Friday, 21 October 2011

Hot or Not

In our mid-teenage years, when sex was still a lofty aspiration and movies like American Pie a romanticised self-help blueprint, my very small circle of friends (three of us, so more of a friendangle) explored any avenue that aligned us even remotely to the near-mystical realms of carnal pleasure. Predating these halcyon days of free streaming, we downloaded 20-second samples from porn sites and secreted them in hidden files on the family computer. We lit digital candles and flopped out our gigantic e-penis’s for frantic cyber-fornication in chat rooms. We stretched the boundaries of decency in answering the social measurement: a/s/l?

Typical answer: 18/Hot Guy/Up the bum?
Real answer: 13/Oh God Please/Not here, my mum’s watching.

We were three guys with newfound hormones trapped in the pubescent pressure cooker of an all boys’ school. We feared that if we didn’t satiate our desires we’d inevitably cross the point-of-no-return and bugger each other blind behind the sports hall. Fortunately, the perversions of the Internet always serve up a fresh humiliation to aid distraction.

Before MySpace and Facebook made it possible to lower your trousers in front of any girl in the world with only the persistent sting of shame as repercussion, Hot or Not encouraged us to pass judgement on people’s worth by rating their appearance from 1-10. No friends, likes, or interests. Just a parade of narcissism designed solely to inflate or shatter fragile egos.

It’s still going. Check it out: hotornot

It had its problems. The beautiful would undercut their rivals and the ugly amongst us would rally against the aesthetically gifted like a massacre at an Abercrombie & Fitch store. Still, nothing online at the time quite matched the heady thrill of rating these girls’ faces from the safety of a desk that hid the real reviews in our laps.

Quite what we hoped to achieve by throwing our own mugshots into the breach I’m not sure. Perhaps we felt that, robbed of the opportunity for real girls to laugh in our faces, we’d let the anonymous do it instead. More likely, we aimed to establish a hierarchy in our friendangle, like rutting stags comparing the size of their antlers.

So for one afternoon my front room transformed into a photoshoot. The other stags carefully shaped their hair with gel until, respectively, they resembled an underfed bird of prey and Chandler from Friends when Matthew Perry was in rehab. At the time, these were considered good photos.

Worthy of note, this was around the week or so that Peter Andre’s ‘Mysterious Girl’ was back in the charts. Possibly the most sexually ambiguous moment of my life is preening myself in front of two camera-wielding boys while this video played repeatedly on the music channels: Contains Gratuitous Homoeroticism

I was very much at my fattest, and unaware of the tricks the overweight utilise when being photographed (wear dark colours, take photo from high angle, pull a face that apologises to the viewer for scarring their eyes). I wore a shiny blue shirt, and decided to run my head under the shower to really capture that fetching ‘drowned wildebeest’ style that drives girls wild. I looked like an over-the-hill pornographer hoping to forge a career in heart disease prevention posters. At the time, it was considered a good photo.  

Our profiles went online. Each morning on the walk to school we discussed/gloated/commiserated over the results. I don’t quite have the heart to log in to my old account and check my score. The hierarchy had been established, and I was firmly at the bottom.

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