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Chatroulette: Naked Chicks, Boys Seeking Boobs and Connections Across the Globe

Online sensation Chatroulette features lots of genitals and naked breasts, but also strangers genuinely looking for connection.
 
 
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Last Friday night, I found myself looking into the faces of three boys, all about 13 years old, at the top left of my computer screen. Shut away in a small, dim room somewhere in Los Angeles, they crowded together, staring expectantly at their monitor. After some meandering small talk, the boy in the middle, the typist (therefore the leader), admitted their motivation for using the new Internet (and media) sensation, Chatroulette: “We want to see boobs, but with, like…talking.”

Chances are you have at least heard of Chatroulette. Vanity Fair, the New York Times and New York Magazine have all written about the phenomenon. On the "Daily Show," Jon Stewart demonstrated how to use it, while mocking the media’s overreaction to the porn predictably rampant on site characterized by anonymity. 

Chatroulette is the creation of 17-year-old wunderkind Andrey Ternovskiy, a high school student in Moscow. Launched last November, the site lets participants communicate with strangers around the world using their webcams. The roulette part works like this: a curious or wayward individual (you) presses the "new game" button, bringing the two screens on your left to life. The bottom video is of you, the top video is of the “stranger.” You can talk by typing on the right side of the screen. If you find your “stranger” boring, inappropriate, naked, or just don’t like the cut of his gib, you simply click the button marked “next” and move to the next available user(s). You don’t know what the next screen has in store; it's like spinning the cylinder of a revolver during a game of Russian roulette. Get it? Except, instead of a revolver it’s the Internet, and instead of rounds it’s people, or genitals, or talking sandwiches.

It should also be noted that many users have sound. Savvy tech person that I am, I discovered this with my first Chatroulette victim. I was blasting Ginuine’s “My Pony” during the first few minutes of our conversation, and when the final chorus faded out I could hear the gentle typing of my new teenage friend all the way in Chile. A couch full of drunken Germans and their intoxicated Serbian friend made the same faux pas about an hour later. Despite the fact that I repeatedly typed “I CAN HEAR YOU” and “I CAN UNDERSTAND YOU” and revealed that I once lived in Berlin, and wrote some lines auf Deutsch, they loudly discussed my feminine attributes, unaware that the sound was on. (They were, however, very displeased, even surly, when I did not identify Becks as a German beer.)

After a handful of hours spent with my new friends, I can illuminate a couple of things gleaned from my dalliance with Chatroulette. I decided to test out the game by myself, to see what the experience would be like for a youngish woman alone. While talking to a French guy as he listened to Regina Spektor, my brother crossed the room behind me. "I saw that guy!" he admonished and immediately “nexted” me, his face mid-sneer. Which leads to my first observation: most of the people I interacted with on that small screen were men.

Well, "men" may be a bit generous. They were males between the ages of 13 and 30. I spoke with one female, watched another girl dance, and there was one young woman in a group of drunks sitting around a kitchen table in Utah. Most of the guys I encountered were alone, and only about half of them lived in the U.S., about a quarter of them sprawled across a bed while staring into the computer. As the young teens from L.A. lamented, almost everyone on Chatroulette is a guy, and most of those guys only meet other guys, and a decent number of them seem to enjoy lounging about in only their underwear. Some of these guys "nexted" participants simply for belonging to their same gender. (As a video created for the Guardian showed, Chatroulette is comprised of “71% men, 15% women, 14% perverts.”)

 
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