ICQ Gender Wars

A pretty Chinese maths teacher said hello to me on ICQ the other day, hoping to marry a Westerner. This inspired me to dig out and re-post the following entry from November 2006.


For many years I have spent most of my working days alone at a computer. Alone, but thanks to the internet and messaging software, not lonely. As mentioned before in connection with the story of Lennart, International Casanova, it’s good to have a chat now and then with other solitary souls over ICQ. They become your workmates even though they may be located on the other side of the planet in meatspace terms, to use a quaint 80s cyberpunk expression.

The spidery network of ICQ contacts can also teach you a lot about gender politics. In recent years, I have increasingly been contacted over ICQ by nubile females in Eastern Europe and Asia. These chats are usually very short and follow a simple pattern. The lady in question asks me in shaky English whether I am married, if I have children and what sort of job I have. And when I reply “yes”, “yes” and “not a well-paid one”, the conversation ceases. With all due respect to these enterprising and fearless ladies, this did get boring really quickly. But the problem mostly disappeared when I entered into my ICQ profile that I am in fact married and have kids.

For the past week I’ve been alone at home a lot and so have had reason to say “Hey there, how ya doing?” to a lot of random strangers on ICQ. Most people don’t reply at all to that sort of message. But among those who did, I quickly noticed another interesting pattern.

Far more males than females replied, and a lot of these males apparently hoped that I might want to have sex with them. This did not seem to be contingent on my income or family configuration, which I find kind of heartwarming in comparison to those grimly goal-orientated Eastern would-be brides. But as soon as it became apparent that I wasn’t interested in penis-themed conversation, these chats also ceased.

As for the ladies, the problem was really the opposite. Those few who responded were willing to have a chat, but at the same time they were clearly very guarded. Some started out by telling me, out of the blue, that they were not interested in sex talk or sex pics. This is not how live face-to-face chats with strangers usually begin. “Errrr”, responded I, “do you think we might perhaps simply have a civilised conversation?”.

Cyber sex is the text-messaging equivalent of phone sex. It’s a lot like having to read a very bad pornographic story line by line as it is improvised by someone who’s had sex but has never written a story before. It’s time-consuming, boring and in my opinion absolutely pointless. The internet is full of porn, a lot of it written and a lot of it written really well. But still, it seems that women on ICQ are absolutely besieged by men who want to have cyber sex and preferably also web cam pics of their anatomy. For women, ICQ seems to be a bit like going to a cocktail party where half of the male guests are insane sex offenders.

So I’ve made another addition to my ICQ profile. It now reads:

Archaeologist & all-round friendly guy.

Married, two kids. I don’t do cyber sex and I don’t want to see pics of your boobs or private parts, OK?

Let’s see if it works.

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  1. #1 Blake Stacey
    January 30, 2008

    I love how cyberpunk has become “quaint”. Hooray for the march of time! 🙂

  2. #2 Felicia Gilljam
    January 30, 2008

    Good post, even though I’ve read it before 😉

    It makes me wonder though – why do some of us enjoy cybersex while some apparently don’t? Cybersex can be boring, but hey, so can real sex. I think it’s down to the partner/pairing – even online you gotta have chemistry, albeit of a different sort. So when you say cybersex is pointless, I think you simply haven’t done it with the right person… 😉

  3. #3 Martin R
    January 30, 2008

    …or I haven’t been sexually deprived IRL long enough. (-;

  4. #4 Johan
    January 30, 2008

    I have increasingly been contacted over ICQ by nubile females in Eastern Europe and Asia.

    Never happens to me. I’m either too young, or I didn’t include any personal information in my profile. Can’t remember which, I haven’t looked at it for years. Ain’t complainin’, though I’d probably not be civil enough to reply at all.


  5. #5 Hypatia
    January 30, 2008

    “Penis-themed conversation” is my new favorite euphemism.

    Also: For women, ICQ seems to be a bit like going to a cocktail party where half of the male guests are insane sex offenders.
    This is what pretty much every open forum on the internet is like for women. Anonymity engenders asshattery.

    Hilarious essay. It’s great to see a male perspective on that nonsense.

  6. #6 kmarissa
    January 30, 2008

    “Errrr”, responded I, “do you think we might perhaps simply have a civilised conversation?”… For women, ICQ seems to be a bit like going to a cocktail party where half of the male guests are insane sex offenders.

    In the guarded women’s defense, I used to have a searchable AOL IM profile in college. I’d guess that about 1/4 of the random IMs I’d receive would begin, verbatim, “wanna cyber?” Another 1/4 would have the same sentiment, worded differently. A third 1/4 would start out normal, but would turn to “cybering” within, say, 10 minutes, and the last 1/4 were more or less normal people. Even then, a handful would try to turn, uh, romantic, within a few conversations.

    One quickly realizes that it is much more efficient to clarify the terms of the conversation at the beginning. If I’m not interested in discussing the color of my underwear, I’m better off just saying so up front.

  7. #7 October Mermaid
    January 30, 2008

    This is kind of depressing, really. No strangers ever IM me for any reason. Not even for the cybersexual relations.

    I DID get one random IM yesterday from someone I had never spoken to before, but all they said was “EMOEMOEMOEMO wrist slash EMOEMOEMO” and nothing else. I was half asleep at the time, so I didn’t badger them for more information.

    The more I think about it, the more creeped out I am.

  8. #8 Martin R
    January 31, 2008

    As Kmarissa hinted, I think the information you enter into your profile will largely determine who contacts you and why. We’ve all heard the stories of chat rooms full of FBI agents posing as adolescent girls.

  9. #9 kmarissa
    January 31, 2008


    A further note on that – as I recall (and this was a few years ago), AOL IM allows you to check a box indicating that your profile could come up in member searches as “available for chat”.

    However, interestingly, it didn’t really seem to matter what I put IN my profile after that point; as I recall, mine was basically blank. It existing, with a presumably female IM name, was enough to keep the above-mentioned IMs coming on a fairly regular basis until I got sick of it and un-checked the box.

    That said, I’m sure that what you put in your profile does influence the types of messages you get, and the types of people who send them. But it doesn’t take any particular invitation to receive an overwhelming percentage of sex-seeking IMs.

  10. #10 Martin R
    January 31, 2008

    That’s just so sad! BTW, what are you wearing?

  11. #11 kmarissa
    January 31, 2008

    exactly 😉

  12. #12 Dunc
    January 31, 2008

    Once again, xkcd sums it up nicely:


  13. #13 Martin R
    January 31, 2008

    Haha, yeah, that’s a good one!

  14. #14 SabrinaW
    January 31, 2008

    Oh, the stories I could tell of “penis-led minds” in online interactions… And I usually don’t share that I am female online as a result. Online gaming – guys would open doors and give me “gifts” (that Helm of Smiting they wouldn’t trade to me before), IM chats where I’d be told I “must be very beautiful and wouldn’t you like a nice man from Kenya to cross the world to kiss you?” (no.), and a running tally of MySpace “mackers” whom I publicly skewer in my blog. There is a reason women tend to be guarded.

    But, that said, I think your profile has promise; if I saw something like that on the profile of someone who opened a convo in a civilized way, I’d be willing to see what he had to say.

  15. #15 Martin R
    January 31, 2008

    What is a macker? Someone wearing a mac (a UK raincoat) and flashing passers-by?

  16. #16 SabrinaW
    January 31, 2008

    oops, forgot about the cultural divide. “To mack on” refers to making sexual advances on someone. I think it may be a little archaic in terms of slang, but it makes for good alliteration.

  17. #17 Martin R
    January 31, 2008

    In Chinese, the expression “to eat someone’s tofu” means “to feel someone up”.

  18. #18 Svon
    January 31, 2008

    I had a blogg earlier, I wrote poems and short stories. And showed some pics of my art. Once I had a small picture of my face and I got 82 suggestions of marriage and/or dates IRL. So I stopped writing and closed down my blog.
    If Im so attractive in cyberspace, GOD I must be as attractive in real life (instead) 🙂

  19. #19 SabrinaW
    January 31, 2008

    That’s why I don’t post pics of myself online unless absolutely necessary. Or I could just be hideous and am pretending I’m purty.

  20. #20 Felicia Gilljam
    February 1, 2008

    I have had my fair share of proposals in my days and for a while was very guarded about posting any personal information on the internet. I’ve loosened up slightly because, well, it’s pretty much impossible to keep my identity secret anyway.

    Interestingly it doesn’t seem to happen a lot on Facebook. Perhaps because it’s easier to shut people out on there, or because Facebook is so much more geared towards IRL connections than anonymous internet chatting. More attractive girls may have different experiences.

  21. #21 Martin R
    February 1, 2008

    Also, half of the Facebook population consists of peroxide-blonde high-school girls flaunting cleavages deep enough to offer a glimpse of their belly-buttons. So if a woman does not present herself in that manner on Facebook, she will go unnoticed by the slimies.

  22. #22 Magnus W
    February 1, 2008

    I think you miss that MSN is whats going on now… and “we” ICQ:ers are just out dated…

  23. #23 Martin R
    February 1, 2008

    I’m on ICQ, MSNM, Yahoo and AIM, using different multi-service client software on my various computers. Miranda under Windows, Adium on the Mac and wotsitsname that’s delivered with Ubuntu Linux.

  24. #24 bernarda
    February 3, 2008

    It could be worse, you could have old American Republicans like Larry Craig and Ted Haggart trying to pick you up.

  25. #25 Martin R
    February 3, 2008

    I hear Haggart’s got a good meth connection, though.

  26. #26 eleanora
    February 10, 2008

    I’ve never had a problem, but then I’ve never figured out chatrooms. One female friend who’s on/in? them quite a lot, complains that they’re full of men trying to get free sex, and women trying to get them to pay for it.

    “if I saw something like that on the profile of someone who opened a convo in a civilized way, I’d be willing to see what he had to say.”

    I’d react the opposite way. Someone who feels the need to put in something like that, must be a sex maniac, mustn’t they? 😉 Just as well I got to know you through your blog, rather than meeting on icq. 🙂

    Oh and any descriptions of my private parts at the moment will involve such UNsexy words as tearing, stitches, haemorrhage and milk!, so be warned, Martin.

  27. #27 Martin R
    February 10, 2008

    Oh, how scary to think that female naughty bits might have anything to do with childbirth. (-;

  28. #28 eleanora
    February 10, 2008

    Isn’t that their sole purpose? 😉 According to the patriachal religions, at least.

  29. #29 Martin R
    February 10, 2008

    Q: How are women’s breasts like model railroads?

    A: They are intended for children, but Dad is the one who actually plays with them.

  30. #30 kanser
    March 30, 2008

    That’s why I don’t post pics of myself online unless absolutely necessary.

  31. #31 murat
    June 26, 2008

    icq down, msn up 🙂

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