How webcam sex nearly saved the world

NICK DOUGLAS — Last night, just as thousands of fans desperately desired, Justin.tv protagonist Justin Kan got laid. At least, we all assume that's what happened when the 24/7 camboy ended a second date (with a girl known to viewers as "J") by taking off his hat-mounted camera, turning off its microphone, joining J in her room, and turning off the lights. Why did this much-anticipated moment manifest as such a letdown? And why is it such a blow to the hope of humankind?

Warning: Because Justin cut his mic, his cohorts filled the silence with a NSFW audio feed from a porno. Put on some headphones.

Pathetic. What happened to Justin's promise to keep on the cam during sex? Here's a guess: Justin, having found a girl he really enjoys spending time with, felt he'd rather share a private moment with her than come through on his commitment with viewers.

Justin has set up a dangerous precedent over the past few days. His self-censorship has gone beyond practical measures (like disabling his microphone during a bank visit to protect his account information); Justin started disabling his microphone and/or camera during business meetings, phone calls, and now intimate moments.

What the hell? Isn't total access the point of lifecasting? It was central to earlier broadcasters like 90s camgirl Jennicam and the residents of We Live In Public's webcam-fitted warehouse. And sex tied into the philosophy behind The Real House.

The Real House, like other "Big Brother"-style live-to-web homes, offered more exhibitionism than allowed on network TV. But unlike most, the display of intimacy seemed not exploitative but invitational. For example, the Real House launched a monthly project called "Globalgasm," in which house members led Internet users around the world in an attempted simultaneous orgasm.

Real House member John "Halcyon" Styn said Globalgasm was inspired by a scene in the original Star Wars. Jedi master Obi-wan Kenobi feels the pain of an entire planet dying at once. Could one create such a force in a positive way? Viewers were invited to tune in and cum with the household.

And thus the Real House cast off the usually prurient feel, already diluted by the honesty and non-titillation of Jennicam's on-camera lovemaking, of live-to-web sex. The Real House lovefest wasn't a free porno show; it was a chance to share one of humanity's most universal pleasures. The peep show became an orgy.

And that's why Justin's cop-out is such a disappointment. Last night, my friends sent a flurry of messages on the group message system Twitter. Both men and women were thrilled at the prospect of watching Justin get it on:

How webcam sex nearly saved the world

These weren't lonely guys getting their rocks off. These people love watching Justin like they love watching Heroes. They liked Justin, they liked J, and they were about to share a milestone for Internet TV after rooting for their hero.

And then the screen went black.

"I actually watched the chat thread for a LONG time after the lights went out," said my friend Rex ("Fimoculous" above) about the on-site chat rooms. "It was seriously like its own show." He continued:

Mostly, it was people who were outraged, wanting to boycott... and then something funny would happen... someone from ROOM1 would drop into ROOM5 and say "We're all boycotting Justin, are you in." And everyone in ROOM5 would scream.

And then, someone showed up who allegedly knew him in real life from a long time ago, and told stories about him. and everyone ate it up.

It was just so weird to watch this while a black video stream played above. It was like a bunch of kids who didn't know what to do once the TV was turned off.

Some connection was made here, but despite Justin's shyness and less important. By retreating, Justin reinforced the idea of on-screen sex as not a shared moment but an exploitative spectator event.

The Justin.tv team plans to launch more shows; their favorite concept is a real-life "Sex in the City" character in New York. For the good of the Internet public, let's hope they find someone less like Justin and more like Halcyon and the Real Housemates.

Nick Douglas writes for Valleywag, Blogebrity, and Look Shiny. He would have left the camera on, but then again, he wouldn't wear it in the first place.