A 1990s Internet Story: ‘I Just Popped My Cherry’
By Ben Bartee - January 14, 2024

Originally published via Armageddon Prose:

Let’s take a trip down memory lane together, into the birth of the Brave New Digital World.

Increasingly, I am aware of how the things I was exposed to, left to my own devices often as an only child and latchkey kid, affected me. I watch documentaries of Americana from the 1950s, and I can’t help but think we crossed a Rubicon of degeneracy at some point in the meantime that we can’t undo, perhaps at least not until some sort of cleansing of a Biblical or secular sort.

Beginning in 1997, I began ravenous consumption of The Jerry Springer Show on a daily basis, which came on conveniently at the sweet witching hour of 4 pm, when I was out of school but before I had any parental supervision.

That was probably not optimal for a young lad’s psychospiritual development. On the other hand, I learned a lot about trannysim before it was cool. And betrayal.

I got to figure out what it all meant all on my own.


Another relic of the era is AOL, which became a thing right around the same time as Jerry. The “you’ve got mail” soundbite still stirs in my soul a perplexing mixture of existential dread and saccharine nostalgia. My username, I can still recall, was Fuzzy6044. Somewhere out there, the inbox for, now surely stuffed full of spam, might still be floating around.

At this point, granted carte blanche access for hours on end, I naturally began exploring the darkest corners of the interwebs. For a naturally curious child, it was the wildest, most unlimited playground I could have imagined. The ability to communicate with any random stranger from coast to coast and beyond in real time was totally novel, and invigorating.

At the time, the customary introduction for the AOL “chat rooms” was “asl?” — “age? sex” location?” (In the innocent 90s, there were only two options for the “sex question.”)

One person I met self-identified, as it were, as a 19-year-old Californian female, which was right up my alley.

“I just popped my cherry. There’s blood everywhere.”

Plussed, I stared at the screen for a while like the words were a jigsaw puzzle.

For years and literal years, I wondered: what the hell did that 19-year-old Californian girl mean? She popped her cherry (singular; she only had one?) and as a result blood went everywhere? It stuck in my head like a craw. I knew it meant something, and I had a hunch it was unsettling, but I couldn’t put it together. It was many years later, once I learned what a hymen was and that Islamic culture values it being intact greatly in a young lady, later that the metaphor became clear.

And now I wonder: how many kids out there right are getting the “I just popped my cherry” treatment on TikTok or Snapchat or whatever, only on steroids in the age of instantly uploadable video — at even younger ages than I was at the time of my inauguration into online smut? And what will the effect on their individual psyches be, and what will the sociocultural impacts be at scale?

And where does it go from here, what with the metaverse and whatever other machinations?

Via LBC:

The girl, who is aged under 16, was using a headset to access a VR room when adult men attacked her avatar.

She was not injured given the assault happened within an immersive reality game, but she is said to be psychologically and emotionally traumatized.

Details about the case have reportedly been kept under wraps to protect the child amid concern a prosecution for the online assault is not viable.

It has led to questions over whether police time is being wasted investigating such problems when it has a backlog of real rape cases to deal with.

But home secretary James Cleverly told LBC’s Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: “I know it is easy to dismiss this as being not real, but the whole point of these virtual environments is they are incredibly immersive.”

Ben Bartee, author of Broken English Teacher: Notes From Exile, is an independent Bangkok-based American journalist with opposable thumbs.

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