Following the end of my marriage, I found myself a single father newly dating for the first time in fifteen years. My monogamous and largely sexless marriage stood in stark contrast to my new life, in which I soon found myself enjoying sex with multiple partners—including men, women and transgendered people—organizing orgies, investigating BDSM and even falling in love.
I documented my new life in a blog One Life, Take Two, written under the pseudonym “Jefferson.” When I began my blog in November two-thousand-and-four, there were few sex blogs and of those, fewer still written by men, parents or anyone over thirty. The blog quickly grew in popularity. As I met other bloggers and my friends and partners started blogs of their own, I found myself in the midst of a burgeoning community of sex bloggers. I made public appearances at readings and as a sex educator, drawing increased media attention.
In March two-thousand-and-eight, my ex wife discovered an article about my blog. She sued for custody of our children, claiming that they were endangered by my sexuality. As the blog was the sole basis for this claim, I took my sex life offline for the duration of the custody case.
Fortunately, my blog brought many supporters to my assistance. Friends and fellow bloggers formed the Friends of Jefferson to raise money, strategize and bolster my spirits. Valuable insights and community support were provided by Lambda Legal, the Woodhull Freedom Foundation; and the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. Most critically, the Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund created a legal defense fund, allowing tax deductible contributions to support my case. Many loyal blog readers were among the contributors. If my blog had the disadvantage of drawing my ex’s vindictive ire, it had the advantage of drawing support for my case.
After nearly a year in court, my ex was denied her bid for full custody. The State of New York ruled that my sexuality did not put my children in any danger whatsoever. Joint custody continued uninterrupted and I resumed blogging.
I returned to a changed blog landscape. In my absence from online life, a flame war, initiated by Dacia and spurred by speculation, had outed me and further sought to tarnish my reputation. Dee, a former girlfriend smarting from the realization of unrequited love, spread rumors as her friend, Tess, buoyed by her access to unfettered gossip, anointed herself as my rival and sought to gain a measure of celebrity by taking me down.
It was an extraordinarily tacky affair.
I’ve written at length about the custody case on my main blog. Here, I address the internecine war that, for one nasty season, divided sex bloggers. This story unfolds in nine chapters, several of which were originally published at One Life, Take Two.
A friend and fellow sex blogger meets other bloggers and is impressed by the differences between their online personae and their offline realities.
When I go offline to focus on my custody case, Tess senses an opportunity to promote herself through gossip.
The search for gossip makes strange bedfellows of Dee and her former rival, Avah; Dee and Tess plot to “destroy” me through self-promotion.
A reunion with a long-time lover brings up reflections on trust, friendship and betrayal.
Nothing But Angry
Tess and Dacia use a girlfriend of mine to gain information for gossip, betray her confidences and dispose of her afterward.
Feverish, Sad Drama
Encouraged by Dacia’s flame war, Tess pursues gossip to an awful end: outing me in an anonymous online attack.
Nearly a year after our break up, Dee blackmails me with hacked emails.
My prior relationship with Dee haunts a girlfriend, revealing the hazards of associating with stalkers and gossips.
Reflecting on lessons learned, I’m reminded to pay heed to red flags and to avoid people who behave poorly.
Molly was quiet as we walked away from the restaurant. “It’s funny,” she said finally. “No one is anything like I imagined.”
I nodded. “I am continuously impressed by that. Though I suppose I’m also used to it, as that same thought occurs to me so frequently.” We walked on. “I’m going your way; come on, I’ll give you a ride to the Metro.”
Molly and I were leaving a brunch attended by two-dozen or so sex bloggers and others involved with sex online, following our participation in Sex 2.0, a conference focused on intersections of feminism and technology. I knew most of the group, but this was the first time Molly had met so many people she had known only through their words and images. “That’s you?” she said repeatedly. “Wow. I’m a fan.”
Our conversation continued as we drove over a bridge and neared the Metro station. “Okay, we’re here, “ I said, pulling over. “Now, you’re sure you know how to get to where you need to be?”
“Yeah, I’m sure.” Molly paused for a moment. “You know, the more I know you, the more I think I like you better than I like ‘Jefferson.’”
I smiled. “I’m glad. I like the you I’m getting to know, too.” I leaned over to kiss her. It was a nice, lingering kiss. When it ended, Molly smiled, said goodbye and opened the car door. I watched as she crossed the street to the station. She’s really nice, I thought. I picked up my cell and typed: “On my way, canes in tow.” I tossed my phone into the seat vacated by Molly and drove off.
Molly and I met as mutual sex bloggers. We enjoyed a flirtatious correspondence, as you do, and in the goodness of time, she invited me to a cam date. I use my webcam very infrequently but I appreciated the offer and agreed. For the first time, we saw each other as we are, not as we are represented in the words and cropped portraits in our respective blogs. We each liked what we saw.
She offered to remove her shirt. I thought that was a grand idea. She adjusted the camera so that I could see her breasts, which I admired. We then carried on our conversation as before until I excused myself to prepare for bed.
The next day, she wrote to tell me that we would not be having sex. I replied that I hadn’t anticipated that we would, as we don’t live near one another. But, I asked, why did she feel the need to point that out? “First of all, you are much older than me, and that’s weird. Second of all, I’m not used to men looking at my breasts and not cybering with me.”
Molly made a good case. We are years apart. Further, she was well accustomed to cybersex and to being desired online. She has a particular kink—feederism—that fascinates me even though I don’t happen to share it. As it is a rare kink, and her place in it so unique—she is a dominant in an arena in which women are more frequently submissive—Molly is well known in her online community.
I explained that I don’t typically cyber as it doesn’t fit my life. It would be inappropriate to do so when my children are home. When my children are away, I’m busy having sex. This leaves me little time to pursue cybersex. Molly and I agreed that we wouldn’t be having sex, and probably not cybersex either, and resumed our correspondence as before.
Some time later, she happened to be in New York and wanted to meet. I invited her to a party. It was the first time we had met in person. It was nice to finally meet my online friend. “You don’t look old,” she remarked.
I signaled to a servant. “Refill my bourbon, boy.” A handsome young man in a black suit hurried to take my glass. I took Molly’s hand. “Come on, let’s talk on the couch.” By the time my glass returned, I was going down on Molly.
Later, she reclined on a bed watching me fuck a woman. As Molly was between me and another woman I wanted to fuck, I fucked Molly en route.
Still later, I handed Molly a bamboo and invited her to join me in caning Nate. She had never caned anyone before. She was a quick study. Nate attested to this by falling silent and allowing me to ruin his legs in educating Molly.
The party had left her head reeling, so the next day, we met privately. She appeared ready for anything and as we went along, I became ever rougher and she became ever more submissive. We were well attuned and aroused by one another.
At one point as we fucked, she said, in singular earnestness, “I hope that when I’m your age, I fuck as well as you do.”
I smiled. “Keep practicing.”
When next we met, I served her a straight boy dripping in ice cream. Once more, I pulled up her dress in a crowd and chased her orgasms.
Now, all of this is the kind of thing Molly might expect of Jefferson. We flirted online, we fucked minutes after meeting at an orgy, I dominated her privately, and I fed her fetish and made her feel submissive in public. Throw in a few glasses of bourbon and some snappy repartee and that satisfied the impression she had formed of Jefferson before we ever corresponded.
Jefferson confirmed her expectations. But along the way, she also got to know me. To her surprise, I was not the man she expected to meet. And then, as she met other sex bloggers, she continued to encounter this disconnect between the personae she imagined and the people she met.
Most sex bloggers are aware of this distinction between our lives online and in reality.
For some, this schism is inherent in the relationship between writer and reader. Authors may write under their real names and make no distinction between their public lives online or off, but still they find people struggling to match the person reading at the podium to the words encountered on the page. This is a reality for any writer, really.
Others deliberately manipulate their online persona. They adopt pseudonyms with particular language in writing and particular styles of dress if appearing in public. This allows them to retain a kind of privacy; their deliberate self-presentation is a mode of self-preservation.
Others hide a shameful truth behind their online persona. Beyond the trappings of elaborately crafted personality and fabulous self-promotion hides awful insecurity: an adopted dazzle disguises the drabness of the actual individual.
Others are simply who they are beyond the perceptions of others.
For myself, I became aware of my online persona only as it developed.
When I first began to keep my sex blog, I had no sense of a readership. I hardly knew what a blog was. I wrote into the void the stories I had otherwise been telling to friends. People who knew me recognized my voice in the stories I wrote. I had no awareness of other readers.
Within a short time, a reader named Shelby and I met through my blog. She liked what she had read and wanted to meet, clearly intending to have sex with me. This astonished me—someone would want to have sex with me because I wrote about having sex? Yet Shelby could take me as I was. The person she met was the person who wrote Jefferson. In her mind, and in my bed, there was no difference between the two.
Over time, I became aware of that Jefferson was increasingly a character only partly of my creation. Like most literary characters, he was completed in the mind of the reader. If people encountered me in person, they assumed that I was like the persona they imagined based on my words. Someone thought I would be taller, though I had blogged my actual height. Someone pictured me as dark haired, though I had written that I am blonde. Someone imagined me older even as someone else imagined me younger, though I had given my actual age. This was all fine by me. Their individual fantasies completed the version of Jefferson that got each of them off.
By this time, being Jefferson was becoming complicated.
Every word I write in my blog is true, describing events that actually happened. I’ve never intentionally sought to push Jefferson’s persona one way or another, instead choosing to write the stories I found most compelling at any given moment. In doing so, I created, in the minds of some readers, a kind of extraordinary character. Whereas I expressed my wonder and excitement that extraordinary things occurred in my life, some assumed that I participated only in extraordinary events. I argued otherwise when pressed. Anyone who read my blog as a narrative about anything other than relationships, I asserted, was not reading what I believed myself to be writing.
Within a few years of beginning the blog, it was read by everyone with whom I was sexually involved. I had met most through my blog. Many began blogs of their own and wrote frequently about me. This suited me, as I wanted to be as honest and transparent as possible. I was out. Blogging and being blogged reinforced that.
Still, creatively and ethically, I encountered landmines. If I focused on relationships in my text as a writer—developing characters, exploring emotions—I risked hurting the feelings of people I cared about. This became most evident to me in writing about my relationship with Madeline. As she and I fell in love, and as we collaborated in writing about it rather movingly, I encountered my first controversy as blogger. In essence, I was revealing to some a side of myself that some other partners had not encountered in person. If Jefferson had the capacity for falling in love, they wanted that from me as well.
I found myself unable to write Madeline in my blog as I would like. Instead, I kept my writing light, regarding it as escapist erotic nonfiction. Most readers are not bisexual, most have never attended orgies and most don’t balance their sexual lives with their lives as parents. I felt I could offer some insights into how I went about all that, even while entertaining a readership that was now growing substantially. For those who did relate to my life and situation, there was a sense of commune that was equally satisfying. None of us was alone.
But here again, I ran into conflict. As I wrote about my sex life, so too did other bloggers, with my blessing but without my editorial direction. I read their stories once posted, just like any other reader. I wasn’t surprised that this might occasionally upset other partners. After all, they read about me having sex with someone else. That could understandably cause jealousy. What surprised me was the way the blogs could be used to compile rationales for upset. If a blogger wrote that she had sex with me “last night,” another might ask why I hadn’t chosen her “last night?” If a blogger wrote that she and I had gone to a museum, another might ask why we never went to museums. If a blogger described my participation in an activity I rarely pursued, it was automatically on the menu for anyone who wanted it.
Once blogged, anything I did with any one partner was an assumed privilege for all partners.
I saw that my privacy was withering away. I recognized that I had volunteered some measure of privacy when I began to write about my sex life in public. Still, in writing my own life, I told the stories I wanted told and reserved those that I preferred to remain discreet. I could keep my private life intact. Now, with Jefferson becoming a character to be claimed by whoever chose to take him up, I found my online persona being turned in ways I had neither intended nor imagined, in ways that might have little to do with me.
Sometimes this occurred in the texts of well-intentioned bloggers who were working out feelings, not thinking of themselves as writers—which I never grudged, as blogging began as diaries and is not limited to writers—but at other times, I was a target for bloggers with their own agendas to pursue. Frequently, the agenda was simple: why him and not me? Why is Jefferson content, enjoying sex and acquiring a measure of celebrity, when those things are denied to me? What can I do to attain these things? If I can’t attain them, how can I make them less desirable by robbing him of them?
When my ex wife discovered my blog and sued for custody of our children, I was reminded by my friends at the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom that legal battles fought in the media were fought by the media for reasons of its own; usually, to sell papers. Given that truth and the fact that my ex was using my blog against me as evidence, I voluntarily shut down my blog for the duration of the case. I took Jefferson offline in order to focus on my real life. I asked my friends to do likewise. They complied.
However, once Jefferson had been created in the minds of others, he was no longer fully mine to withhold. Aware of my absence, others seized on the opportunity to define Jefferson to their own advantages. I read as Jefferson was portrayed as god and demon, saint and sinner, Svengali and dupe. There were those who cashed in on his notoriety at lunches and over drinks, people with little else to do, it seemed, but to conjecture about Jefferson in order to make themselves look more interesting. Watching on, I first felt the other side of celebrity: having created something public, I was now denied privacy. While I was dealing with a real-life crisis of the first order—a threat to my family in court—people were vacuously gossiping about me between cosmos, tweets and shoe sales.
My life had become an entertainment commodity.
But the more I became absorbed in my real-life struggles, the more assured I became of the banality of online chatter. It meant nothing to my situation, but gossip seemed to matter enormously to those who perpetuated it. Gossip about me was—for one shining moment, in one miniscule cohort—the most singular ticket to being perceived as interesting. Listen to me, went the clamoring voices, for I have the very latest, the story you won’t hear anywhere else. Did you hear? Did you know? Why, that scoundrel!
Eventually, the gossip died down. What else could it do? The sheer repetition had to weigh down its listeners. People who had never met me wearied of hearing that a friend of a friend had repeated variations of the same tired revelations. In the hands of others, Jefferson became old news.
When my custody case ended and my blog reappeared, some began to churn at the creaking gossip mills. Did you hear? Did you know? Listeners weighed the stories being told. In one ear came repetitious gossip. Did I tell you about the time Jefferson did me wrong? Did you hear about the time he did a bad thing? In the other ear came reality. A blogger had faced down a First Amendment fight. A bisexual had kept his children. A kinkster was living though the very reasons we work to revise the DSM.
All of which, really, in either ear, wasn’t entirely about me. It was above all about challenges to private life in an era with a diminishing regard for privacy. It was about the power and limitations of celebrity and gossip and their transformation by social media. As for me, I was still the person I always had been—still a parent, still a pervert, and, beyond the hype about Jefferson, still me.
On a warm summer evening, Tess joined friends at Bryant Park to watch a free movie. Onscreen was Harold and Maude, a film about a poor little rich boy who falls in love with an eccentric seventy-nine-year-old anarchist. Completely comfortable with her advanced age, the older lover offers a peculiar kind of love and wisdom well tailored to the needs of her twenty-year-old suitor, who had previously staged suicide attempts to get attention.
Tess’s company that night was comprised of women a decade or two or three younger than she was. She had met most of them a year before, when she made a dramatic and ambitious effort to recast her social circles. It was the biggest change to her life since she had started having sex outside her marriage and blogging about it. Tess’s blog was primarily concerned with a dominant lover she called Victor. The lover made her happy. Better still, the blog got her attention.
Now, sadly, she knew that the relationship with her lover was ending. The night after Harold and Maude, Tess had a date with Victor. She showed him a story she had written about him. They made love for what would be the final time.
A couple of days later, Tess was depressed about the loss of her lover. She moped through her workday. Normally eager to Twitter about her outfits and lunches, she managed only to write a sorrowful “life goes on.”
That evening, Tess eased her pain by doing something that had long brought her pleasure. She anonymously attacked me online.
I’m not exactly sure when I became Tess’s obsession, but it seems to have begun shortly after we met. My friend Viviane had decided to bring together sex bloggers based in New York City for monthly tea parties. Tess and I were among those invited. Never having read Tess’s blog, I checked it out. The prose was deep purple, for my taste a little too steeped in a “give to me your leather, take from me my lace” sensibility. Still, she had a good story to tell about discovering herself as a sexual submissive in middle age. I could identify with a narrative about reasserting your sexuality in adulthood.
The blog may not have been my cup of tea, but upon meeting Tess, I found I liked her enormously. She was funny in a catty kind of way, and her vanity was pure camp. She kept her graying hair dyed red and pushed her plump tits forward with the shameless aplomb of a drag queen. She flirted constantly and despite her diminutive stature, she could easily drink me under a table. If I were to open a saloon in the Wild West, I’d have hired her to keep the cowhands happy and buying rotgut.
The feeling seemed to be mutual. She even arranged a date for me with a woman she referred to as one of her “bitches.” The woman and I saw quite a bit of each other for a while, and I thanked Tess for making the connection. It’s nice when friends do things like that for one another.
Some things came to be traditions with Tess. After a few drinks at Viviane’s parties, Tess could be counted on to stand up and loudly ask the room, “Am I the only woman here who hasn’t fucked Jefferson?” I would always laugh, but nervously, aware that the question hung uneasily in the air. I had, in fact, had sex with nearly all the women in that circle, but not all of them wanted this known or wanted to contemplate specifics about my other partners. For Tess, though, her question was a way of distinguishing herself from the group, which she apparently saw, at least in part, in terms of each person’s relationship with me.
Tess enjoyed gossiping with Viviane and between the two of them, it seemed they knew everything about everyone who had a sex blog. They talked about me a lot, but I suppose I did generate a good deal of stories worth gossiping about.
Over lunch one day, a fellow sex blogger warned me to be careful of Tess. “She’s a viper,” I was told. “I’ve only had conflicts with two sex bloggers and with Tess, it got personal and nasty very quickly. Things I had told her in confidence were being spread everywhere. And it was all over some ridiculous competition in her mind: she was interested in some guy who was interested in me. I didn’t care about him—she could have him, so far as I was concerned—but she seemed to need to destroy a competitor. It was all very primal and, frankly, unnecessary.”
I nodded along politely, thinking my friend was being overly dramatic. I liked Tess. Anyway, it wasn’t like Tess and I would ever be in competition over some guy.
One day, I was contacted by an unhappily married woman who read my blog and wanted to get together for sex. This happens in my life now and then, and after some preliminaries, we met. We had fun and she wanted to continue seeing me. For our second date, she proposed flying me to the Bahamas so she could sneak away from a family vacation to have a few hours of sex. That actually doesn’t happen to me often, and being game for adventure, I accepted.
My new girlfriend began reading other sex blogs and soon asked me about Tess. “I really feel like I have a lot in common with her,” she said. “Do you think it would be okay for me to write to her?”
“Of course,” I said. “Tess is great and she’s approachable. Mention that you know me. That should open the door.” They did seem to have things in common. Both were middle-aged suburban moms who were cheating on their husbands. I was pretty sure Tess’s husband knew about her affairs, but, like most cheaters, my new friend Dee was lying to hers. I thought perhaps Dee might benefit from Tess’s experience.
My girlfriend sent an email to Tess, who immediately responded that they should instant message. Dee didn’t know how to do that—she had only discovered the Internet a few months before—so Tess walked her through it. That very night, the two of them messaged until nearly three in the morning. “I love Tess,” Dee wrote to me. “It’s like she completes me. I can’t imagine not knowing her.” That’s great, I replied, glad that they had hit it off so well, and so quickly.
My trip to the Bahamas was to be brief. I would arrive one day, see Dee on the second day, and then head back on the third. Unfortunately, I missed the flight—I made the mistake of taking the A train to JFK, unaware that it was making all local stops. By the time I got to the airport, there was no time to make it through security. I texted Dee with the news. She was understandably upset but decided to compensate by booking me on a cruise two months later. This was also pretty rare for me, so I accepted.
I did regret that I wouldn’t be able to say, “I suppose the first date was a hit, because she took me to the Caribbean for the second.” Instead, I would have to wait until the fourth or fifth date. That’s still a good story, but it doesn’t have quite the same panache.
Tess told my girlfriend that she was making a mistake by taking a vacation with me. She would do better to use Craig’s List to find another man to take on a cruise. My girlfriend had never heard of Craig’s List so Tess sent her a link and instructions on posting.
The next time Viviane had a party, my girlfriend told me to pick up a bottle of Patron tequila to give to Tess. “Tess has been just so great to me,” Dee said. “She stood by me when you missed that flight. She knew all the right things to say.”
I obliged, sending Dee a photograph of Tess receiving her gift. I thought it was a little odd that Tess had recommended that a woman she had never met was better off taking a vacation with a random stranger than with a friend of hers, but, you know, people are sometimes funny like that.
Dee and I settled into a routine. We would meet regularly for sex and afterward we would head to a local diner for cheeseburgers. She picked up the tab. We then went on the cruise she had arranged. It was a Disney Cruise and included a day at Disney World. When she told me how much the trip cost, I said, “You know, for that kind of money, we could go to Amsterdam or Paris or San Francisco. You know, some place real.”
“No, we have to do Disney,” my girlfriend said. “I don’t go anywhere else.”
It was her dime, so I didn’t complain. Anyway, we had a nice time. I hadn’t been to Disney World since I was fourteen. Dee knew the park’s best restaurants. In one, we sat in a booth that looked like a car and ate sandwiches while watching a Fifties science fiction movie, just like a drive-in but indoors and fake. The waiter was nice and kept trying to sell us dessert.
Not long before our cruise, my girlfriend met Tess in person for the first time, after a few months of constant instant messages. They went to a reading by other sex bloggers, most of them friends from Viviane’s party. I was with my kids that night, so I stayed home. It was a fun girls night out for Dee. She was excited to meet so many people. That night, she also braved her first time alone on a subway and her first taste of Thai food.
Tess suggested that my girlfriend start her own blog to write about her sex life with me. Tess showed her how to start a blog and gave it a snazzy alliterative name. “Only, God, don’t make him sound so great,” Tess said of me. “Seriously, I read all these blogs about him and I want to barf.” My girlfriend laughed. She promised to make fun of me.
My girlfriend talked about Tess all the time. One day, as we were lounging in bed after sex, Dee said, “I think the most important thing to happen to me in years was meeting Tess. She’s changed my life.”
“That’s nice,” I nodded.
“I mean, I think meeting you was really only so I could meet her.”
“I’m glad you’re both such good friends,” I said, making a mental note that one day, I should tell her that it’s poor pillow talk to tell a lover that his main contribution to your life was introducing you to someone else.
She turned to me. “Tess likes you. She really does like you. She thinks you’re funny.”
“Aw, that’s nice,” I smiled. “I like Tess, too. She’s certainly funny.”
My girlfriend laughed at a memory. “She is so funny. She knew I was seeing you today so she told me last night that I need to have sex with someone else.”
I filed away another pillow-talk conversation for a later time. “Does she have anyone in mind?”
“Doesn’t matter. Some other man.”
“You mean, instead of me or in addition to me?”
“Tess says she’s going to find me a second lover, a real man like the ones she likes.”
I turned to her. “Dear, you are a married woman who is cheating on her husband. Your life seems plenty complicated already. Do you really think you need to add another layer of complexity?”
“I’m not really going to do it. I’m just telling you what Tess says. She wants me to have sex with someone else. Because then I would know that the sex we have isn’t so great.”
“Oh.” I mulled that over. “Wait, Tess wants you to understand that we don’t have good sex? Do we not have good sex?”
“How would I know if we do? I’ve been married to my asshat husband for twenty years. I’ve never had good sex.”
I caught that Dee now used the word “asshat.” That was a word Tess liked. “You don’t know when you’re having good sex? Well, I think we have pretty good sex. And I’m an expert, you know, so my opinion matters.”
She patted my leg. “Tess thinks you’re overrated.”
“Considering I write my own press releases, that’s entirely possible. But how would she know? Tess and I have never had sex.”
“I know. You’re never having sex with her. She told me the reason, too.”
“Lack of interest, I assume. We’ve never talked about having sex. She’s really into that guy she dates.”
“No, she won’t have sex with you because you’re bisexual. She says that’s disgusting.”
I winced. “Um, last time I checked, Tess was bisexual.”
“Tess says that’s different. Men want women to be bisexual. But no woman wants a man to be bisexual. She says it’s like sex with a gay guy. There’s not enough attention on the woman.”
“But that’s . . . “ I stopped at the word “hypocrisy.” I didn’t want to color my girlfriend’s impression of her new friend. “Well, I can assure you that a lot of women do in fact like bisexual men. I meet plenty of women who like that I also see men.”
“Yeah, but you fuck young girls. They don’t know what they want. Tess is talking about grown women, like me. She says you fuck women half your age because they’re easy to get your way with. She says you’re afraid of strong women.”
I sat up on my pillow. “Actually, for the most part, my partners find me. I never need to ‘get my way’ with anyone. And I don’t consider my partners to be lacking in strength.” My girlfriend seemed to be harboring plenty of negative thoughts about me. “Hey, wait a minute. Tess always talks about the twenty-six-year-old man she screws, the guy with the six-pack abs. Isn’t she fifty-two or something?”
“No, she’s fifty-one.”
“Oh, that’s better. For a minute, I thought she slept with men half her age.”
My girlfriend laughed. “It’s different with younger women. Tess says you’re taking advantage of them. But younger men are lucky to be with an experienced woman like Tess.”
“I really fail to see the distinction.”
My girlfriend laughed again. She seemed to enjoy getting a rise out of me. “Come on, you know what she means. Men don’t take younger women seriously. They just use them for sex. Tess screwing a twenty-six-year-old guy, you know that’s great for him.”
I could feel my head starting to ache. “You just said the same thing over again. Basically, if I have sex with a younger woman, I’m exploiting her. If Tess has sex with a younger man, she’s doing him a great favor. And this is true . . . why? Because she’s a woman and I’m a man? Just like her objection to my bisexuality? It’s cool for her to be bi, it’s disgusting for me to be?”
She turned to look at me. “You don’t get it. Maybe Tess can explain it. She’s good at explaining things.”
“Maybe I’ll ask her one day,” I said, not really meaning it. I’d heard all this before; it was typical of glib double standards about gender, bisexuality and age. Those points of view were pretty common among suburban swingers. Anyway, it wasn’t like I really knew Tess. She was just someone I saw socially now and then, someone who now spent an awful lot of time instant messaging a woman I was dating.
My girlfriend and I had sex again before lunch. As sometimes happened, I came on her face. “Oh my God, hand me my phone,” she exclaimed, waving her hand toward her handbag. Still woozy from orgasm, I clambered off the bed to my desk. I handed over the phone. My girlfriend held the phone over her face and snapped a photo. “I have to send this to Tess,” she smiled. “She’ll love the new pearl necklace you gave me!”
“Yeah, that’s funny,” I nodded. I took a few tissues to clean up.
A moment later, my girlfriend burst into laughter. “Ha ha! Tess says ‘Typical, a cheap present from Jefferson.’”
“Cute,” I said.
Dee replied to Tess’s text and waited for a response. I pulled on a t-shirt. “Okay, now she says, ‘Next comes the big spender’s lunch. Both the jism and burgers are on you.’ Isn’t she funny?”
“Yeah, that’s great,” I said. “Can I get you a washcloth or something?”
“Yeah, would you do that? Thanks, babe.” She stared at her phone, typing a reply to Tess as my semen dried on her cheeks.
I returned with a warm washcloth and cleaned her face. My girlfriend looked a bit cross. “Tess says I shouldn’t pay for lunch anymore,” she said. “She said that men are supposed to pick up the check. She’s right.”
I stood back. “Men are supposed to pick up the check? Gee, I must’ve missed that lesson in my gender studies classes.”
“No, I’m being serious.” She stood from the bed and took her bra from a chair. “Come on, you pay for lunch today. Its just cheeseburgers. I want to tell Tess you did it.”
“Tess is certainly interested in our lunch plans.” I reached for my jeans. “I thought you didn’t mind paying. You have more disposable income than I do. Anyway, we don’t need to go out. I can make something here.”
“No, let’s go out.” She crossed to press her body to my back. “Come on. Do it for me. I want a cheeseburger. I want you to pay for it. I want Tess to see that you’re a good boyfriend.”
“Okay, whatever,” I said. “its just cheeseburgers.” That afternoon, lunch was on me. My girlfriend blogged that I paid for lunch. After that, she went back to paying for our cheeseburgers.
A few months later, I took my children on vacation to visit family. When I returned, my ex-wife filed for full custody of our children. She had discovered my blog and now claimed that my writing and sexuality put the children in immediate danger.
It was an awful moment. I responded as best I could, looking for an attorney and making calls to see what resources were available. Lambda Legal offered pro bono research. The Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund reviewed the motion against me and, as it was entirely concerned with my sexuality as described in this blog, established a legal defense fund for my case. The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom offered guidance and advice. “Above all, you want to keep this case out of the media,” Susan Wright of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom told me. “This kind of thing attracts a lot of attention and it won’t help you if that happens. Your only goal can be winning.”
That made sense to me. As my blog was the basis of my ex-wife’s complaint, I took it offline. I asked bloggers not to write about my case or me. My friends complied, expressing their concern for my children and me. By drawing the curtains online, I was able to focus on the more immediate concerns of real life.
Where most saw a family’s private crisis, Tess saw an opportunity for personal gain. She had long coveted what I had, feeling it incredibly unfair that writing and popularity seemed to come so effortlessly to me. With my blog now gone dark, Tess felt that she could displace my popularity and claim some for herself. Even better, with Viviane among those concerned about my situation, Tess could take her down a peg as well. With Jefferson and Viviane down for the count, Tess could position herself as Queen Bee of the New York sex blog scene.
Tess’s simmering obsession with me became a full-time campaign. On her own blog Tess feigned indifference to me, but in reality, she was consumed with destroying my reputation. Every lunch, every meeting for drinks, every day sending instant messages at her boring job . . . all offered opportunities to gather and disseminate gossip about me. Her greatest resource for information was Dee, who was now my ex-girlfriend, having finally heeded Tess’s insistence that she break up with me. No information was deemed too personal or unimportant to share with anyone who cared to listen. Tess gossiped about my sex life, my appearance, my family, my career and my income, twisting everything to depict me in a poor light. She outed me casually, hoping that connecting my professional life to my online life would help to further the impact of her slander. She waded through all the positive things people said about me, her ears listening carefully for anything remotely negative that she could collect and use.
Tess’s behavior cost her friendships, but those she dismissed. Anyone who wouldn’t talk trash about me was too loyal to be of use to her. Instead, she worked on assembling new acquaintances that didn’t know me, or didn’t know me well. She contacted people we knew in common, spreading the word that if they had any grievances against me, she was all ears. Those with blogs were encouraged to post anything negative they could possibly recall, or even dream up. Tess followed the blogs closely, adding comments under her pseudonym or anonymously, egging on others to keep the drama rolling.
I was astonished by Tess’s vehemence. I had considered Tess a friend. We had never been anything but cordial to one another in person. I had considered her conversations with Dee to be simply catty fun. Only now was it clear that Tess was driven by an obsession so intense that it might be considered erotic.
I recalled the warning about Tess that my friend had offered. Apparently, she was right: Tess wanted something I had, and in order to get it, she felt that she needed to eliminate the competition.
Like my friend, I was unaware of any competition between us. If my blog was popular, that was because I worked on writing to the best of my abilities. Tess could have what I had simply by applying herself as a writer. Similarly, if Tess wanted the social position that accrued to Viviane, she could follow her example. Viviane had become a well-regarded figure in the community because she spent so much effort helping others. There was nothing too difficult in doing what Viviane and I had done. We just had to work and care about others. Instead, Tess seemed motivated by covetousness. We had things Tess wanted, so she would take them away from us.
Tess sought out my friends to further two main objectives of her campaign: to collect information to use as gossip and to do anything she could to disrupt my relationships. For many, the effort was comical. Here was Tess suddenly taking an interest in people she didn’t know only to suggest that they end a friendship with someone they did know. But for others, the effort was painful. One friend told Tess intimate details about our relationship and now found, within a day or so, that these details were widely spread among gossipers. Another friend told Tess something she had told no one else in our circle, including me. When we heard it repeated as gossip, it was clear that only Tess could have been the source.
“This is like a sick game of telephone,” I marveled. “If a kitten was killed every time Tess betrayed a confidence, heaven would collapse from the mewing.”
In her blog, Tess described her encounter with a friend of mine.
“I recently met a young woman that has been involved in Jefferson’s life for a few years, meeting him at twenty, and has suffered a lot at his hands,” Tess wrote. “This young woman was troubled when he met her and had been for many years, as an older person, as the person who held power in their relationship, he should have been seeking to help her and not have a sexual relationship with this beautiful, bright but troubled girl.”
Tess had not simply “met” this young woman. She had sought her out, taken her out for drinks and then presented a carefully rehearsed conversation designed to elicit personal information and to turn my friend against me. Tess began their meeting by speaking in a giddy Valley Girl lingo, apparently believing this would help her to appear youthful. My friend—a brainy punk with an aversion to pretense—asked for Tess’s real name. “Oh, that doesn’t matter!” Tess giggled. “I’m more Tess than that anyway.”
“I’m not calling you ‘Tess,’” my friend said. “That’s ridiculous.” Tess reluctantly relinquished her actual name, dropping the cutesy patter as well. Apparently, my friend wasn’t going to pick up the carefully laid sweets that led into Tess’s trap. Tess adapted. Six rounds of drinks later, Tess had what she wanted. My friend, drunk and in tears, called me from the ladies’ room. “I’m actually hiding in here,” she sniffled. “I don’t know what she wants from me.”
My friend was worried when they parted company, as Tess was unable to walk straight. Tess suggested they meet again soon. My friend would need to meet Dee, Tess slurred, and definitely Dacia, as she was smart like my friend. “You don’t need that dickhead,” Tess assured her. “We can be your new friends.”
The gossip began immediately. My friend was upset to have her intimacies spread, and disgusted by Tess’s self-congratulatory description of their meeting. “Who the fuck is she to say I’m ‘bright but troubled?” my friend fumed. “Well then, I say she is ‘old and fat.’”
Tess’s tawdry betrayal was awful at the time, though we laugh about it now. My friend will complain about suffering a lot at my hands, and I will say that just how it goes when I have all the power in our relationship.
As for Tess’s professed concern for “this beautiful, bright but troubled girl,” that faded with the next day’s hangover. Tess had no further use for her. Tess’s interest in my friends waned once they had been pumped for potential gossip.
Destroying me was an exercise for Tess, her way to bigger things. Tess felt that gossip about me was her entrée into the big leagues. If she hurt someone I cared about, that’s was just collateral damage; she didn’t care about these people. She wanted to be at the table with the cool kids, the young women who dressed well, wrote snarky blogs and knew where the good parties were. If she attained my popularity or Viviane’s connections, she wouldn’t waste her time as we had on little people. She would aspire to schmooze with the A list of online sex. Tess felt that gossip would get her past the velvet ropes, and gossiping was an awful lot easier than writing.
For one red-hot season, Tess could see it all on the horizon. My blog was gone, Viviane was distracted and Tess was drinking martinis with women who wore awesome shoes. Tess could just smell the attention waiting for her. But then she found her spotlight fading. Viviane kept showing up at the parties Tess attended, and people still gravitated to her. My custody case ended and my blog returned. Evidently, I remained friends with people she thought she had turned against me. All of her gossip had failed to destroy her obsession. It was all too much.
Tess fumed about me on Twitter, “Anyone who follows that dickhead can’t also follow me.” She was the center of attention, God damn it, and some popular fucking dickhead couldn’t take that away from her. People would have to choose: it was either her or me.
By that time, Tess’s online presence beyond Twitter was mostly limited to videotaped sex toy reviews and pictures of her breasts in different bars. Still, she wanted to defend her turf. She was the Queen Bee of sex bloggers and she wanted everyone to acknowledge that.
As for me, I really didn’t care if my readers also read Tess’s Twitter. I mean, who cares about that stuff?
Tess had only ever been an incidental figure in my life, and by that time, she was just someone I used to know. Her behavior had made her unwelcome at the private parties I attended. I rarely made it to the bar parties she frequented, as they were on nights I spent with family. I hadn’t seen her in well over a year when one summer evening, following Harold and Maude and her break up with Victor, she attacked me yet again.
Tess chose a website where women anonymously complained about former boyfriends. There, she posted the shopworn narrative she had honed in her gossip over countless lunches and cocktails: Jefferson is a Svengali who uses his charm to prey on feeble-minded young women, leading them into lives of white slavery. It was a story rooted in the melodrama that apparently informed all her writing.
The difference this time was that Tess had posted a photograph of my face. Outing me to acquaintances was no longer enough. Now, she needed to out me online. It was as if attacking me was a drug, and she needed to increase the dose to chase the high.
For the first time, my face was online and associated with my blog.
I read Tess’s post, wondering at my impact in the life of someone I barely knew. Apparently, she could not get me out of her mind. After breaking up with a lover who meant so much to her, Tess could think of no better solace than trying to hurt me so I would also feel pain.
But I felt no pain. I’m watching my children grow into the most wonderful people I’ve ever known. My life is filled with loving friends. My writing continues to satisfy my creativity. I’m content.
Tess could take consolation in one victory in her private campaign against me. Dee had been mine, but now Dee was hers. If Tess envied that I had a girlfriend who took me on trips and bought me cheeseburgers, she might have gone out and found her own. Instead, she took mine. Now Tess gets the subsidized trips and lunches that might have been mine.
Of course, Tess also gets the persistent neediness of a high-maintenance sidekick who can’t seem to stop talking about me. Perhaps Tess considers that trade-off every time she picks up a menu and makes a point of ordering the most expensive entrée, privately gloating that her filet mignon is another cheeseburger she has denied to me.
We egotists are often accused of thinking that everything is about us. And yet it’s hard to beat that mindset when every now and then, we are proven to be right. So it is with the story of how a special calendar was created to provide me with three hundred and sixty-five days to rue having become Tess’s obsession.
It all began with a rivalry.
My girlfriend Dee hated my girlfriend Avah. My girlfriend Avah hated my girlfriend Dee. They had never met, but they hated, hated, hated each other.
I got both ears full of their rivalry.
Avah hated Dee because I spent so much time with her. Dee hated Avah because she was convinced that Avah was behind a series of awful anonymous attacks on her blog. To Avah, I explained, “I know you don’t like it, but I can identify with her situation. A bad marriage is rough.” To Dee, I deflected, “I don’t know who’s attacking you, but it’s not Avah. I know her very well. She would never do that.”
Each was jealous of attributes she ascribed to the other, aspects each was anxious that I might find attractive at her own expense. Dee was older, a parent and had money enough to take me on trips. Avah couldn’t aspire to those things. Avah was young, pretty and kinky. Dee would never be any of those.
Neither would stop complaining to me about the other. Avah referred to Dee as “that old cunt rag.” Dee referred to Avah as “that crazy blogette.” I listened, hoping they would eventually tire of potshots. Surely, I thought, they each appreciated that putting me in the middle of such bickering did not endear either party to me.
Dee alluded to Avah in her blog, but generally saved her complaints for emails and conversations that came to feel more like confrontations. One morning, I woke sick. I had plans with Dee, so I sent a note to cancel. She preferred to come anyway, saying that she wanted to take care of me. She brought chicken soup. I propped myself up in bed and listened as she complained about Avah. I could see a clock behind her. She complained nonstop for over two hours. I managed the occasional “uh huh” or “okay.”
By contrast, Avah complained about Dee in her blog and in emails to me, but rarely brought her up in person. When we were alone together, Avah was sweet and fun to be around. I couldn’t reconcile my kinky girlfriend with Dee’s mean-spirited attacker. At any rate, Avah denied making the attacks. Her assurance was all I needed.
Then, however, it became apparent that Avah was lying. Dee watched her Statcounter like a hawk—I now realized that if Dee was not asleep, she was online—and she repeatedly traced the anonymous comments to Avah’s IP address. Finally, after six months of lies and attacks, Avah admitted the truth. She had allowed jealousy and frustration to guide her to deliberate cruelty. Faced with this, I wondered if our relationship was still healthy. I didn’t want to make someone so unhappy she would act out in so mean a fashion, nor did I want such strong resentments in my life.
As my relationship with Avah faltered, Dee couldn’t contain her delight. Her insistent complaints and online vigilance had helped to eliminate her rival. Yet Dee seemed unaware of the cost to our own relationship. She hadn’t realized just how unpleasant it was to listen to her repetitive complaints against someone I cared about, or how controlling it was for her to fixate on severing two friends from one another.
As our affair continued, it became increasingly clear that Dee was intent on controlling me.
Dee found me through this blog, so she had always known that I had sex with other women. Yet once she knew me and came to care about me, she began to ask intrusive questions about my other relationships. I don’t like to reveal intimacies—protecting the privacy of myself and others has been a delicate balancing act of blogging—so I avoided saying much more to her than I said in my blog. She only asked about the women whom she read about in blogs; I offered nothing about other relationships that happened off-blog.
Dee read other blogs for any sign that anyone received from me some benefit that she had not also enjoyed. When Dee read that I had made post-coital scrambled eggs for Cody, she was irate. Why had I never offered her scrambled eggs? I could never anticipate what might anger Dee, but I began to see a pattern to her upset: she was primarily angry about younger women with whom I seemed to share genuine affection.
Whenever she fought with me over this, I tried to help her calm down. I understood that this was all very new to her, and by this time, I had a good deal of experience with the hazards of living a public sex life. I reassured her, but also reiterated: if this isn’t working for you, I would understand if you no longer wanted to see me, or if we remained friends in some other capacity.
Fights usually led to gifts.
Dee observed that I’m not that interested in shopping and not particularly acquisitive. One day, she told me I needed a new pair of shoes. “No, I’ll just get these resoled,” I said. “I’ve had these shoes forever.”
“They’re cheap shoes,” she said. “Just replace them.”
“Nah, they’re okay,” I said, wiggling my feet. “Anyway, this hole isn’t even that big yet.”
“Don’t be a dumb ass. Shoes aren’t expensive. I can find you some great shoes on sale. What’s your size?” I told her I wore a size ten-and-a-half, but really, I didn’t need new shoes.
Dee immediately barraged me with links to shoe sales. Which style did I like? Why did I always wear black shoes? What did I think of the brown ones? Look at the shoes at the first link I sent; I think they are cheaper in the link I sent a minute ago. Answering Dee’s questions about the shoes she wanted to buy me online took up the better part of an afternoon I had set aside to write. But how could I object? It was nice of her to buy me a pair of shoes.
She told me I needed sneakers. I haven’t worn sneakers since God knows when, I said, but when I last wore them, I wore black Converses, standard punk issue.
She didn’t answer for some time. I went back to writing. “I personally don’t like Converse sneakers except on teenagers,” she finally replied. “Now, seeing you spend quite a bit of time with twenty-year-olds, maybe you do need them.”
I had tripped over her sensitive issue. I didn’t want to muddy the waters. I let her pick my new sneakers. It was her dime. I received several pairs of new shoes, a few dress blacks and a pair of gray Skechers I would never wear. I put the Skechers in a box with the brown Polo shirts and khaki pants she had given me after previous fights, all destined for charity.
I thanked her for the gift. “You are going to have to pay by the orgasm for each pair of shoes,” she replied. “Think you can handle that?” I felt up to the task, glad the fight was past. She wanted more from me. “Four pairs of shoes might cost you an entire weekend at some point,” she warned.
I knew how that worked. Some people give you things because they want something in return.
Dee and I had been dating for about six months when I needed to move. Since the end of my marriage, my children and I had been living in an apartment owned by my ex-father-in-law. Now, he wanted us to leave. I was concerned about finding a place I could afford that could accommodate a family of four, without causing the kids to switch schools.
Dee offered to help. She researched realtors and found a good company with plenty of apartments in my price range. Our dates now included tours of walk-up apartments in pre-war tenements. Dee always asked the realtor about proximity to parking garages, as she wanted to be sure my new home would be convenient for our dates.
As we looked at one apartment, the realtor noted that the front door lock had been incorrectly installed and would need to be replaced. “Look,” he said, “It locks from the outside. That would only be good if you were keeping a prisoner.”
“No, let’s keep that,” Dee said. “That way, I can lock him in and no one else can get at him.” She laughed as the realtor and I looked at each other uneasily. He must have assumed I was Dee’s kept man. Dee liked the joke so much that she repeated it over and again.
Dee sent me links to apartments as she had once sent me links to shoes. She made it plain that I shouldn’t look at apartments without her, as I was a dumb ass who couldn’t be trusted to ask the right questions about parking garages and so on. Quietly, I looked at other apartments on my own and with other friends. Lynsey joined me to look at places in Queens. Tilda looked up places in Brooklyn. Madeline suggested options I hadn’t considered. Pretty soon, I found a place on my own. Dee offered me some money to help with the move, but beyond that, she had no claim on my new home.
Once I had moved, Dee expected a reward for her help. A couple of months after the move, Dee and I had a date. It was our last before I took a two-week vacation with my children. We were relaxing in bed after sex, her head on my shoulder.
“I’ve been thinking,” Dee said. “I was thinking I could change my day off at work so that we can get together on Tuesdays instead of Fridays.”
“Oh yeah?” I asked. “Why?”
“Oh, you know. Your Fridays are weird. One week you’re free all day, the next week you have to go get your kids from school. You never have your kids on Tuesdays. This way, we can be together all day and sometimes, all night. Maybe I can get a hotel room near me and we can stay together until you get your kids on Wednesday.”
“Sure, I guess that would work,” I said, wondering when I would write and what I would do with my other dates if I lost one of my free weeknights. Dee had already expanded our Friday lunch dates to include some overnights at a hotel near her home. I would drive up after taking my kids to school, join her for lunch and sex, stay in the room while she returned to her family for dinner, and then have more sex with her back in the room. Afterward, I’d either stay in the room or drive back to the city.
“It will work, babe,” she said, running her finger over my chest. “And I was thinking, see, you know I like to beat traffic, so I could come in early.”
“Uh huh.” I readied for the conclusion of her plan.
“So I was thinking, I could be here around seven or seven thirty in the morning. I know, that’s early for you. But if you gave me a key, I could come in and just get into bed. You wouldn’t even need to get the door.”
“Right. But you know, my two weeknights without the kids are Monday and Tuesday. So I’d have to be sure any Monday dates were over by seven in the morning?”
“I was thinking,” Dee whispered into my shoulder. “That you wouldn’t see anyone on Mondays. I want you to be fresh and ready for me when we get together.”
“At seven on Tuesday mornings.” I shook my head. “And you’ll have your own key.”
“Now, come on. If you fuck some blogette on Monday night, you’ll be tired on Tuesday morning. I want you to be ready for me on Tuesdays.”
“You want me to avoid sex on Mondays so I can be waiting for you to let yourself in at seven on Tuesdays mornings and stay over until Wednesday.”
“I can’t always stay over,” she said. “But sometimes. Or you could come to the hotel near me.”
“I have to say,” I said, stroking her hair. “I don’t think this is such a great idea.”
She slapped my chest. “Yeah, you don’t want to give up a night of fucking some blogette for me?”
“It’s not that,” I said. “But do you hear what you’re saying? I have two free nights each week. Your proposal has me giving you both nights. You do know I have sex with other people, right?”
“Yeah, don’t rub my face in it,” she said, her voice growing sour. “Now you’re going to fuck up my other question, dumb ass.”
Her body relaxed. She nestled back in the crook of my arm. “I want to be the first person you have sex with when you come back from vacation,” she whispered.
“That’s a nice thought,” I said. “But, thing is, I get back on a Tuesday night. We wouldn’t get together until Friday. You want me to wait a couple of days without sex? Just so you can be first?”
“Yeah, come on. You can manage a day or two.”
“But why? What’s the point? I mean, I could tell other people I can’t see them and wait, but what would that prove? I know I can go a few days without sex. My marriage proved I can go months without sex. Shit, it proved I can go years. But why do you want me to abstain? Why do you need to be first?”
Dee pulled away. “Never mind. Don’t do me any favors.”
I sat up on my pillow. “I don’t mean to make waves, but . . .”
Dee turned away. “Tess was right. You can’t even do this for me.”
My brow furrowed. What did Tess have to do with this? “Look, I’m sorry, it’s just that . . .”
“Don’t worry about it,” Dee interrupted. “Just fuck that new blogette. Have fun.”
So that was it. Dee was upset about Mariella.
Mariella had contacted me that spring. She was about to turn twenty-one and she wanted to lose her virginity. She had the summer off between semesters and thought it would be fun to have some adventure. After we took care of her virginity, we chased other cherries. She started a blog to chart our stories. I linked it. Her blog was smart, funny and full of literary allusions.
Dee barely had time to be satisfied with the demise of my relationship with Avah. Now, along came another lover. Another woman who was young and pretty. Another woman who read books. Dee wasn’t young or pretty. She didn’t read books.
I had discussed this with Dee. There was no reason for her to compare herself to my other partners. Besides, I added, Mariella only wanted a fling. She was going back to school in the fall. We might have eleven or so dates before she went back to her life and I went back to mine.
“Eleven?” Dee said. “How about nine? Or eight? Are any of those dates on Fridays? I bet they’re on Monday nights, right?”
Dee was annoyed. Avah was out and another girl was ready to replace her. Dee felt she would never be able to rid my bed of pretty young women. I felt bad that Dee was hurt by reading about my sex life in blogs.
That afternoon, we put aside our disagreement and had sex again. We didn’t leave time for lunch. When we parted, she pushed herself close to my chest. “I love you,” she whispered. “And one day, you’ll feel the same. I want to be here for you. I want to be with you and your children.”
I didn’t know how to respond. I kissed her head. I told her it would be okay. But as she drove off in her SUV, I knew we would need to have a talk when I returned from my family vacation. I wasn’t in love with Dee. We had never talked about love. She was never going to meet my children. What was she imagining? She was a married woman with three children of her own. She was cheating on her husband. Did she harbor thoughts of divorcing him to be with me?
I had a nice vacation with my family. On the night I returned, I left my children with their mother and had a late night date with Lynsey. We had drinks and sex at my new place. She stayed over. I cuddled close to her soft body as we slept.
Two days later, I received notice that my ex wife was suing for full custody of our children. She had discovered this blog. My sexuality, as described in this blog, was the basis of her motion.
I received notice of the custody suit on a Thursday afternoon. As my ex-wife had filed on an emergency basis, there was a hearing scheduled for the following morning. I wasn’t sure what to do. A friend who is a lawyer advised me not to go to court until I had representation. I needed a lawyer, fast.
I had a date with Dee planned for that Friday. I contacted her to cancel. She was upset by my wife’s filing and wanted to come to see me anyway, to take care of me. Remembering her care of me when I was sick, I declined. I needed a day of clarity to make phone calls, to do research and to find a lawyer. I couldn’t deal with Dee being around all day, needing attention for her own anxiety about my case.
Dee instant messaged Tess about our canceled date. Tess urged Dee to come to the city anyway. They would meet for lunch. When Dee showed up at Tess’s office, Tess handed her a remote. It controlled the vibrator Tess had inserted into her vagina. Tess had arranged a lunch date with a sex writer named Rachel. Dee had first met a published writer when she met me. Now, Tess offered her another. Over lunch, Tess encouraged Dee to tell Rachel all about my case, reminding her not to leave out the stuff about my new blogette.
As I began to work on my case, a group of my friends organized an ad-hoc committee to help with fundraising and to lend me supportive ears. All were mature career women with whom I had, at various points, enjoyed sexual relationships. The “Friends of Jefferson” worked well together and offered their expertise in law, publishing, information technologies and other areas involved in my case.
I researched resources available to those involved in legal disputes based on their sexuality. Lolita Wolf, among the Friends of Jefferson, steered me to the Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund. Valerie White, a community activist who served as the organization’s Executive Director, explained to me that she could only recommend the creation of a legal defense fund after careful consideration of my case. The organization’s board would need to review the motion against me to be sure it qualified for their support.
I had been told to expect that the case would cost me around twenty thousand dollars and I would need that money quickly. My ex-wife had already spent over twenty-five thousand dollars in filing the motion; the expectation, clearly, was that I would be unable to keep up financially. Valerie appreciated that time was of the essence. I made copies of the motion—which was as thick as a phone book—and overnighted them to her. The board reviewed the documents and as the motion was entirely concerned with my sexuality as described in this blog, they supported the creation of a legal defense fund. Once that was in place, I posted an appeal on my blog.
Tess was outraged. It was already unfair that my blog was widely read. It was unfair that I was popular. Now it seemed that my readers would be supporting my efforts to win a custody case. It angered her to think that a community could be formed around someone to whom things seemed to come so easily.
Meanwhile, Dee had made an awful discovery. While reading Mariella’s blog, Dee followed a link to her Twitter feed. There, Dee began to investigate all of Mariella’s followers. She clicked through to their Twitter feeds and read their blogs, following trails thought their blogrolls. Dee wasn’t interested in new reading material. She was stalking quarry. Her obsessiveness paid off when she found a fresh blog. It revealed that I had had sex with someone new. Someone young and pretty.
Dee wrote me furious emails. I responded for a while and finally gave up. I was far more concerned with my custody case than with Dee’s perennial upset about my public sex life. If her love for me was so wrapped up in her jealousy of others, we were likely to break up in time. Perhaps, in light of my other concerns, now was the time.
Certainly Tess felt it was time. “That’s it,” Tess told her. “You can’t see that dickhead any more. We’re going to fucking destroy him.” Tess’s obsession now went for the jugular. She realized that in order to take me down, she needed to eradicate any support for my custody case. My blog was down and on good advice, I was largely silent about the case. Tess would fill that silence with another narrative. My custody case had nothing to do with my sexuality, she maintained to others over cocktails. I was at risk of losing my children because I drink. My claims otherwise were simply lies. I lied, Tess told people, because I was not just a dickhead and an alcoholic. I was also a sociopath.
When word of Tess’s claims got back to me, I was stunned by her vindictiveness, but moreover, I worried about the possible effect of her gossip on my case. I knew that her claims were simply factually inaccurate. Tess had never read the motion against me. She had no idea what it contained. The motion had been reviewed by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, the Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund and by the individual members of the Friends of Jefferson. It was clear to all that the case was based entirely on my sexuality.
Despite my request that bloggers refrain from writing about me during the duration of my custody case, Tess and Dee made every effort to get gossip into ears and online. They did this knowing my ex-wife read their blogs and might use their gossip against me in court. In fact, Dee had supplied me with my ex-wife’s IP address; Dee’s relentless monitoring of her Statcounter had revealed that Lucy read her blog.
Concerned about the possible impact on my case, I shared their blog entries with my attorney. After she read the links, we discussed them during a meeting at her office.
My attorney shuffled the print outs on her desk. “So you say these people were friends of yours?”
“I thought so,” I shrugged. “I mean, to varying degrees. I was chums with Tess, and I was having an affair with Dee.”
“Dee’s the married woman cheating on her husband?”
“Well, they’ve both cheated on their husbands. Dee is the one who was cheating with me.”
“Ah, right. Well, I’ve looked this all over. It’s nothing.”
“Really?” I exhaled. “Good. Why?”
“It’s just hearsay and gossip,” she said, dropping her palms to her desktop. “See, the court is concerned about you as a father. It really doesn’t care if your ex-girlfriend doesn’t like you very much. It doesn’t even care if your ex-wife doesn’t like you very much. That’s where Lucille often goes too far, which I think will hurt her in the end.”
“Yeah, she does want the courtroom drama of having a judge condemn me as an asshole or something.” I indicated the blog excerpts. “I seem to inspire melodrama in people.”
“Apparently, huh? But it doesn’t matter.” My attorney stacked the papers neatly. “Lucille’s tantrums have already shown the judge that part of her character. As for this stuff, the blogs, none of these people are relevant. Do they have anything to say about your children?”
“No.” I shook my head. “None of them has ever met my children.”
“Very wise,” my attorney nodded.
“So Lucy can’t use any of this, huh?”
“Well, Lucy can use whatever she wants. But I can tell you, this gossip is just that: gossip. If Lucy tried to use it, we’d just subpoena these two women—what are their names? Tess and Dee? Are these their real names?”
“Do you know their real names?”
“Well, we’d need to have them come to court to testify under their real names. If they have evidence that your drinking or whatever affects your parenting, they would need to offer it. If they don’t have any evidence . . .” She shrugged. “Look, I know this kind of thing is upsetting, but don’t let it bother you. Still, word of advice?”
I shifted in my chair. “Yes?”
“You really should avoid these types of people.”
I laughed. “You think? Well, who knew they would be so mercurial? So vicious?”
“Well, not every married woman wants to fly you to the Caribbean for a second date, right?” She bobbed her head slightly. “Given the way it turned out with Dee, maybe that was a sign that maybe she was a bit . . . ?”
I nodded. “Yeah, it’s all clearer with hindsight.”
My attorney was right. I needed to just tune out the nonsense with Tess and Dee. They would eventually have to tire of gossiping about me.
As I focused on my case, Tess and Dee continued their campaign against me. One afternoon shortly after my first court date, Tess had lunch with our mutual friend Elizabeth. Tess unloaded the dish on me and gradually, talk turned to another topic. Wouldn’t it be fun, they thought, to create a pin-up calendar featuring New York City sex bloggers? Elizabeth and Tess had come to know many of them though Viviane’s tea parties and readings that Rachel organized. The calendar would be a nice promotional tool and if it sold well, it could generate revenue for some worthy charity.
Tess was inspired by this idea. A calendar would be fun, as Elizabeth suggested, but more, it would serve two of Tess’s main goals. Tess would limit participants to those people she wanted to impress and thereby create a new cohort—or, as she called it, “a secret sex blog cabal”—with her at its center. If calendar sales raised money, so much the better. It didn’t matter what charity benefited, so long as it wasn’t my custody case. The calendar would be a great distraction from the attention I received.
Dee was excited about Tess’s scheme. She continued to send me emails deriding me for the end of our relationship. She told me she could have given me twenty thousand dollars with no problem. She could’ve funded my case for as long as it took. Instead, I had fucked some blogette. Did I expect some young girl to help with my legal bills? Who? Avah? Mariella? This new slut?
Now, by helping to raise money with a calendar, Dee would demonstrate just what I had thrown away.
Neither Tess nor Dee had any charity in mind. Dacia suggested they donate funds for an organization she was starting, focused on raising media awareness of sex workers’ rights. Neither Tess nor Dee had ever given a thought to sex workers’ rights, but supporting Dacia was a good move for Tess’s plan: Dacia was a popular sex blogger who had been close friends with me. Drawing Dacia into her new cabal, Tess knew, could get her into cool circles while having the added benefit of being seen as a snub to me.
Tess built her cabal over lunches and cocktails. She had met many female bloggers through Viviane’s tea parties and now she found many of them willing to take part in a pin-up calendar. She fueled her appeals with gossip about me, supplied by her private source. Dee usually picked up the tab.
Pretty quickly, though, Tess saw the limits of Dee’s information. We had only dated for a short time, and mostly, we had just had sex and eaten cheeseburgers. Dee’s knowledge of my other lovers was largely limited to what was already published on blogs. There were only so many times Tess could repeat stories about me having sex with someone young and pretty. Everyone already knew that I had a lot of sex. That really wasn’t news.
Even Tess tired of listening to Dee prattle on about me. Dee became anxious: she needed Tess to make her feel interesting, and in order to interest Tess, she needed fresh gossip about me. Finally, she recalled a fresh lode of unmined gold.
Dee despised Avah, but she knew my ex-girlfriend was upset with me. Avah’s blog was filled with moping about the end of our relationship. We had dated for a couple of years; surely, Avah had information to share.
Dee sent Avah a note, introducing the concept of the calendar. Avah was surprised to hear from Dee, but glad to learn about the calendar. Dee told Avah she had never really been all that interested in me. Avah said she felt the same. Dee said I was not even all that attractive. Avah LOL’d her concurrence. Dee said she thought I was a dickhead. Avah agreed.
The two fell into an intense correspondence.
Over the course of the next two weeks, they traded dozens of notes. Dee’s emails were very long, offering paragraph after paragraph of complaints about me. Avah responded to Dee’s themes, sometimes adding some of her own.
I read the correspondence in its entirety several months later. It took seven hours to read it all.
Dee was glad to have Avah’s interest as she unpacked every moment of our relationship, hoping Avah could help her to see how it had all been terrible and all of that entirely my fault. Avah had once been fixated on my relationship with Dee. She couldn’t believe how much information Dee now made available.
First of all, Dee needed to find more gossip for Tess. She told Avah that it was very important that she post stories about me being drunk. Avah said she didn’t really have any. Sure, Avah had attended parties with me for a couple of years and I drank at the parties, but she could only remember one time when I seemed drunk. Dee encouraged her to post that story. They needed to show I was an alcoholic and the only story Dee had was useless. We had gone out with friends so that Dee could have her first martini. Tess had come along and got wasted. That story wouldn’t work, and it was all Dee had from the eight months we dated.
Dee outlined Tess’s plan for her cabal and the calendar. The goal, she said, was to raise at least twenty thousand dollars. Dee wanted the satisfaction of showing me that she could’ve paid all my legal bills out of pocket or through fundraising.
Dee reported that Tess was dividing the sex blog community Viviane had worked diligently to foster. The community was now to be comprised of those loyal to Tess—with Dee as her support—and those who no longer mattered.
It was important for Tess and Dee to believe that anyone who agreed to work on the calendar hated Jefferson. Jack and Sinclair were designing it because they hated Jefferson. Elizabeth, Jamye, Dacia, Rachel, Calico and others who modeled did so because they hated Jefferson.
In the new order of Tess’s cabal, it was not enough that people enjoy Tess’s company or care about raising money to promote awareness of sex workers’ rights. As Dee expressed it, they must also hate, hate, hate Jefferson.
Dee boasted of a great victory: even Jefferson’s stupid new blogette Mariella was in the calendar. Dee loved that. Tess had really scored by turning Mariella against Jefferson. Dee was sure I must be heartbroken about that.
Even prior to reading Dee’s correspondence with Avah, I had caught wind that Tess’s sights were set on Mariella. When Mariella told me that she had been asked to be a model for the calendar, I said this was a great idea, given Mariella’s love of the art. Classic pin-up art was evident in her blog, where each post included a vintage sample.
Not long afterward, a friend wrote me. “Are you okay?” she asked. “I hear you are pretty torn up about Mariella.” Puzzled, I asked how she knew this. I had barely stopped laughing when Mariella answered her phone.
“I just wanted to let you know,” I said. “I forgive you.”
“Oh, good,” Mariella sighed. “What did I do?”
“I hear I’m heartbroken since you dumped me.”
“Yeah, look, I’m very sorry about that,” Mariella said. “Wait, when did I dump you?”
“I’m not sure, but Dee says you did, so it must be true.”
“Oh damn, I hate that you heard about it this way. Well, at least it’s out.”
“And I forgive you.”
“You are a big man, Jefferson.”
“I do what I can, heartbroken and all. So, how’s it going with your boyfriend?”
I wondered, in reading Dee’s boast, how this must have sounded to Avah. She was a long-time sex blogger who looked plenty cute in a corset. She was an avid amateur photographer who had apprenticed to a professional. Surely, she would have relished being asked to be on either side of the camera for the calendar shoot.
Apparently, it never occurred to Dee to ask her to participate. Of course it wouldn’t. Dee hated, hated, hated Avah.
Now that Tess had taken things to a new level, Dee gloated to Avah, who was left with Jefferson? Just some young blogettes and the Friends of Jefferson. But who were they, anyway? Dee said that most of them were “nobodies.” Viviane was a “has been.” Lolita was a “troll.”
In the new order of Tess’s cabal, it was not enough to destroy Jefferson. As Dee expressed it, anyone associated with Jefferson must also be discounted. Beyond holdouts perceived as too loyal, Tess and Dee wanted my friends to turn on me, just as the two of them had.
“What’s up with this Dee asswipe?” Wendy wrote to me. “She says you’ve been talking shit about me, but that doesn’t sound like you.”
“Sorry about that,” I replied. “She and Tess are trying to destroy my relationships.”
“Why should they bother?” Wendy said. “You can do that all by yourself!”
“Exactly!” I replied.
Marcus called me. “Do you know this Dee person? Did you fuck her or something?”
“Yes, unfortunately,” I said. “She’s the one who took me on the cruise. Remember? I think I told you that.”
“Huh. No, I don’t remember, Jefferson. I can’t keep track of every woman you fuck who takes you on a cruise. Anyway, she sent me some email asking me to buy dates on a calendar or something. I was like sure, whatever, and she begins going on and on about you, about how this calendar is all about destroying you.”
“Yeah, I don’t get how a calendar can destroy someone, but whatever. I told her I wasn’t interested—you’ve been one of my best friends for over twenty years. Why would she think I would want to destroy you?”
“That’s creepy, right?”
“She told me I was drinking Kool-Aid. Jefferson, are you running a cult or something?”
“I only know what I hear,” I said. “I gather Tess and Dee consider me to be quite the Svengali.”
“No, your only superpower is using your dick to find crazy people.”
“Yeah, I’m gifted like that.”
Dee was frustrated that people who loved me so stubbornly refused to hate me. She had far better luck running me down with people who didn’t know me. Still, she couldn’t get new dirt from them. Keeping them interested would require even more gossip. Dee and Tess fretted as the taps went dry. There just wasn’t much more to say about Jefferson.
Dee lost interest in Avah. Tess lost interest in interrogating my other friends. The focused on going to bars and tweeting to make new contacts with distant bloggers and online sex celebrities who didn’t know anything other than what they were told about Jefferson.
Meanwhile, I was offline, trying to keep my family intact. The new “Jefferson” concocted by Tess and Dee was largely theirs to define.
All of this drama had subsided by the time I read Dee’s correspondence with Avah. By that time, it was clear that Tess and Dee had failed to have any impact on my custody case. They had done all they could to make people hate me. Reading how important that had been to them, in Dee’s own words, seemed pathetic and appalling, but, in terms of its impact on my real life, not all that important. “Jefferson” had served his uses to them as a straw man. None of it had much to do with who I am, or who my friends are.
I noticed that in the course of the correspondence, Dee explained to Avah how she could track my custody case through online documents. My attorney had previously pointed out the irony of this; in filling her motion, my ex-wife had unwittingly outed me. I was not at all surprised that Tess, Dee and Avah would uncover that trail.
Reading Dee’s instructions to Avah, I recalled hearing that Dee and her husband had separated since our own break up. Good for her, I thought. She was really unhappy in the marriage. Based on what Dee had told me, her husband seemed like a real jerk who didn’t care at all about their children. I now realized that in following Dee’s instructions, I could also find out online if she was getting divorced.
I found the documents in no time. Dee had not filed for divorce; her husband had. Though Dee had said he didn’t care for their children, he sought joint custody. The case was still in court and would be for months to come.
Apparently, Dee’s husband had no knowledge of his wife’s affair with me. He didn’t know about the money she had spent on me, nor had he discovered her blog or her current fascination with sex work.
The online documents included the names of each party’s attorneys. A quick search and I had contact information for Dee’s husband and his attorneys.
Dee had spent a year trying to ruin my reputation. She had repeated gossip on her blog, and encouraged others to do likewise, with the stated hope of interfering with my family and my custody case. Dee had done her best to sabotage fundraising for my legal defense fund. All because she loved me and I had sex with other women.
How easy it would be to repay her in kind. One phone call and her husband’s attorneys would have Dee’s blogs, outlining her affair in her own words. They could find photographs of Dee in a calendar supporting sex workers. If he wanted, Dee’s husband could show up at any of the events Dee now attended with Tess, to see her socializing with a whole range of people involved in sex in various ways. Dee’s children could attest that she had introduced them to sex workers. What sweet vindication there could be in giving Dee a taste of what she had served to me.
But who wants to live that kind of life? Who would do such a thing, particularly when someone else’s family is involved? Tess and Dee, certainly, but would I?
I may have been alarmed by Dee’s behavior, but revenge is not in my blood. I figure given time, Dee’s character will be revealed to those she uses as an audience for slander. They may tire of her. They may not. It’s not my concern.
In the meantime, I could be sure her divorce would be fraught with bitterness. After all, she had rehearsed it with me.
Not long after her husband filed for divorce, Dee sent me an email, apropos of nothing, to say that a blogger named Nikol Hasler hated me. “That might have more meaning,” I thought, “If I had ever met Nikol Hasler.” The real meaning seemed to be that Dee continued to derive satisfaction from encouraging strangers to dislike me.
By that time, I hadn’t seen Dee in nearly a year. I didn’t respond to her note. I hadn’t responded to anything from her in a very long time.
The other night at a party, Selina brought up a mutual friend. “John was really sad to hear you don’t like him,” she said.
“I like John,” I said, surprised. “Why would he think otherwise?”
“Dee told him. She said you just don’t like him.”
“Ah,” I nodded. “Well, if Dee says it, it must be true. Please give him my sincerest distaste.”
“Guys, I can’t believe they are still so obsessed with you,” Viviane said. “The other night, Tess cornered my friend Tom to ask him what he knew about Jefferson. He answered honestly that he’s never met you.”
“Let’s face it,” I shrugged. “Evidently, I’m pretty fascinating.”
Selina laughed. “Such an egotist.”
Viviane joined along. “No, he’s a dickhead.”
Sometimes in life, you just have to get back on the horse. Eden knew this, though she was understandably cautious about climbing back in the saddle. She had been thrown hard.
Figuratively, it hadn’t been that hard a landing. She had met a guy. They had played video games and fooled around before she realized it wasn’t working for her. She cut out before the red circles of death came crashing.
But literally, she had taken a serious spill. While working as a summer camp counselor, Eden had been thrown into a tree when her horse stopped suddenly. Her leg was damaged and she was laid up, having learned, she told me, never again to bottom to a pine.
Her recuperation lasted into the fall and she found herself with little time for anything other than convalescence and building her portfolio. We corresponded to stay in touch but she rarely had free time in the city. It had been a while since we had last seen one another when we were able to make a date to catch up.
Looking forward to seeing Eden again, I reflected on the time we had spent together in the few years since our kinks first brought us together via mutual friends. Some of our relationship had played out in public. She kept a blog in which she wrote about our dates, my parties and her turn as a demo bottom for classes I taught. In one class at Floating World, I had pursued her recalcitrant orgasm before a large expectant audience. When finally it came thundering, her screams echoing through a vast dungeon, we were loudly applauded, as though those watching had needed to share in her release.
But much of our relationship was private. I wrote about it now and then, alluding to our kinks as well as our intimacies. When we met, I realized that we had been involved in BDSM for roughly the same amount of time, though she had started at a much younger age and been involved with much heavier play. I respected her experience and appreciated her guidance as she submitted to me. I knew I was lucky to learn dominance with someone who would forgive my mistakes while encouraging me to go further. For my part, I hoped to expand upon her sexual pleasure; in this, I had the advantage of being the more experienced partner.
Our friendship offered comfort even when we weren’t together. A couple of years ago, while I was researching properties in advance of a move, I stumbled across a large isolated house located upstate that could be had for half the price of apartments I was seeing in the city. Wouldn’t it be nice, I thought, to be able to afford both? My family could use the house as a wooded retreat. On weekends without my children, I could tie nude Eden to trees and hit her with whips. Oh, I mused, for such a country idyll.
When Eden heard that my ex-wife had discovered my blog and sued for custody, she offered her sympathies and asked if she could help in some way. I needed to close my blog, so while I focused on researching attorneys, she took on the tedious administrative task of taking down my blog, post by post. I didn’t hesitate in providing access to her. I knew I could trust Eden.
All of these experiences—kinky and vanilla, public and private, online and off—combined with our correspondence, conversation and the simple enjoyment of one another’s company to build between us a solid, loving friendship. Even after some time apart, neither of us questioned the trust we had established.
Eden buzzed from the street when she arrived for our reunion. Ringing her in, I suddenly recalled our old standing rule: she was to undress on arrival, as her clothes were not welcome in my home. We hadn’t revisited that requirement in planning to get together—catching up was our only agenda item—so I decided not to bring it up now. She could do as she pleased. We could talk whether or not she was dressed.
We smiled and hugged our hellos, chatting as she dropped her bag and peeled away outer layers of coat and hoodie. She fell still when she was down to a short-sleeve pullover and looked at me expectantly. Was she waiting for me to undress her or to offer her a seat? I opted for the latter. I kissed her and said how great it was to see her again. We settled in to talk.
I asked Eden about her accident and recovery. She asked me about my custody case and its aftermath. She told me about her new job and the workload at school. I filled her in on my various writing projects. The discussion led to conversation about blogging.
“I stopped blogging a while ago,” Eden said. “It didn’t really seem to matter anymore. I may do it again someday—I still write about life and school and stuff in my Livejournal, sometimes—but the fun kind of died when the drama started.”
“I have to say, my sabbatical from sex blogging last year was enforced by circumstances more than preference,” I nodded. “But even before the custody case, I was feeling worn out by it. It can be pretty wearying to deal with people conflating me with my online persona. It can be fun doing things and meeting folks as Jefferson, but when people get upset or act out online, it’s like . . . I dunno.” I searched for the right words before going on. “When people fail to distinguish between reality and its representation, it’s harder to be excited about making art. Being targeted in Dacia’s flame war that summer was a little like finding a mob storming the gates of Warner Brothers, angry that Bugs Bunny shot Daffy Duck. It was a cartoon universe, having little to do with the real world. And even in cartoons, a mob takes on a mentality of its own.”
“That was really sick,” Eden said. “Weren’t you and Dacia friends?”
“Dacia and a lot of people were once friends. But we were especially close, even while I was still married. When my marriage ended, she was one of the few people I felt I could talk to openly. That was before she took on the Dacia persona, though, and by now, that seems long ago.” I thought for a moment. “Her flame war about my custody situation got out of hand and people were being hurt and even outed as a result. Dacia allowed that to happen and, in fact, she seemed to encourage it for the sheer drama of it all. A lot of people backed away from her then. I still don’t know why she turned on me as she did.” I pursed my lips. “Why she turned on any of us, really.”
“She never talked to you about it?”
“Nope.” I shook my head. “But that’s not atypical. She tends to burn bridges, particularly in her relationships with men. I remained friendly with four of her former boyfriends after she broke up with them. There’s often confusion about just how she felt affronted by them. When this all went down, one wrote to welcome me to the club.”
“At least you’ve got company.” She blew out a puff. “That’s fucked up.”
“Yeah, I suppose it is.” I paused, thinking. “Dacia was one of the first people I called when I was served papers on the custody case. We didn’t hang out then as we once had—she had her life, I had mine—but I trusted her advice and knew I could count on her. As we hung up, she said, ‘I’m so sorry this is happening to you.’ Then, next thing I knew, she wrote what she wrote in her blog. It wasn’t accurate and it was potentially damaging, and I wrote to tell her so. She replied, essentially, that I could go fuck myself.”
“We had never had a fight or a falling out, so I didn’t know what this was about. I suppose I must have disappointed her in some way, or maybe even angered her. Or maybe she was dealing with her own feelings about something else; she had just broken up with her boyfriend due to his addiction, and then, maybe by transference, she conjectured that my drinking might be the reason for the custody case. It had nothing to do with it, actually, and as she later noted in her blog, we hadn’t hung out in, I dunno, three years or so. She hadn’t read my ex’s motion, and she basically admitted she had no idea what she was talking about. But whatever it was that motivated Dacia to attack me, you know as much about that as I do. The only indication I have of her feelings about me is what she’s blogged. She hasn’t spoken to me since telling me she was sorry this was happening to me and I could go fuck myself.”
Eden scratched her head. “Doesn’t sound like much of a loss, really.”
“It’s always sad to lose a friend,” I said. “But you’re right. I was involved in a fight for my family. Dacia wrote something rash knowing it could interfere with my real life, and she didn’t give a fuck.” I looked up. “You know, with some people—not many people, but like with you and me, Eden—I feel that no matter what, you’ve got their back and they’ve got yours. You know? I felt that way about Dacia. Right up until she put a knife in my back.”
“I wouldn’t do that,” Eden said. “Real friends wouldn’t.”
“I can’t imagine you would,” I smiled. I pushed aside her sandy blond hair and kissed her cheek. She smiled back, her green eyes on mine.
“That’s all such a weird story. I read what you wrote about those two old ladies . . . ,” Eden began.
“Tess and Dee? Well, they’re just six or seven years older than me, so I don’t consider them such ‘old ladies.’”
“Sorry, I just forgot their names,” Eden replied. “I hadn’t heard of them before you wrote about them.”
“Yeah well, they were pretty peripheral to my life, so there was never any reason to bring them up with you. Especially Tess. I barely knew her.”
“They may not be super old, but damn, they’re old enough to know better. That kind of shit went out with middle school.”
“Yeah, though you know, I only had nice friends in middle school.” I tapped a finger on my jeans. “Speaking of them, here, get this. I was talking the other day with this friend I first met in May, at a conference called Sex 2.0. Another friend of mine had organized it, and a lot of friends were going, so I went to be a part of it. I’m interested in the topic, of course: it was primarily about the intersections of feminism and technology.”
“Sure, right? Now, Dacia was going and by this time, Dee was following her around. Dee had never in her life been to such a conference, or even thought about feminism or women’s issues or gender or any of that prior to meeting Dacia, so she took to parroting anything Dacia said with the fervor of an acolyte. I mean, right down to the way Dacia says things are ‘awesome.’”
“So word gets out that I’m going and Dee starts to write me frantic emails. We had broken up, oh, eight or nine months before and I hadn’t heard from her since. Now, she wrote me several times a day. She told me I had a lot of nerve going to this conference because everyone there hated me, and I knew nothing about the plight of women, and so on and so on. I didn’t reply to her, so she kept writing with more and more reasons why I shouldn’t go, and threatening that she was going to tell people what a dickhead I am.”
“Dickhead! Now, that’s middle school.” Eden laughed. “Yeah, you know nothing about feminism.”
“How could I? I’m a man. But seriously, you know, I wrote letters to newspapers supporting the Equal Rights Amendment when I was in middle school. I got hate mail in reply. When I was sixteen, I held Pro-Choice signs at a Reagan campaign stop as jeering adults held pictures of bloody fetuses in my face. I’ve marched for gay rights, women’s rights, reproductive rights; volunteered for a year at a shelter for homeless women and children and for three years at a drop-in center for GLBT youth; written more than a few articles and a book about sexuality, and let’s not forget my blog. I don’t really need feminist credentials from Dee or anyone else to attend a conference.”
“Okay, I don’t mean to sound defensive, but Jesus, right?” I took a breath and exhaled. “Now, where was I? Oh, so this friend of mine. She went to Sex 2.0 and ran into Dacia. My friend was immediately ushered into a hotel room with Dee and one or two others, sat down and told—told!—that she should shun me at the conference. She sat there, listening. She had never met Dee, who was now giving her an earful of my supposed awfulness. At the time, my friend had heard of me, but never met me. So naturally, with all this negative energy being directed at me, what did she think?”
Eden shrugged. “That you’re awful?”
“That was certainly the intent. Instead, being a thinking person, she realized this was an awful lot of effort spent to make someone look awful. So she decided to do some research. She asked around about me, talking to people we know in common. She introduced herself to me. She read my blog and looked into the flame war. She found it all pretty fascinating.”
“So now she’s your friend?”
“Yeah, we met. She’s smart. She thought this all seemed over the top. She decided to get to know me a bit and whattya know? Turns out that I’m a real person. The thing of it is, most grown ups do not appreciate being told who they are allowed to be friends with. Sitting someone down to give such a directive is a presumption of influence that speaks to a skewed sense of power. Did Pope Dacia believe she had the authority to excommunicate me? Did celebrity-seeking Tess and embittered Dee believe that gossip should displace an individual’s reality? If so, what kind of community do the three of them imagine they are part of?”
Eden was quiet for a moment. “You’ve been thinking about this, haven’t you?”
I laughed. “Now and then. It’s all fodder for a memoir, I suppose. Sometimes it interests me just because it happened to me, but other times, I see a bigger picture in it. The ways people behave online becomes more interesting to me the longer I have an online persona. And I have a long-held aversion to the notion that communities should coalesce around ostracization and scapegoating.”
“Yeah. All of that makes me angry. When I hear about bullies, I want to gut them like fish.” Eden grinned at the unexpected violence of her imagery. “But then I’m from Jersey, and that’s what we do in Jersey.”
“The swamps are full enough of bodies,” I replied. “Look, I’m tired of hearing myself talk. Thanks for letting me vent. Now, tell me more about what you’ve been up to.”
Eden settled back and returned to talking about her portfolio. After all the pettiness of my conversation, it was a relief to hear her talk so positively about her enthusiasm for her work, like a bracing dose of reality thrown after the narrow confines of gossip and meanness I had described. I realized that I was actually pleased that Eden didn’t seem all that interested in the story I had told. She didn’t know the people involved and it had nothing to do with the things in life that mattered to her. She listened because she cared about me, and as I talked, I found myself moving more and more in the direction of what I found interesting in the story I told. It wasn’t that the actions of these others had much impact in my life—after the conclusion of the custody case they had failed to influence, I was rather content in my life, actually—but rather that they seemed so intent on having a negative impact on my life. These people seemed to find power in attacking me, whether or not these attacks had significance for me, and did so from the cowardly bunkers of gossip and keyboards. None had the bravery to deal with me directly as a real person. Eden had called them “bullies,” and that seemed a good word.
Eden had returned to talking about her recent boyfriend, saying, “So, that’s where that ended. I haven’t had sex in six months.”
“Six months? That’s a long time.” I tilted my head. “Eden, is that one reason you wanted to get together today?”
“Oh, no . . well, not really . . .” she stammered. She caught her breath. “I mean, that’s not the only reason I wanted to see you. I really did want to see how you’re doing.” She was quiet for a moment. “I don’t want to be one of those women who just uses you for sex.”
I smiled. “For reals? Honey, you don’t use me.” I leaned forward to kiss her. Her lips parted slightly. I held close, touching her lips with my tongue. I sat back and smiled. She looked relieved to have her desire out in the open. “You,” I said, standing. I parted my legs and lowered myself onto her lap, facing her. “You, Eden.” I took her head in both hands and lowered myself to kiss her again. “You, Eden,” I whispered. “You are nothing but good and kind to me. I trust you.” I turned her head slightly and lowered my lips to hers. Her mouth opened to mine. I grabbed her hair more firmly in my hands. We kissed slowly, languidly, two long-time lovers getting reacquainted with the taste of one after too long apart. Memories loosened in my mind. I recalled the longing that had once led me to imagine slow weekends, alone in the woods with Eden in my hands, in my bed, at the end of my flogs.
I gripped her hair tighter, pressing her face into mine. “I want you in my bed,” I said gruffly. “Now.” I released her and stood, holding out my hand. “Now, Eden.” She took my hand and stood. I took her kiss again, forgetting my own command and wanting to keep her where she stood, my hands roaming her clothes. The cotton was soft and Eden’s smell was filling my lungs. I pulled the shirt over her head, grabbed her shoulder to turn her and unfastened her bra. As it fell forward, I reached around to take her breasts in my hands. I squeezed hard. “I said bedroom. Now.” I turned her roughly, pulling her forward by her breasts, my body following, pressed close against her back.
I turned her to push her back on my bed and yanked off her jeans and panties. I kept my eyes on her body as my own clothes fell to the floor, taking in her familiarity. Our former understanding that she should always be undressed in my home had ensured that Eden was far more familiar to me nude than clothed. To see her again was like revisiting something as ingrained in memory as a childhood walk to school. I could find my way around her body with my eyes closed.
I lowered myself over her, barely allowing our skin to touch. When did I learn this about her? That barest touch sends the light hair on her flesh up in search of me. When did I learn to crave this scent? Infused in her hair, her skin, her sweat, her scent is from no bottle or tube, but pure and clear and carnal.
I kissed, I bit, I chewed my way down her body, settling my mouth onto her clit. Her back arched, prepared. I knew it would. She would come in my mouth in moments. No one, she has told me, can cause her to orgasm like this. But I can. I learned how.
I knew I should fuck her for a long time before I made her come, but I was greedy.
When she did come—loud, hard, thrashing—I had what I needed. Inside her, I knew I would come soon. I wouldn’t try holding out, I wouldn’t push for longer. Not this time. I needed to give back to her what she had given to me. As I came, I turned to see her eyes watching, her lips smiling. She shared with me the power we each have, the power we earned from all our time together, of the moments much like this one preceding this one, the moments that made this one possible and inevitable. Our shared power, our gift to one another, is the pleasure we give to one another, and the pleasure we derive in doing so.
I held her in the crook of my arm, both of us on our backs, talking low and gently, for a very long time. We dressed, agreeing to another date that would—barring riding accidents or custody battles—lead us back to our routine. We look out for one another, Eden and I. We have each other’s backs.
Nothing But Angry
Unfortunate as Eden’s riding accident had been, it did have the benefit of keeping her off the radar during the course of Tess and Dee’s campaign against me. Would that all of my friends had been so lucky.
On the day after I received my ex-wife’s motion in July, I canceled a date with Dee in order to focus on finding an attorney and inquiring into community support organizations. I was given good direction by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, the Victoria Woodhull Foundation, Lambda Legal and the Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund. I contacted my friends Lolita Wolf and Dacia, who offered condolences and whatever advice they could.
As I paced and made calls, Dee had been invited to join Tess and Rachel for lunch. Tess urged Dee to complain about me to Rachel and to relate anything about our relationship that might have made her unhappy. Throughout the gossipy lunch, as she informed her companions, Tess kept a vibrator humming inside her vagina.
That night, I stayed home with a girlfriend of several years. It was Friday and I didn’t expect to hear more pertaining to my case until Monday. It was comforting to have a close friend so near. We talked and drank, kissed and worried.
My case accelerated in the coming week. My ex had filed on for full custody on an emergency basis, claiming that my sexuality put our children in immediate danger. The court set a date for us to appear within days. I needed an attorney, fast. I also needed money, faster. I was soon wrapped up in the case.
During this time, I was unaware to Tess’s increased mechanizations against me. They began in earnest on the day after I received my ex’s motion. As the motion was entirely concerned about my sexuality as described in my blog, I worked on taking down my blog and diminishing my online presence. Tess worked hard to counter my efforts, collecting gossip and encouraging others to blog whatever she disseminated. She and Dee were well aware that several of the blogs targeted as outlets had been accessed by my ex wife and her attorneys.
Tess’s obsession led her to my girlfriend, whom she had never met. Tess contacted her, took her out, got her drunk and pumped her for information about our relationship, which was instantly mainlined into her arteries of gossip. Once the high subsided, Tess’s purported concerns for welfare of “this beautiful, bright but troubled girl,” as she would soon describe her, vanished. To Tess, my girlfriend was simply a disposable resource. Despite drunken assurances of a blossoming new friendship, my girlfriend never again heard from Tess.
In the aftermath of her drinks with Tess, my girlfriend felt a number of conflicting emotions. We had been close friends and lovers for several years. Tess was a stranger. Yet here was middle-aged woman, claiming to know me well and offering assertions of motherly concern only for the welfare of my girlfriend and other victims of my alleged malfeasance. My girlfriend knew about my other lovers—she read my blog and, unlike Tess, she had met many at my parties—yet the picture painted by Tess was at odds with the reality she knew.
She regarded most of Tess’s gossip as absurd. “You can’t really know someone like Jefferson,” Tess told her. “His life is made of lies. Sociopaths like him don’t know right from wrong.”
“Um, Jefferson may do things you don’t like, or even things I don’t like,” my girlfriend said. “But he’s not a sociopath. I’ve studied psychology. You know what that word means, right?”
“Yes, of course,” Tess nodded. “He’s very charming and so young girls like you do what he wants. But he’s just using them.”
“That’s not what ‘sociopath’ means. I mean, that’s more like what ‘male’ means.”
“You’re still drinking his Kool-Aid,” Tess patronized. “The sooner you’re done with that sociopath, the better for you.”
Deeply absorbed in the early crisis of my custody case, I had little concern for Tess or the gossip she shared with my girlfriend. Instead, I was appalled that Tess had sought out my girlfriend in the first place. “Why did you talk to her at all?” I asked. “It’s weird that she’s suddenly so interested in you, isn’t it, when the shit’s hit the fan?”
“I shouldn’t have talked to her, I know,” my girlfriend agreed. “She wanted to meet and I was having a hard time dealing with stuff, with you and everything. So of course we talked about you. Still, the stuff she said . . .”
“Let’s talk about the stuff she said, then.” We talked. Tess had endeavored to hurt my girlfriend, and among the easily deflected exaggerations and misrepresentations, a few barbs had stung their target. As we talked, I owned up, parsed facts from falsehoods, and apologized for my mistakes. Some things she should have heard from me, and not from malicious gossips. We knew we would work things out in time.
Unfortunately, my immediate time was primarily concerned with keeping my family intact. My girlfriend remained unsettled. When she got an instant message from our friend Jake, inquiring about my case, she shared what she knew and went on to seek his opinion about her strange outing with Tess.
Jake knew Tess’s blog through Dacia, a former girlfriend. I had first met Jake through Dacia several years before, when he was participating in an online porn site with his girlfriend Lux Nightmare. According to Dacia, when he began to date her as well, Jake had denigrated his one girlfriend to his other, playing them off one another in ways that had the advantage of keeping them from trading notes on him. When those relationships ended, Dacia and Lux sought each other out to commiserate. “He thought he was a major player for keeping us apart,” Dacia later said. “Instead, I met my best friend by breaking up with him.”
After their break up, Dacia had become a regular at my parties. When Jake inquired about attending, I discussed his request with Dacia. “Let him come,” she laughed. “He can eat his heart out over my awesomeness.” The two reached a détente at the orgies, though I knew from my girlfriend that Jake was still intimidated by Dacia.
Jake was also apparently intimidated by me—or, at least, by comparisons to me. My girlfriend crushed on Jake and the two of them soon hooked up at my parties. “Oh my God, that was the best sex I’ve ever had,” my lover told me.
“I know,” I replied. “I was watching.”
“His dick is so fucking huge,” she marveled. “It hurts like hell. I told him and he said, ‘It’s supposed to hurt.’” She laughed. “He grunted that. He’s such a manly man.”
I patted her shoulder. “Welcome to porn sex.”
Now and then, the two of them would meet for drinks and sex. My girlfriend pursued more of a relationship with him, but he was cool to her overtures. When they talked, conversation invariably turned to me. Jake would often tease, “Why do you hook up with Jefferson? You’re pretty hot. You could do better.”
“Evidently, I can’t do as well as you say,” she reminded him. “Anyway, you shouldn’t talk. You’re just the same as he is.”
“No way,” Jake balked.
“You’re both the same. You both fuck lots of girls, you both fuck boys and you both go to orgies. That’s weird.”
“That’s not weird,” Jake retorted. “You’re weird for thinking it’s weird. Anyway, he’s way older than me.”
She shrugged. “You’re not so young, my friend. What are you, thirty?”
He smirked. “Twenty-nine.”
“Whatever, man. You’ll be him in a decade.”
Jake liked me well enough, but he saw himself as quite different from me. My girlfriend’s gibes rubbed against his insecurities—what if the very aspects he saw as most unique in himself weren’t really so unique after all?
Even though Jake didn’t want anything more than a casual relationship with my girlfriend, he enjoyed flirting with her online during his workday. He liked her sense of humor and banter. In some ways, he envied what he did not think he wanted: the ease with which she and I related to one another.
When Dacia blogged very personal criticisms of me, Jake and my girlfriend were surprised, for they believed, as I did, that Dacia and I were friends. As they traded instant messages, my girlfriend tried to sort out Dacia’s complaints. Other than Dacia’s emphasis on my drinking and the stupidity of parents keeping sex blogs, Dacia had echoed opinions my girlfriend had heard from Tess.
Jake reasoned that Tess was probably involved in Dacia’s decision to attack me. My girlfriend worried that she had shared so much information about our relationship with Tess. Now, she feared, Dacia would be in on that gossip as well.
“So what?” Jake wrote.
“Um, hello? I don’t want Dacia knowing my business. Not that I wanted Tess to know. I don’t know these people!”
“I think you should tell Dacia anything you told Tess about Jefferson.”
“Seriously? Ugh. Why? That’s crazy.”
For the rest of the afternoon and evening, Jake tried to persuade my girlfriend to contact Dacia. He reminded her that Dacia had known me longer than anyone else they knew in common, and if she was pissed, she probably had a reason. People respected her opinion, and so if she wanted to argue against supporting my custody case, people should pay attention to that.
My girlfriend wasn’t sure it was a good idea to get involved, but with Jake’s encouragement, she agreed to write an email to Dacia. Maybe Dacia, at least, would help her to understand what all the mess and drama was about. “One thing,” Jake added. “Don’t mention that I told you to write to her. History. It’s messy.” My girlfriend agreed. She had no knowledge that Jake’s history involved pitting Dacia and her friends against one another.
My girlfriend wrote her note, laying out several concerns about her relationship with me. Jake sat back to watch the fireworks.
Five days later, just after midnight, Dacia responded to my girlfriend’s note. Her reply read, in part:
“I’m sorry it’s taken me a few days to get back to you, this week has been a bit overwhelming. Though I expected a shit storm from Jefferson’s defenders sending me vicious emails, that actually hasn’t happened at all—I’ve gotten nothing but notes of support, which I think is telling. I’ve also gotten emails from other people Jefferson has hurt, which makes me nothing but angry.
“Here’s the thing—while you may be a technical adult, so is Jefferson and he has more life experience, and that means that he should’ve taken responsibility to make sure you were healthy and happy. He totally failed you in that and you have every right to be angry with him.
“I think if you feel like you’re in a fragile place, which is what it sounds like, you don’t need to feel obligated to add to the cacophony of voices against Jefferson. He is pretty much being skewered in the comments on my blog, and he has plenty of stuff to worry about.” Dacia added that if my girlfriend had any more concerns about me, or any more information to share, she should feel free to contact her.
The next morning, my girlfriend replied that while she appreciated Dacia’s response, she had almost immediately regretted sending the note. It was personal, she realized, but she had felt “easily convinced by the specific person who pushed for it.” She made it clear that she really didn’t want to make her private life widely known.
Dacia didn’t respond. She never again replied to my girlfriend.
In the five “overwhelming” days since first receiving my girlfriend’s note, Dacia has found time to read and approve seventy-five comments to her post. Many were paragraphs long. While some took issue with the accusations and suppositions being made by people unfamiliar with the case, others—for the most part, people who didn’t know me—stated with certainty that I was misogynist, alcoholic and a sociopath. My request that friends not discuss the case publicly was cited as evidence that I was opposed to the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. Blogs and comments on my custody case represented free speech that I was trying to curtail.
Several comments had been posted by Tess and Dee under various names, including their own. In her compulsive correspondence with Avah, Dee sought information and formulated strategies by which she and Tess could fuel the heated attacks and counter those who questioned them.
As Dacia wrote in her note to my girlfriend, in those five days she also had time to read many private emails supporting her position, noting the absence of an expected “shit storm” from those who would question it. Dacia seemed not to question that my friends and supporters were honoring my request not to discuss my custody case publicly. This had been my advice from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, an organization she cited in her post in cautioning the risks that parents face in being out about their sexuality. The advice was common sense to me, and gratefully, to my friends, who kept their fingers off the keyboard while wondering in horror at Dacia’s “cacophony of voices.”
Her cacophony would, in short order, include one voice outing many sex bloggers. Though made aware that her blog was being so used—one of the affected bloggers, a mutual friend previously praised by Dacia as a “strong woman,” called to confirm what Dacia surely already realized—Dacia took no steps to prevent it. The commenter’s contact information remained in place for anyone who cared to seek out the real identities of many of Dacia’s fellow bloggers. The call was the last Dacia would receive from the “strong woman,” our stunned mutual friend.
As for “other people Jefferson has hurt” leaving Dacia “nothing but angry,” they were left unnamed. Based on comments to Dacia’s post, I assumed these to include Dee, whose unrequited love led her to attack me. Were there others? Dacia had set herself up as the clearinghouse for complaints against me. These complaints were not shared with me. Only Dacia seemed able to make this unspecific claim to my girlfriend.
For five days, Dacia found no time to respond to my girlfriend’s initial email. When my girlfriend prompted replied to her response that sending the email had been a mistake that she regretted, she heard no more from Dacia.
Dacia declined to tell my girlfriend that in those five days, she had found time to forward her personal note, in its entirety, to numerous recipients, including Tess, who insured that it received far wider circulation than even Dacia had anticipated. Dee sent me a note, gloating about the widespread attention she personally brought to my girlfriend’s private note to Dacia, making it clear that more was to come.
Intimate details of my girlfriend’s concerns about our relationship, shared with a trust later regretted, were now widely known by anyone Dacia, Tess and Dee had chosen to tell, without the knowledge or consent of either my girlfriend or myself.
Dacia was unaware of Jake’s role in playing her against me. Has she known, I doubt it would have made a difference in her treatment of me; it would simply have given her an additional target for her anger. She likely would lump us together in any case, as close male friends who had disappointed her to the point of nothing but anger, men to whom she had burned bridges.
One thing Dacia wrote to my girlfriend stood out for me: “He totally failed you in that and you have every right to be angry with him.” Had I also totally failed Dacia? Just a few years older than my girlfriend, Dacia was surely a “technical adult,” but had I, with “more life experience,” let her down in such a profound way as to warrant her attacks and those she approved, consequences to my family be damned?
I can speculate, but I don’t know. Dacia never discussed any disappointment, anger or ill will with me. She didn’t address it with me before attacking me in her blog. She’s never spoken to me since. I only know what I’ve read in her blog.
Two years later—months after the case was resolved, and a few days after my reunion with Eden—a friend sent me an article in which Dacia was among sex workers and former sex workers who blog about their experiences. “Initially I didn’t really care about what the people I wrote about thought about it and that applied to my personal life, too,” Dacia said. “I didn’t consider their feelings at all. That was a very different time in my life . . . I did not feel limited though maybe I should have.” My friend attached a note, wondering if perhaps Dacia’s treatment of me—and her cavalier destruction of our relationship, like so many relationships with men in her life—now weighed heavily on her mind.
I shrugged it off at first. If Dacia has something to say to me, I thought, she’s always known where to find me. I don’t need to dope out her feelings from blog posts or online interviews. I left my desk to start preparing dinner.
Still, as I assembled ingredients and cookware, I thought: what if I reached out to her? Neither in the interest of renewing our friendship—I can’t trust her as I once did—nor to gain anything, as she has nothing I want. But if she had regrets, and if these regrets dogged her conscience, I could let Dacia know that she can be forgiven. If I had somehow disappointed or angered her, perhaps she could forgive me.
After reading it over a few times, I sent this note to Dacia.
A friend sent me the article in which you expressed regret about having previously been inconsiderate of the feelings of others in your blog. The friend wondered if, reading between the lines, this indicated remorse about your treatment of me.
I’m not great at reading between lines. Maybe you feel remorse, or maybe that’s all a bridge you consider well burned. But if you do revisit your actions with regret and ever want to talk about it, I’m here. We used to be very close and loved one another. For those reasons if no other, I prefer forgiveness to rancor.
Hope all is well.
I haven’t heard back from her, but perhaps, one day, I will.
Feverish, Sad Drama
Everyone seemed to have an opinion about my custody case. In managing her smear campaign, Tess modified her gossip to be sure it resonated in receptive ears. Above all, she wanted to impress the women whom she felt could further the reach of her new “secret sex blog cabal.”
On the day after I learned that my ex had filed a motion against me, Tess huddled over lunch with Dee and Rachel, a sex writer with a popular blog. Tess had been pressing Dee to end our relationship. Now, she encouraged her to complain about me in detail, hoping to influence Rachel against me.
A few days later, I posted some details about my case. The Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund had set up a legal defense fund to support my case and I needed to get out word about that. I took care not to reveal anything that could impact the case; just to be safe, I ran the text by my attorney. She encouraged me to point out the free speech ramifications in the filing, as this was fairly unique in a custody case. I did as she suggested.
Reading my post, Rachel was confused. How could a custody case have anything to do with the First Amendment? A former law student, she could not imagine any circumstance in which that could apply. Although I had asked my friends not to comment on the case as it was before the court, Rachel felt moved to blog “if you’ve ever studied anything about the First Amendment, you should know that it applies to the government dictating what you can and can’t say, not your vindictive ex-wife. Nobody ever said he didn’t have the legal right to post anything he damn well wanted.”
Rachel had never read my ex’s motion against me. She didn’t discuss it with me before blogging about it. Small wonder, then, that her uninformed conjecture was simply wrong. I had never claimed that free speech issues were involved because my ex wife was upset by my writing. My attorney informed me that First Amendment rights were involved because my ex-wife’s attorneys sought to have the State of New York shut down or curtail my blog. My attorney’s research showed that this was a case of first impression, meaning that if the court ruled against me, we would be able to appeal, perhaps so far as the United States Supreme Court.
Thankfully, the court did not rule against me. But in the court of blog opinion, Rachel had established a critical fact: I was either misinformed or lying.
Tess added this to her gossip.
Tess lobbied Dacia to come out against me and to discourage contributions to my legal defense fund. Persuaded that “this is a big and important thing for the sex blogging community to talk about,” Dacia wrote a blog post in which she questioned my revelation that my ex’s motion was concerned with my sexuality as discussed in my blog. “The bisexuality and the blogging is just a piece of the puzzle,” she ungrammatically opined. “Anyone who reads his blog knows Jefferson’s affinity for bourbon—and though he has a flip way of writing about it, his drinking is a real problem that I personally have seen unfold in embarrassing and fucked up ways.”
Substance abuse was very much on Dacia’s mind. She was then breaking up with her boyfriend of several years due to his inability to kick his cocaine addiction. Of all the subjects covered by Tess’s gossip, my drinking resonated most for Dacia. If the motion was not about my bisexuality and blogging, my former drinking buddy could certainly imagine that it might have to do with alcohol.
Dacia had never read my ex’s motion against me. She didn’t discuss it with me before blogging about it. Small wonder, then, that her uninformed conjecture was simply wrong. The motion, which was the size of a phone book, made no mention of my drinking. Dacia had originally noted that her post was based on her six-year relationship with me; she would eventually revise that to say that she had not spent any time with me in the previous three years and therefore, she wasn’t speaking with any direct knowledge. “Much of what I know about Jefferson in the here and now is admittedly second hand information,” Dacia confessed. She was repeating gossip, much of it proffered by Tess. Neither Tess nor Dee had witnessed me drinking to excess, so Tess sent Dee in search of evidence to support Dacia’s claim.
As comments flowed into Dacia’s blog, people alluded to their own lives with alcoholics and shared stories of abuse and neglect. One commenter, attracted by the drama, offered to start a blog outing me and other bloggers. Anyone contacting the commenter was given our names and told how they were discovered. This was brought to Dacia’s attention, but she declined to remove the comment. In fact, she did little to moderate what another commenter aptly characterized as her blog’s “witch trial.” Dacia let the flame war burn, impressed that her betrayal of those who had trusted her proved so beneficial to her ratings.
In the court of blog opinion, Dacia had established a critical fact: my ex-wife was suing for custody of our children because I was an alcoholic.
Tess added this to her gossip.
On the day Dacia posted her attack against me, Tess added a post to her own blog. Dacia’s post had given Tess the grounding to take a public stand against me. Tess made a point of discouraging contributions to my legal defense fund. In subsequent posts, Tess turned her attention to the women she courted for her “secret sex blog cabal.” In order to impress them, Tess felt it was important to maintain an air of indifference to me in her blog, even as her gossip about me provided her with the material with which to keep them entertained. Still, she encouraged Dee to post about me frequently. Tess and Dee knew my ex read Dee’s blog—Dee had provided me with my ex’s IP address—so it was the site most likely to do damage to my case. The strategy had the added advantage of making Tess appear far less obsessed than Dee, at least publicly.
Tess and Dee added their own negative comments to Dacia’s blog, both under their own names and under pseudonyms. Tess continued this practice on other blogs as well, repeating common refrains under a variety of identities. People were dissuaded from donating to my legal defense fund; indeed, its very legality was questioned. Bloggers were encouraged to remove links to my blog from their blogrolls. If enough followed suit, Tess felt, she would succeed in erasing me from the blogosphere.
It satisfied Tess to believe that so many people were thinking ill of me, but she was frustrated that my case garnered support from Lambda Legal, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom and the Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund. The latter had set up the legal defense fund Tess was working hard to downplay. If the organization was made aware of the online controversy Tess had helped to create, she felt, surely they would not be willing to continue supporting my case. As she fanned Dacia’s flame war, Tess became impatient to put the controversy to use in destroying me. It was time, she felt, to cut off my support.
A month after Dacia’s initial attack, comments to her post continued to come in daily. By this time, the comments reached into the hundreds. The flame war had deteriorated to such an extent that commenters referred to my addictions to alcohol and sex as established facts and my real identity was routinely outed. Dacia dug in to assert, “I think that most readers of this post and others that have been scattered around the Internet have enough information to realize that this is not a clear-cut case of being persecuted for sexual orientation.” It was no longer conjectured that perhaps my ex wife’s motion against me was not based solely on my sexuality as described in my blog; Dacia now stated with confidence that the motion she had never read was not “clear cut.”
Dacia’s confidence emboldened Tess and Dee. The day after Dacia’s assertion, Dee wrote an appeal to the members of the Friends of Jefferson, beseeching each to abandon her support of me and my custody case. That same day, an email was sent to Valerie White, Director of the Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund. “His custody case is not based upon his bisexuality,” the writer categorically stated. “His wife has known about his bisexuality for a long time. The case is based upon his reckless conduct which is not in keeping with responsible or even barely adequate parenting.” The writer repeated allegations that I was an alcoholic and added new claims that I was a gigolo and other suppositions that had surfaced in the unmoderated comments on Dacia’s post. The writer offered a link to Dee’s blog in order to detail “the ugly truth about Jefferson’s life,” and concluded by urging the organization to “please reconsider lending your good names and influence to this cause.”
Valerie White forwarded the note to my attorney. Valerie knew that my ex’s motion against me was, in fact, entirely concerned with my sexuality as described in this blog. She knew it made no mention of alcoholism, prostitution or other awful suppositions. Valerie and the Board of Directors of the Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund had reviewed the motion before agreeing to establish a legal defense fund, as was standard procedure for the organization. She recognized that the writer of the email was uninformed about the motion. My attorney dismissed the note as a poor attempt to adversely influence a case before the court.
When I read the note, I saw Tess’s gossip neatly surmised in one text, articulated in her distinctively melodramatic idiolect. It was clear to me that gossip had displaced reality in Tess’s mind. Anonymous blog comments and slanderous attacks were now the truth as she wanted it represented. It was the truth that that Tess could use to destroy me and deny me my family. Nearly a year later, after the custody case had been settled and the blog drama laid to rest, the allegations and language used in the letter to Valerie were reiterated in an anonymous online attack outing me. Tess’s obsession continued to seethe.
Flame wars come and go in the blogosphere. Dacia’s flame war against me burned brilliantly, but eventually, it died down as others flared up. Looking back, Dacia would later describe her destruction of our relationship as a “feverish and sad drama” largely of her own creation. Perhaps from the experience, Dacia learned that attacking people feels awful, particularly when attacking people who care about you.
Recently, another blog drama reminded me of Tess’s obsession. Some unidentified person had started a blog revealing the identities of sex workers, echoing the use of Dacia’s blog to out sex bloggers. As Tess had since come to care about sex worker rights, she addressed the controversy in her blog. First, she advised others to talk about the blogger offline but not in tweets or on blogs, as that only gave more attention to the blogger. Evidently, she felt the strategy of back-channel gossip had worked well in her campaign against me. “The best way, the only way, to make people like [ . . . ] go away is to starve them of any attention,” she intoned. Gossip is good, she suggested. Direct confrontation was to be avoided.
Tess decried the blogger’s effort as “mired in vindictiveness, in pettiness, in meanness and its intent is solely to cause harm. Let me repeat that because it’s that important—its intent is solely to cause harm.” She concluded by shaming the blogger’s “goal of harming individuals by disseminating private information.”
Tess couldn’t have done a better job of describing her campaign against me. In fact, Tess’s behavior just a few months earlier presaged actions she now decried.
In the days after her break up with her lover Victor, Tess dealt with her despondency by anonymously attacking me online. Creating an account at a website designed to be used by women complaining about bad dates, Tess described “Jefferson Blogger” as follows:
“He’s known for being charming when you meet him and he’s seduced countless young, inexperienced women. He keeps a blog onelifetaketwo.blogspot.com where he makes his life sound wonderful and glamorous. But he seeks out mentally unstable or naive women and he uses them for his benefit. He’s an alcoholic and has been accused of sexual assault. He is also known for getting his young girlfriends into sex work.”
To this profile she added a photograph of me that is readily available online.
When I revealed Tess’s anonymous attack in post entitled “Tess’s Obsession” she quickly made revisions:
“He keeps a blog onelifetaketwo.blogspot.com where he makes his life sound wonderful and glamorous. He’s an alcoholic and has been accused of sexual assault. He recently fabricated a long post about who he thinks posted this profile. However, he’s wrong. I’ve decided to snip out the things that are hearsay, but include only the bits that I’ve witnessed myself to be fair.”
Not surprisingly, Tess claimed I was wrong in identifying her as my attacker. As she knew I was not wrong, she dissembled into damage control. She backpedaled, admitting that her claims against me were hearsay, merely gossip she had concocted and spent a year honing through constant circulation.
Tellingly, the hearsay that Tess omitted in the revision concerned the countless “mentally unstable or naive women” I had allegedly seduced into sex work. When Tess began her smear campaign against me in the summer of two thousand and eight, she and Dee were quick to condemn me as a “whore.” They were called aside by Dacia, who discouraged them from using that word as an epithet against me or, indeed, anyone. Dacia began to educate the two women about sex worker rights, a cause of great concern to her. Many strong women make the choice to become sex workers, Dacia instructed, and archaic myths of white slavery insult their intelligence. Certainly, no one should out the identities of sex workers.
Tess and Dee were impressed by Dacia’s lessons and guidance in their assaults against me; so much so that they began to style themselves in her mold as activists for sex worker rights. Dee was charged as, in middle age, she began to acquire a political consciousness. Tess saw the advantage of impressing Dacia in achieving her own ambitions. Just as she wooed Rachel in hope of participating in readings, Tess knew that associating with Dacia could suggest an intellectual credibility she otherwise lacked.
Still, her lesser demons could not rest. A full year after Dacia’s lessons—a year spent forging a new activist identity, a year in which she neither saw nor spoke with me—Tess couldn’t resist decrying me as a Svengali who forced feeble-minded women into the horrors of sex work. What’s more, in posting a photograph of me, she was outing me, using precisely the same tactics of the blogger she would soon self-righteously decry.
Embarrassed by my exposure of her anonymous attacks, Tess revised her language. Minus the admitted hearsay, all that was left was her claim that I was an alcoholic and an allegation that I had been accused of assault. She claimed that she was, in fact, an eyewitness to these claims.
Tess had seen me drink; as recently as fourteen months prior to this attack, she had invited herself to drinks and dinner with mutual friends. From what Tess could recall of the night, before she staggered home, she had seen me imbibing alcohol. She clung to this claim as Dacia had made it central to her own online attack against me: Dacia alleged that as recently as two thousand and five, three years prior to her own post, she had seen me drink alcohol. Tess needed to align herself with Dacia’s authority, and so sent Dee in search of proof of my alcoholism. During our eight-month relationship, Dee had never seen me drunk. Dee’s entreaties to Avah provided further frustration, for in our two-year relationship, which included countless parties, my teetotalling kinky girlfriend could only recall seeing me drunk on one occasion. Evidence be damned, Tess clung to her claim. Apparently, by her reckoning, alcoholism was a moral failing that should bring me down in the eyes of others.
Even more serious was Tess’s claim to have witnessed an assault. On the one hand, this allegation avoided the problem of giving offense to those she sought to impress. Some may be concerned with protecting the rights of sex workers, but who would defend assaulters? Still, as the revision settled in her mind, the limitations of her allegation became clear. If Tess had witnessed an assault, what action did she take? Did she report it to authorities? Isn’t that what anyone would do? Or was her reaction limited to making anonymous allegations online?
Tess knew there had been no assault for her to witness, nothing on which to take action. Now that attention was on her anonymous attack, she found herself in a bind. She could dig deeper into her trench, hurling mud at me with the increased audience I had brought to her forum. There could be some satisfaction in that; attacking me enflamed her passions, and now the dickhead that obsessed her had provided a new opportunity to scratch that itch.
However, Tess was no longer in the heated throws of anger at Victor. She had made her attack in the summer, when the break-up was days old. Now it was autumn and Tess was basking in another kind of attention: there was soon to be a launch party for the sex blogger calendar she had helped to create. Her anonymous attack, taken in an impetuous fit of misandrist pique, had been revealed at a most inopportune time. Everyone was talking to Tess about me. Attention was once again drawn to her obsession. Despite her weak defense—“he’s wrong”—she recognized that my discussion of her actions would ring true to those she wanted to impress. She had, after all, gossiped the narrative of her anonymous attack for well over a year.
The letter written to the Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund had asserted, as fact, gossip that the recipient, Valerie White, recognized as false. The letter made claims about a legal motion that Valerie had read and the letter writer had not. The writer of the letter was simply wrong.
Tess’s gossip consumed her thinking. If words fell from her lips and flew across her keyboard with enough repetition and frequency, they took root as fact in her mind. She could not let go. Everyone must see, as she did, what a dickhead I am. Establishing that meant all. It allowed her to push me aside in her urge to take what she coveted.
Now, in revealing her attack, I had exposed the fissures in the façade of her new persona. Continuing her attack was too risky. If she appeared consumed by attacking me, those she sought to impress may see her as no better than Dee. And, as Tess enjoyed repeating, Dee’s most useful function was in making her look good.
A few days after the attack had been revised, I was contacted by the administrator of the website on which it had appeared. The anonymous post had been removed. Now, no one would have further access to this evidence of Tess’s obsession.
The anonymous attack was removed just days before the sex blogger calendar launch party.
My ex wife’s custody case against me began in July of two-thousand-and-eight. In August of that summer, Dacia launched her flame war against me. Tess and Dee spent the fall and winter consumed in their smear campaign. I had taken down my blog and remained largely offline.
By May of the following year, the custody case was in its final throes. Dacia’s flame war had subsided. Tess felt she enjoyed a new stature among sex bloggers, thanks to the ascent she had fueled by attacking me and other associated with me. Dee reveled in Tess’s reflected fame. Dee’s energies were consumed with sycophancy as she parroted Dacia’s words, fanned Tess’s ego and tweeted incessantly to gain attention. Tess and Dee gloried in the successful destruction of “Jefferson.”
Only thing was, I wasn’t as dead as all that.
Viviane suggested I join her and Lolita in attending Sex 2.0, a conference on feminism and media to be held in Washington, D.C. It was organized by a friend of ours and other friends would be attending and presenting. I was hesitant at first, as I had not made a public appearance as “Jefferson” since the beginning of the custody case. But as the case was all but over, and my lawyer approved, I decided to attend.
Word that I would be attending sent Dee into apoplexy, for she would also be attending. This was her first conference of any kind, much less one concerned with sexuality. It would be her first opportunity to meet many of the bloggers and educators she was desperate to impress. She knew many of them knew me; in fact, she had contacted all that she could in order to repeated her gossip against me. Worse, Tess wasn’t joining her. Dee would be there without her primary support, clutching at Dacia’s hem.
My attendance at Sex 2.0 would be the first time Dee had seen me since the end of our relationship and the launch of her attacks. I would be present in all my flesh-and-blood reality, no longer limited to the straw man she had created in her imagination and online. Dee felt she needed to dissuade me from attending. She ramped up her attacks and gossip, targeting those she knew would be at the conference. She ingratiated herself with the main organizer, offering to assist with administrative tasks while dropping hints that I should be banned from attending. Not simply a friend of mine, the organizer was also an open-minded person who was very experienced in sexuality communities—he had heard more than one aggrieved partner complain against her former lover. Dee saw that she had no choice. She could either forgo attending the conference or dissuade me from doing so.
After nearly a year without contact, she wrote to me. She needed to renew her conflict with me, and recalled that she had one last reason to do so.
The preceding summer, I had taken my children on a road trip to visit my family down south. Dee had recommended that I borrow three DVD players she had used on family trips. I demurred, saying that my kids and I talk, sing and good off on road trips. I didn’t think we’d need the distraction. Dee pressed the players on me, saying I’d thank her later. I took them and packed them in the trunk along with our bags. They remained unused during our vacation.
The custody case began days after our return from vacation. Dee and I broke up in its immediate aftermath. In the course or our break-up, Dee asked that I give the DVD players to my friend Bridget for her to retrieve later. I did so. For the next year or so, they remained in a box in Bridget’s garage, awaiting Dee’s call.
Now, with Sex 2.0 on the horizon, Dee decided she needed the DVD players immediately. She contacted me with an elaborate proposal. I was to bring the DVD to players to Washington, D.C., where I was to deliver them to Elizabeth Wood. Elizabeth would convey them to Dee, so that there would be no contact between us. If I failed to do as she requested, Dee warned, she could make life very unpleasant for me.
I noted the choice of intermediary. Elizabeth was a friend of mine. Dee wanted it plain that Elizabeth was well aware that I was a “dickhead,” and now firmly aligned with Tess and Dee against me.
I reminded Dee that I no longer had the DVD players, saying she should contact Bridget to arrange a convenient time for Dee to pick them up. This did not satisfy Dee. She told me that it was my responsibility to return them, and I should do as she requested. She repeated that if I failed to return the DVD players as she instructed, she could do real harm to me.
I passed the request to Bridget, who put the DVD players in a box and shipped them to Dee. With their return, Dee found her dramatic scenario thwarted. There would be no elaborate hand-off in Washington, no chance to rub her relationship with Elizabeth in my face. Dee had no further complaint against me.
Or did she? Unpacking the box, Dee realized that an adapter cord was missing. Thus, the drama of the loaned DVD players could continue. Dee wrote to demand the return of the cord. I reminded her that I didn’t have the cord and recommended she contact Bridget. I ignored her subsequent emails and their repetitive threats. Finally, Dee pulled out the big guns; she was prepared to blackmail me.
So Jefferson it appears you have decided to ignore my emails about the adapter you did not return. No problem. I’m done asking for it.
I’ll will however leave you with a few thoughts.
Did I mention I have a new calendar announcement coming out this week? This one is even bigger than last years. It is amazing the amount of support and friendship I have now in this CommUNITY.
I was talking to my friend [redacted] the other day. She didn’t know you were going to 2.0. Did you know she was a cutter and has a soft spot for young girls who also are. For some reason she told me how much she hates you and has yet to meet you. She refers to you as “Jeffrey.” Isn’t that cute. I found myself in the position of having to defend your right to attend 2.0 when she was ready to contact the organizer about allowing you to attend.
Did you know one of her children has a form of autism just like my daughter? And her youngest spent three months in the newborn intensive care just like my daughter. We seem to have a lot in common her and I and she was very upset that you would withhold something from my daughter out of bitterness because I stopped seeing you and spoke the truth.
I don’t need to go public with this because my friends all know about it and all are shocked that you would be such a bitter ex lover toward me when I was so good to you and did so much for both you and your children and that you would return my daughter’s dvd players and then not that car adapter also. It really is very childish and petty. I know [redacted] was shocked when we talked about it at brunch today that you hadn’t made good on this yet and were now ignoring my emails.
I thought I would be nice and share with you one of those emails I got a few weeks ago. I chose this one because I really don’t need it. I already have enough of your emails.
To give substance to her threats, Dee excerpted an email she claimed had been obtained though the hacking of my personal account. Given the correspondent and the very intimate nature of the note, it was clear she could not have acquired the note by any other means.
The other emails I got show you as a total fucked up psycho and the best part is they are your own actual emails. I was nice enough not to make them public but only share them with my friends. They were even a topic of my brunch today.
Feel free to keep ignoring me and not return what was my daughter’s adapter. I’ll spend the hundred dollars and buy her a new one so she can use the players on long car trips. I don’t need to do a thing these days. You fuck yourself up all on your own. You’re too stupid to even know what people think of you. I hear you think it was Tess and I who left all those anonymous comments on Dacia’s blog. You can’t really believe that can you? When have Tess and I ever not spoken out with our names behind it? No all those comments showed what everyone else thought about you.
Can you do me one favor. Keep commenting in the Sex 2.0 google group. You and you orgy crew of twenty year olds will make quite an impression at this. Did you notice Viv has become a hasbeen just like you now? Her lies about your custody case trying to get people to come out and support you pretty much did that along with the fact she was flagging my blog when I wrote about you. Lolita’s snarky comment on my Sex 2.0 and Sextoy post was another good one. People who don’t drink the kook aid can see things around you clearly for what they are.
Have you noticed all the people on twitter who no longer respond or follow you? Funny how they all dropped off one by one. One told me they were fed up with your “poor poor me” twitters.
It’s really is great what you have done on all your own. Other than twenty-year-old unstable girls and guys you offer these girls to who do you actually have as your friends? If there wasn’t sex involved what friends would you have in your life?
Some things don’t change. I still send long wordy emails and you’re still a sociopath. I have no expectations of you answering this and it is worth the one hundred dollars it will cost me for my daughter. One more example of your true character which I am more than happy to share with everyone.
With her characteristically idiosyncratic grammar, Dee made a shocking assertion. She had examples of my private correspondence, hacked from my personal email account, and she was sharing it with others. She added this correspondence to the note my girlfriend had written to Dacia; Dee had apparently been on Dacia’s distribution list, and now Dee made sure it got wide circulation.
Still, it was unclear just what was behind Dee’s blackmail. She claimed to no longer care about the adapter cord, except for the excuse it gave her to further her gossip about me. Her real motive, evidently, was to assert the power she had over me. My private correspondence was hers to share at will. She happily dropped the names of those who had seen in—including, of course, friends of mine that she now felt she had turned against me—and darkly intimated that she would share it with others.
As a blackmailer, Dee lacked finesse. What was I to do to prevent her from sharing my purloined correspondence? Why should I do so, if she was already sharing it? She claimed that a friend was “shocked” that I had not returned the adapter that rightly belonged to her daughter; what did the friend make of the fact that Dee had loaned it to the man with whom she was cheating on her daughter’s father? If the adapter was such a cherished item to her child, why had Dee left it to languish unclaimed for so long?
Clearly, the adapter was not the issue. Her main points had to do with other concerns. The number of Dee’s followers on Twitter, as opposed to mine, proved her greater influence in a “commUNITY.” Viviane was a “hasbeen” [sic]. Lolita drank “the kook aid.” As for myself, I fucked young, unstable women. One of these had confided in Tess that she had been a cutter, providing evidence, according to Tess and Dee, of my malfeasance and therefore a confidence worth breaking if it impressed those they sought as allies against me. Dee’s anxiety that I would show up at Sex 2.0 with an “orgy crew of twenty year olds” fueled the righteousness—indeed, necessity—of her blackmail.
Meanwhile, the organizers quietly grumbled about the sham job Dee had done as a volunteer. Presenting herself as eager to offer administrative help at her first conference, Dee fell into bitter rancor when she realized the conference coincided with Mother’s Day weekend. Was the organizer—a man—suggested that feminists could not also be mothers? Why was the conference scheduled on a weekend when no caring mother would be apart from her children?
The organizer, and others, took pains to explain that the chosen weekend was the only alternative for the conference, as it was the venue’s only availability. Besides, the one-day conference was scheduled for Saturday. It was possible for mothers (and anyone else) to attend and be home for Mother’s Day. After sulking that she would never, ever miss Mother’s Day with her children, under no circumstances, Dee finally decided to attend the conference and stayed over Saturday night, leaving for home on Mother’s Day.
The energies that Dee expended on constant Twitter sycophancy, blackmail and defense of motherhood left her volunteer duties neglected. As the conference date approached, the organizer turned to “hasbeen” Viviane for assistance. A skilled organizer, Viviane completed Dee’s neglected work and other tasks as well.
Bridget found the adapter cord and dropped it in the mail. I went to Sex 2.0 with Viviane and Lolita. I caught up with old friends, including Elizabeth, who was as cordial as ever. Dee encouraged Dacia to warn others to eschew contact with me, suggesting that their shared conception of “commUNITY” was built on scapegoating. For all her online attacks and threats, Dee lacked the courage to speak to me directly. Whenever I noticed her, she skulked in corners, doing her best to remain out of my view.
After the conference, Dee gossiped that the sight of me constantly trying to pick up young women scandalized all attendees. It wasn’t true, but the truth didn’t mesh with Dee’s peculiar fixation on the idea of me with younger women.
A year later, Dee would cite her attendance at this conference—the first and only conference of any kind she had ever attended—as qualification to start a new conference touting herself and Tess as relationship experts.
“No, thanks,” she said. “I’m not interested in being in your blog. That’s not why I met you. I just want something fun, with someone smart, and that’s all I need from you.”
“That’s right,” I smiled. “I’m pretty much easy meat with a side of brains.”
“Did that come out weird?” She clasped a hand over her mouth, teasingly. “I meant it in a nice way. I just mean, this is pretty simple, and I like that. Anyway, I’d really rather not see my personal life discussed online. I don’t see how you do that.”
“There are times,” I nodded, “When it’s a bother having so public a sex life.”
“I can imagine. I read the blogs. D-r-a-m-a.” She turned and draped an arm over my chest. She kissed my shoulder. “Still, it does have its benefits. If you kept your sex life private, I wouldn’t have found you.” Her lips grazed my chin. “I’m just glad you keep our sex private.”
I craned my neck, bringing my mouth to her ear. “It’s not like anyone would believe it,” I whispered. She snorted as I tasted her earlobe.
She had shown up in my inbox during the previous summer. After a flirtatious email exchange, she offered to take me out for drinks to discuss, as she put it, “a proposition.” Disinterested in the hassles of dating but not immune to sexual longing, she saw a solution in spending time with me. “How about it?” she asked. “Let’s have sex, have some fun. All shits and giggles.”
I rapped my knuckles on the table. “If you utter the phrase ‘friends with benefits,’ I’m heading for the door.”
“We don’t need to call it anything at all. Just something simple. Girl meets boy.”
“Shits and giggles,” I repeated. She sat smiling, her hair gathered around her shoulders. A finger absent-mindedly rubbed the condensation from her pint glass. I grinned. “You know, you are damn near the prettiest piece of luck to buy me a beer all day.”
“Your mother raised you well,” she laughed. “You’re welcome. I like a sweet-talking man.”
“My mama raised dummies, but not this white boy.” I raised my glass. “To shits and giggles.” She smiled and raised her glass to mine.
I enjoyed playing hard to get with her. She had found me through my blog, so she had initiated this pursuit. Still, she knew what she was offering, and to whom. She was smart, funny and—no denying it—gorgeous. She wanted to get a piece of the man she read about, to experience new things, but, uncharacteristically for those who meet me, she had no interest in being written about. “I’d rather have our time happen without everyone in the world reading it,” she told me. “Anyway, in my line of work—at least, my anticipated line of work—I don’t need to have my sex life plastered all over the Internet.”
I agreed, as that was easy enough. Now, it seemed I was reaping a benefit of my smutmongering, a chance to enjoy something light with someone nice with no expected returns.
In writing about her now, I’m smudging all the contours, hewing to her preference that I keep details of our story offline. She had recently graduated from Cornell, Dartmouth, Stanford, Sarah Lawrence. She moved to New York where she took a studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom on the Upper West Side, TriBeCa, Astoria, Williamsburg with her best friend, roommate, sister and lived alone, petless with her cat, dog, ferret. She was a blond, brunette, black, white, Asian who enjoyed running, yoga, dancing, ballet. She landed a great, mediocre, entry-level, advanced position in banking, public relations, media, real estate and found most guys she met tedious, flat, banal. This led her to me, which led me to a dive joint, hotel bar, upscale cocktail place to hear about her proposition, proposition, proposition.
We kissed goodbye after shaking hands on her proposition. Our next date took place at my apartment, where we smiled through the niceties of drinks and conversation before, after a few sips and sentences, kissing took precedence. She came almost immediately after I entered her, biting my shoulder as she screamed. After the third bite, moments later, I suggested she bite elsewhere and offered her my forearm. She shook her head and bite into her own. By the time we stopped for a breath, her arm was adorned with tiny red wreaths.
“Wow,” I said. “Do you always . . . ?”
She nodded, panting. “Pretty much.”
I ran a finger across her lower belly. “I’m going to like wearing you out,” I smiled. “Or die trying.”
Keeping our relationship off-blog kept it refreshingly free of intrusion. As I managed the occasional flare-ups of jealousy that naturally came up as my partners read about one another, or saw me with others at parties and orgies, I was glad for this refuge, this sub rosa blossoming that no one knew, and no one knew was so good. The bickering and attention seeking of others simply couldn’t compete with the quiet pleasure of being with my private lover.
We got know one another over sex. When she learned that I liked Nick Cave but hadn’t listened closely to him in a while, she made several mix CDs for me, thematically organizing his career. We recommended books to one another and traded them back and forth. We entertained each other with stories of our friends and families. Neither of us seemed to notice when our sex dates evolved into long sleepovers.
Inevitably, I proved unable to keep a good thing to myself. I mentioned to her that I my boyfriend Jacob was a lot of fun, and perhaps she would enjoy a threesome with him. She agreed and we had him over. Their eyes lit up at the sight of one another—they are each so beautiful, they each laugh so readily—and in bed, we fell into an easy, playful sensuality. She’d never seen to men together and was struck by our familiarity and intimacy. Jacob enjoyed the rings he added to her wrist.
We built up an appetite and decided to order pizza. He recalled that Wilco was on Saturday Night Live. Ellen Page was the host. We ordered in and watched television, leaning against one another on my pillows. By Weekend Update, we had returned to sex. Jacob suggested that we could take turns fucking her during commercials, assured that she would come, perhaps many times, before the program resumed. “That way, you know,” he reasoned. “We can get laid and not miss a moment’s entertainment.”
She mused, “I have to say, I could get spoiled by the attention of two boys.”
“You like guys being into you, huh?” Jacob reached for a condom. “Yeah, then you should try his bukkake party thing. Those guys would love you.”
She turned to me. “What bukkake thing?”
I patted her thigh. “I am the world’s worst keeper of secrets,” I sighed.
The next session of the Bukkake Social Club was particularly well attended. She was our guest of honor, and I had arranged for another girlfriend to be my fluffer. The men watched as I fucked her, excited by her waves of orgasms and the site of her teeth digging into her forearm. Eventually, she asked for a break, so I moved on to fuck my fluffer. She watched us and noticed that despite our sex show, the boys’ eyes continued to move between us and her.
“Um, Jefferson, not to interrupt,” she asked. “But is it ever okay for the guest of honor to, you know, get with the boys?”
I released my grip on my fluffer’s hair and sat back on my haunches, leaving my cock in her pussy. “Sure, that can happen. Who do you have your eyes on?”
She laughed. “Well, there’s so much dick to choose from . . . and it all looks so good . . .”
“I wouldn’t mind having a go,” Peter offered, stroking his cock.
“Funny, I was just about to say the same,” another man laughed.
“Two boys, huh?” She put a finger coyly to her lip. “Well, I do know that I like that. So, let’s see: eeny, meeny, miney, mo . . . looks like you’re first, um, what’s your name?”
“I’m Brett,” he smiled, opening my condom drawer. “Very nice to meet you.”
“Pleasure’s all mine,” she smiled, watching the condom roll down Brett’s long cock.
“Here’s a nice twist to the evening.” I turned back to my fluffer. “How’s my good girl?”
“Oh Daddy, please fuck me,” she whimpered. “Having you so still inside me is just driving me crazy.”
The bukkake boys had a fine show that night. I alternated between our guest of honor and my fluffer, with Brett, Peter and James helping to keep our guest of honor occupied. I showered with her after everyone left, washing the remains of the party from our bodies, and changed the sheets before we went to bed. “That was pretty much the most fun I’ve ever had, ever,” she yawned as we drifted off.
“More to come,” I nuzzled into her neck.
We continued to enjoy our private dates. I also formed a boys’ club for her—with Jacob, Brett, Peter and James as members—so that she could enjoy the simultaneous attentions of a cadre of men she liked. She always slept over on the nights I convened her club, enjoying our intimacy after sharing with so many.
When my ex wife discovered my blog and filed for custody of our children, she offered to give me space to focus on that. “That’s a very big situation,” she wrote. “I would understand if you want to focus all your energies on that.”
“Thanks for understanding,” I wrote back. “It’s taking up all my time right now. But truth to tell, I appreciate having you in my life; I don’t want to put you on hold for this crisis. My ex shouldn’t have the power to squash our relationship.” We agreed to continue seeing one another when I had time. I appreciated her all the more for her willingness to give me space to concentrate on the case.
Then, to my astonishment, in the early moments of my custody case, Dacia wrote a post arguing against my position. Fueled by back-channel gossip, comments flowed into her blog. Tess followed suit in her own blog—it would be a bit longer before I was aware that her online attack was merely a shadow of her obsessive offline gossip—and Dee, fresh with the realization that she was in love with me, devoted her days to blogging, tweeting and attacking me for failing to love her in kind.
We had a date. She canceled it. She called to tell me why. “Look, I like you and we’ve had a lot of fun. But I think I need to back off for now. You’ve got a lot going on with your family, and you need to deal with that. But I’m also concerned about the stuff going on in these blogs.”
“I’m sorry about that,” I replied. “I’m not sure why this is happening, or why it’s happening now. But some of this stuff is just gossip. Much of it isn’t true, and none of it is relevant to the case.”
“I know, but it’s not what they’re saying that worries me. You have sex with other women. Big deal. Who doesn’t know that? I’m worried that they are choosing this moment to berate you, and that they’ve chosen to do it online. They must know your ex can read their blogs. I’ve met some really fun people through you, and you know I think you’re great. But these people? They are really fucked up. And they don’t seem to think twice about going online to tell everything they know or make up about you.”
“That’s really middle school, you know? There’s a complete unawareness about the real-life consequences of their actions. So they blow off some steam on a keyboard, you lose your kids and then what? Then they’re happy? I mean, seriously, these are messed up people.”
“But Jefferson, the thing is: these are not good people and you still have them in your life.”
“Had. Had them in my life. Really, that’s what’s so weird. Dacia was one of my most trusted friends, or so I thought, even though we haven’t hung out much lately. I never knew Tess all that well, but I assumed she was a good egg; I mean, why not? I was dating Dee for a few months, and I really gave her a lot of my time, yet the intensity of this lashing out is so out of touch with the relationship we had.”
She sighed. “Look, I’m really sorry about this. I’ve enjoyed being with you, and the people you introduced me to are all really terrific. But this stuff, this shows another side of the world you’re involved in. It’s petty, it’s vindictive and it’s frankly scary. Given my career, I really can’t be around people who will snap and turn on you, and out you on a whim. If word got out about my sexual activity . . .”
“You know I’d never out you.”
“I trust you, but you trusted these people. And now look at what they’re doing.”
I was silent for a moment. “Yeah, I really can’t argue with that. You’re right to want to protect yourself from such people. I should’ve done a better job of that myself.”
“Yeah, allowing those people to have access to you was a mistake. And you don’t need it. You know really great people. You should give them your time.”
“I’ve been considering that. When I think of all the time Dee demanded from me, and how I might have otherwise spent that time, I regret the human propensity to oil the squeaky wheel.”
“You’re better off with the wheels that don’t run off course.”
I laughed. “We’re good at extending metaphors.”
“We’re good at a lot of things.” She paused. “Well, listen, good luck with everything. I’ll still be following you from afar.”
I said goodbye and we hung up.
Lolita opened her laptop. “Look how small and shiny it is!” she beamed. “I love my new toy. It makes me say ‘Eeeee!’”
“Viviane says it’s really great,” I nodded. “Wow, such a tiny keyboard.”
“I like it. It’s perfect for my six-year-old hands.” She playfully typed in imitation of Chico Marx at a piano. I pulled up a chair as she walked me through the laptop’s features.
I needed a new computer for my children and Lolita offered to stop by to let me get a look at the one Viviane had recommended for her. Shelby was also looking for sales and thinking I should consider buying an Acer. After playing with Lolita’s new toy for a while, we found ourselves talking about red flags.
“You really need to pay attention to red flags.” Lolita adopted her educator’s tone. “They’re very important. If you pay attention to red flags, you avoid a lot of bad stuff.”
“I know, I know. I mean, it’s not like I’m not cognizant of red flags. It’s just my instinct to, you know, try to make people happy. So if the red flag is that a person is unhappy, or even irredeemably miserable, I feel like since I’m generally pretty happy, it’s my duty to try to . . .”
“Fix them.” Lolita finished my sentence. She shook her head. “Not a good instinct.”
“Don’t I know it.” I clucked my tongue. “I mean, I’d like to think I learned that lesson in my marriage. You can’t take on the miseries of others in an effort to make them better. You can’t be responsible for the happiness of others.”
“You can only be a nice person and be careful. That’s why paying attention to red flags is smart.”
“Lesson learned.” I grimaced. “Again. This reminds me of a conversation I had with Charmeine, back when you and I were both dating her. You know, she’s a heavy bottom and she kind of took me under her wing as I was growing my abilities as a dom. We didn’t really play that way—I mean, I’m not even sure I was in her league for that . . .”
“Oh, you could’ve handled her,” Lolita laughed.
“Hmmm, maybe. We found our level. At any rate, we would have these long, rich conversations, and once she told me something like, the reason a top should be really selective in choosing partners for heavy play is that you want to be sure you trust the person. She said that if a bottom got angry, she could, you know, go to the police claiming abuse or some such. Charmeine pointed out that a consensual bruising doesn’t necessarily look different than a nonconsensual one.”
“That’s right.” Lolita nodded. “But that’s not just true of heavy play. Trust is really important.”
“Right. I was mulling that over recently and thought it’s true of my sex life as well. I mean, anyone can get upset and make outrageous claims or do things later regretted. But if someone is so motivated by misery, or obsession, or gossip, or drama, then geez . . . I really shouldn’t be messing with such things.”
Lolita pursed her lips. “How many years have I been telling you that?”
“I suppose I’ve had my ears cleaned. So, in considering partners, I’m going to keep in mind Madeline’s refrain: be nice. If someone isn’t nice, I don’t want anything to do with that person.”
“Hey, I always say ‘play nice.’”
“That you do. You and Madeline are a philosophical matched set.” I thought for a moment. “You know, I was talking to Madeline the other day, and I was telling her about some blog drama. You know a great thing about Madeline? She doesn’t care about sex blogs. She thinks they are mostly pretty ridiculous, which, of course, they are. She reads the ones that are well written, but she is never up to speed on blog drama because, you know, she has a life.”
Lolita nodded, listening.
“I don’t usually bother her with such things, because we talk about things like, well, life. So anyway, I had to give the back-story for the blog drama for her to understand what I was trying to explain. So she listened quietly, and then she said, ‘May I ask you a question? Why do you bother with such people?’ I said, ‘Well, you know’ . . . and I realized I didn’t really have a good answer.”
“You want to fix people. That’s your answer.”
“Right. Well, and obviously, Madeline gets that. So she says, ‘Jefferson, you know some amazing people. You know Lolita.’”
“That was nice of her,” Lolita smiled. “Madeline is amazing.”
“You both are. I adore you, Lolita.” Lolita made a shy face and raised a finger to her lip. I grinned. “So anyway, Madeline goes on. ‘Who was that photographer we met in Williamsburg, with the new baby?’ And I said, ‘Harvey.’ She said, ‘Harvey. His work was great and he thinks you’re a genius. When was the last time you saw him?’ I said I hadn’t seen him since that day. She said, ‘You know that was two years ago.’”
“Right? So she goes on, listing a few of my friends she’s met, non-sex friends, and asking when I last saw them. And I realized that in some cases, it had been some time. Madeline was getting a little stern; I could hear it in her voice. Then she said this: you have wasted too much time on people who do not deserve your time.”
Lolita tapped a finger on the table. “Good for her. You needed to hear that.”
I nodded. “She was really giving it to me, too. She was breaking it down for me. People who call you names are not nice people, she said. People who blog mean things are not nice people. People who gossip and write stuff about you without asking you about it, or even telling you about it, are not nice people. Why would you waste time on them? You can totally trade up.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, that’s harsh, Madeline. People aren’t disposable.’”
“I don’t think that’s what she was saying,” Lolita interrupted. “It sounds like she was saying, you can be more selective.”
I tapped my forehead. “Yes. She explained, and yes, that was her point. She said, ‘If people are mean or disrespectful to you, you are perfectly within your rights to cut them off. You can do better.’ And I was, like, ‘Smart lady, where were you when I was getting married?’’
“You’re lucky you know Madeline,” Lolita smiled. “She’s smart and she’s nice.”
“Yes. Easy on the eyes, too.”
Lolita laughed. “She’s bee-yoo-tiful.”
I shrugged. “If you like that type.”