – the truth is, I don’t want to be seen as anything other than what I am. Whatever that is.

I don’t want to perform for anyone. And I don’t want anyone performing for me. And I’m not going to say, “Be real,” because the reality is, performance is in our nature. Performance is being real. I know that. It’s why I can’t get away from it. But I guess…I guess the idea of being able to be myself – uncompromisingly, nakedly myself – in front of someone who is also being unashamedly, unadulteratedly themselves, devoid of any pretense, is…my fantasy. Maybe, on a site like this one, that’s everybody’s fantasy. And if I share in any kind of culpability for what happened – or, depending on your point of view, for what happens on these sites every day – it’s in my willingness to buy into that fantasy, if that is, in fact, what is being offered.

Anyway… A couple of days later…

You could tell something was different. And the temptation is to say something like, “She seemed down,” but it wasn’t that. She didn’t seem troubled or despondent, she seemed cold. Indifferent. It was noticeable right away, and the room was… Everyone was quiet. I don’t know if people were waiting to take some kind of cue from her, or… But she just kind of stared – blankly, numbly – into her camera. And, after a minute, she said, “Anybody there…?”

And, immediately, a bunch of guys responded. “Hi.” “Yes.” “We’re here.”

She didn’t read any of them. She just smiled – to herself, kind of – and sang that line from the Pink Floyd song, “Is there anybody out there…?” And then she laughed. Again, to herself, but it also wasn’t… You know the way people sometimes laugh when they hear some sort of bad news? That short, hollow…exasperated…

And, of course, a million people started typing, “Pink Floyd!” “I love that album!” “Love that song.” Again, she didn’t read any of it.

And then someone wrote, “Shave your eyebrows!”

She saw that one.

And she smiled this tight…reptilian…smile, and she said, “Would that do it for you?”

She even sounded different. Seriously, if you told me she had a twin sister, I would have thought…I mean, for all I know, she did…I mean, for all I know…

Of course, a bunch of people said, “Yes!” “Do it.” Probably joking. I mean, maybe some weren’t, but I would hope… But it was weird to me that…I mean, it seemed so clear something was…different… And here are these people playing around like…like she was the same as she ever was…

Anyway, she got up. Without a word. And she came back with a disposable razor. A normal…you know…And she started to shave her eyebrows. And people in the room start cheering her on. Some are even pretending – I mean I assume they were pretending – to be turned on by it. At one point, she nicked herself, and a little trickle of blood started to run down the side of her face. She didn’t even bother to…She just smiled and let it…

I don’t need to tell you – I shouldn’t need to tell you – that, at this point, any hope or expectation of eroticism on my part had been thoroughly abandoned. I was… I mean, I didn’t know what to think. I was just sitting there, staring at her and trying to figure out…trying to figure out who she was. Who I was looking at. She did not seem the same. Was this some kind of performance? Or was this the real her and everything else had…? The obvious assumption was that something had happened. Something had happened to her. And, yeah, there was that little voice, in the back of my head, telling me I should just ask her, “Are you OK?” “What’s going on?” “What happened?” Just to let her know that someone out there was paying attention and recognized that she…

But I also thought, what right do I have? I don’t know her. I don’t know anything about what she’s doing or why. The truth is, I don’t know anything about her at all beyond what I’ve seen in this…little electronic window, and that’s… For all I know, this is just a performance! (For all I know, all of it was!) Wouldn’t it be presumptuous – intrusive, even – for me to behave as though we had established some kind of relationship that entitled me to ask these questions, when she only knows me as…? And that’s the other thing: She doesn’t know me. Any more than I know her. Less, in fact. I’ve never spoken to her. Never even tipped her. As far as she knows, this could be my very first time in her room. And then I end up looking like I’m…feigning a personal interest to…I don’t know…curry some sort of favor…

So I just sat there… Paralyzed. I mean, I couldn’t just walk away. But I couldn’t do anything else, either.

When she finished with her eyebrows, she took off her shirt. And she did it in a sexy, striptease kind of way, but not… It was still cold. It felt… sardonic, more taunting than teasing… (Does that make any sense…?) And then, raising her arm up and staring into the camera with that…that same impassive look, she started on her armpits. No water, no shaving cream, so…you know, a few more nicks… But that only took a minute or two, so after that, she stood up and slid her pants down, and it was on to the legs… Extending them out while she dragged the razor across, like she was posing for some kind of bizarre pin-up photo, except…

She ended up with a lot of cuts. But she never once grimaced…or winced. Or said, “Ouch.” She just kept…going.

And that was the point when I noticed – and this… this really troubles me – I noticed that the number of people in the room had started to climb. Somehow, I guess, word had spread across the site that one of the girls was doing this… freak show, or… cracking up, or whatever… And, so, you know… And, what’s worse, the other guys in the room, they’re egging her on… reacting like… I don’t know, like she’s doing it all for them. I mean, it was no different than if she had actually been doing a cum show. She’s sitting there, cutting herself up, bleeding – maybe psychologically unraveling – and they’re telling her she’s so sexy, and so beautiful, and asking to see her ass, and… And I’m reading all this, and all I can think is, I am not the same species as these people. These blind, howling, feral primates. I am not the same… But, of course, I’m full of shit, because there I was, frozen to my seat, gaping like a…

When she finished with that, she looked at us and said in this kind of monotone, “I know what you really want to see…” And, as she took down her panties, somebody typed, “YES!!”

And…I can only base this on the comments I read…I mean, I have no idea what people were actually doing, but…to take them at their word – their word supported, in this case, by my experience with the kinds of things people usually write when they’re… When she started to shave her pussy… It was at that point that they…that some of them actually started to…

Or so they said.

After she was done, she just sat there for a second or two, staring down at herself. She let the razor drop from her fingers. And then she looked up – looked right into the webcam – and said, “You guys want to get off?”

She didn’t need to read the answers. She just…waited for a second and then said, “Me, too.”

And…

It was so fast. I mean, no one saw the gun until that moment. No one knew she had one. I doubt anyone knew she owned one. She just reached out of frame and grabbed it. (And I’m sure if the mods had had any kind of time to react, they would have cut the feed or whatever, but…) She just grabbed it and put it to her chest. (I remember thinking how weird that looked… You don’t usually see… I mean, it almost kept me from really understanding what she was doing because it looked so…wrong… Anyway…) She put it to her chest and she pulled the trigger.

There was a bang. But it kind of got… I think the sound was too much for her microphone. And she fell out of frame. There was no blood. Not that I could see. I think, for a second, people thought that maybe it was some kind of joke. I mean, when she fell, it didn’t… It looked comical. The way she just… But she never got up. I mean, I’m sure it was less than a minute, but it felt like ages before one of the mods – or someone at the site – disconnected the stream…

And then there I was. Alone in my apartment. Wondering what the hell I had just seen. It’s almost, sort of, amazing to me that – at my age – in the internet era – I’d never seen anyone kill themselves before… If that’s…

I mean, what do I know, right…?

She hasn’t been back. That I know of. Though, the truth is, I only ever went back to the site after that to see if I could find anything out… But no one ever… There wasn’t any…

I did find out, later, that her viewing figures had been higher than any other girl’s on the site that day…

I feel sick when I think about that.