Saturday, July 26, 2014

Overexposed - Part One

Short Story – 
Part One

You never feel more attention than in the moments you wish you could disappear. You shrink. Slump your shoulders. Cross your arms over your chest. Tuck your legs tight under your chair. But, no matter what you do, it’s impossible to ignore, much less deny, the auditorium-full of focused stares you can feel on you.

The room is so quiet, you can hear the squeak of your philosophy professor’s dry erase marker while she writes today’s topic on the whiteboard.

“Is Privacy Possible?” Professor Miriam Vegas reads the words she wrote. She turns to face the class. “In a world connected by the internet and social media, where we document, record, and share everything we do with the world, has the expectation for privacy become obsolete?”

Her eyes pause on you. It’s slight, but you catch her cringe. She tries to hide it by adjusting her glasses.

You sigh. It’s a nice effort, but about as subtle as flashing warning lights telling everyone not to look at you.

You just nod and hope it comes off confident and reassuring. Even if it isn’t true, you owe it to Professor Vegas to pretend. She’d been kind enough to send an email before class, to make sure you’d be all right during today’s discussion topic.

And, to be honest, you’d thought about skipping class. There’s no way to have this discussion without talking about you and the disaster site your life has become.

“With stories about government and commercial leaks, financial and personal hacking, doxing, and cyberbullying dominating our news coverage, is privacy in the modern, digital age a fantasy?”

Yeah, you should have skipped.

But the idea of being scared or shamed away by gossip had seemed worse than just getting through it. You can do this. You’ve done nothing wrong and you’re not about to let anyone make you act as if you have.

Take a breath. Sit up straight. And remember that you are more than what people think of you.

You can do this.

It’s just one class.

One really long, really invasive class.

You take another breath.

You used to love this class. After spending eighteen years in a house where right and wrong were non-negotiable, it was refreshing to be in a space where morality was up for debate.

But that all changed after the story broke last month—after your private life spilled in vibrant HD color across the local news shows and in stark black and white over all the local and college papers. Strange how all that debate has become a lot less fun now that it’s moved beyond the theoretical.

“The number one rule of the internet,” a guy on the back of the room with deliberate bedhead and a wrinkled band T-shirt says with an exaggerated shrug, “is that the internet is forever. If you put it out there, you have to know that someone’s going to find it and spread it everywhere.”

“So you’re cool with the government monitoring your phone calls, texts, and emails?” A blond girl with glasses and dreadlocks shoots him a snarky, knowing smile. “I mean, you put it out there, right?”

One of the guy’s friends rolls his eyes. “That’s completely different.” He leans forward, resting a hand on his knee. “That’s the government, not a bunch of guys on laptops. Hackers can’t take away your freedom by throwing you in jail.”

You think about your life lately—spent isolated and lonely in your dorm room, weary of all the stares and whispers—wonder how free he would feel, if it’d happened to him.

A guy in the front twirls his pen in his hand thoughtfully. “What about when people hack customer data from stores or websites? Does the fact that it’s not Big Brother doing it make it all right?”

“Of course not.” The bedhead guy waves his hand. “Breaking the law is breaking the law. But, like, pictures and posts you put on the internet; that’s free game.” He shrugs and turns to face you. “I mean, if you really don’t want your nudes all over the internet, then stop taking naked selfies or recording sex tapes on your phone. ‘Cause, you know, social media never forgets.”

You wince. “Because you’ve never taken and sent a dick pic.”

You shouldn’t have said it. You know that.

The second rule of the internet: Don’t feed the trolls.

“Not one with my face in it.” The meticulously messy guy cocks his head arrogantly. “Like a smart person.”

You have a comeback ready. Something cutting and witty. Something emasculating about how everything looks bigger with no frame of reference.

But it dies in your throat.

The way this guy and his friends look at you—with an intimate familiarity virtual strangers should never have glinting in their eyes—makes you soundlessly swallow hard.

Don’t look away. Don’t lower your gaze. Don’t let him feel better for making you feel worse.

A month ago, you might have. But, ever since a horde of private photos of you and a secret video of a scene you did leaked all over the internet, you’ve had to learn to get used to the stares. 

When everyone knows what you look like naked—in every conceivable way possible—there’s really not much a look can do to you. You know this all too well. You had to learn the hard way.

He grins wider, almost excited by the challenge. “But, I mean, isn’t that the point of exhibitionism, for people to know that you did that? Why else would you take photographic evidence, if you didn’t want anyone to see?”

“Taking a private photo of a private moment,” Tori, a girl you often sit next to, argues, “doesn’t mean you mean or want it shared publicly with the world.”

You nod her way gratefully. She smiles sympathetically and tilts her head. It’s nice to have someone—even for a moment—have your back. Tori is one of four openly gay students you know at this historically conservative college. You suppose she’s probably had her own experiences with having her private life dragged out in the open for everyone to judge.

“I’m not saying it’s fair or right, but the second you took and shared that photo,” Jacob, a guy sitting next to Tori, leans forward to point out, “you made that private moment public.”

“Exactly,” a stiff-spined girl next to him—Janet, you think her name is—adds. “It’s not simply your business anymore; it’s everyone’s. Once the news gets a hold of them, then suddenly it’s not just about you and your actions; it inevitably reflects badly about people just peripherally connected to you.”

“Oh, come on.” Tori groans. She ticks off her points on her fingers. “One, it’s unfair to journalism as a profession to call that news; it’s mean-girl gossip on a grand, high-budget scale. And, two, to claim that anyone else was victimized by it has to be the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Except it wasn’t just Lyndsey’s scandal.” You see a Hispanic girl in glasses raise her hand a bit before shooting a sharp gaze at you. “It’s the college’s scandal. Her actions become all of ours. The school—as a whole, from the administration to the students—suddenly has to rationalize and account for the actions of one person.”

The blond tosses her dreadlocks over her shoulder and rolls her eyes. “Her actions? You mean sex? Are we really going to pretend that no one in this room has had sex before? Or that we believe that the sex we’re having should be seen as anyone else’s business but our own?”

“Again,” Jacob prefaces with his hands held up in front of him, “I’m not saying it’s right, but there’s a difference between a reasonable expectation of privacy and making a sex tape at a house party. A person ought to be able to have their private matters kept private but, once you make an easily reproducible and virally re-postable video at a party, I think you have to go into that knowing that you’re giving up at least some measure of privacy.”

“She wasn’t the only one in those photos or in that video.” Tori turns to face her friend, who leans back with an expression that feels like this isn’t the first time they’ve had this discussion. “Yet the media made her the face of this scandal. Maybe none of us would have to worry so much about what amount of privacy we have the right to expect or not, if we stopped acting like each other’s sex lives—particularly women’s—were some community standards issue we all get to weigh in on. It’s a personal issue between the people involved; it isn’t anyone else’s business. So why do we all act as if it’s communal property?”

“So we should celebrate that kind of behavior?” Janet scoffs. “If you knowingly engage in activities that you know society frowns upon, can you really be all that surprised when society frowns on you?”

Dear God! “You make it sound like we were torturing puppies.”

“You were torturing people.” She sanctimoniously directs her dismissing gaze over her shoulder at you. Her face looks pinched, as if it physically hurt her to remember.

“We didn’t torture anyone.”

“You were hitting people.” Janet’s gaze narrows on you and her lips curl righteously. “What else would you call that, if not torture and abuse?”

Your chin rises, your spine straightening under her gaze. “As long as everyone consented beforehand,” you say matter-of-factly, keeping your voice casual and non-defensive, “I think I call that a good time.”

“So you think that abuse is acceptable?” the Hispanic girl balks.

“Of course not.” You shake your head. “What I’m saying is that if everyone consents, it’s not abuse.”

“A person beating someone with a weapon isn’t abuse?” She scoffs. “How is that anything but?”

They weren’t listening to you. “If they want it, if that person is turned on by it, and if it’s been agreed upon in advance and all the way through, it’s just another form of pleasure.”

“No one in their right mind would feel pleasure from that.” Janet sniffs, so sure. “They’ve just been tricked or confused into sexualizing violence or are too afraid to say no.”

“Just because you’ve never encountered it or aren’t orientated that way, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen.” You’re living proof. Not that you think that counts for anything to her. “It happens.”

“I’ve seen the pictures,” Tori adds softly.

You shoot her a glaring look; she shrugs. She has. They all have.

You blush remembering the images of you topping co-eds at parties—private and those that were less-than-private.

Turns out, as of a month ago, all those parties became a little less private after some anonymous source flashed your face—as well as others—in front of everyone.

You shake your head, clearing those thoughts. “And, whether you agree with it or approve of it or not, none of that should matter. No one is forcing anyone to do anything. No one is being hurt or harmed against their will. What gives people outside of that scene the right to say what people in it can or cannot do.”

“It’s not about can or can’t,” Jacob points out. “This isn’t a matter of ability; you can do whatever you want, so long as it doesn’t break any laws. But it is about whether you should or shouldn’t. And, the minute those photos and video went from being on your private hard drive to the public sphere of the internet, the events became part of the public consciousness. Whether you intended it or not, at that point, I don’t think it matters all that much whether they ought to or have the right to weigh in or not. Because, whatever the morality, humanity proves, time and time again, that people will.”

For a second, you’re stymied. For all your talk about the ideals and principles of fair play and what should and shouldn’t be, he’s right. It happens.

You’re living proof that it does. Once a person’s private lives go public, no amount of wishing can put it back in Pandora’s box.

The guy in the back smirks at you smugly. “It’s Internet Rule Number One for a reason.”

“Okay,” the professor interrupts, “I think it’s time to turn to the text.” Professor Vegas begins to write quotes from the homework’s reading, turning the talk from current events to theory.

You lower your gaze to stare at your notes, the words you took down last night no longer making sense to you now. You can still feel the weight of every stare—a mad mix of curiosity, intrigue, accusation, and titillation—in the room.

Yeah, you should have just stayed in bed.


You smile as you look at Porter lying limp on his bed. He looks quite pretty with his eyes wide with fear—yearning want sparking in those round, clove eyes. His hands are tied above his head, the wrists crossed around a bedpost. His long, strong back is spread exposed before you.

Beautiful. Simply beautiful.

You touch his flesh, so sensitive yet so resilient and the color of blanched almonds, in a way no one else ever has. You tell yourself that no one else ever will. Not like this. Fingertips tentatively traverse the bruised hills and marred vales of his body. Each mark a pink and purple trail, tracking your time together, your history.

His body arches into your touch, as if aching for the tender attention after such adoring abuse. You let your fingers linger across his ass, caressing the keen crease of his cheeks.

Your smile spreads into an outright grin while you dip your finger in to play with his hole. You shift over him to straddle his hips, your plastic hardness pressing insistent into his back. He moans.

Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

Your other hand strokes lube along the long, impossibly hard shaft held tight inside you, touching you with every pass of your hand. You moan too before you rear back and slide in deep.

You ride Porter, listening to him grunt and groan beneath you. Gripping the rope tying his wrists, you pound his thoroughly exploited flesh.

You can feel the blushing heat left by your hand on his pale peach skin and think there’s little in this world better than this.

Fisting his anise hair in one hand while the other grips his hip, you take him, racing desperately toward your end together.

Read Part Two Here

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