Originally published June 22, 2006:

While in high school and early college, I was fairly sexually repressed (right-wing, Bible-belt upbringing), so I used online chatrooms to explore my sexual curiosity. I would find random pictures of people on the internet, normal and nude, and send them to others, pretending to be the people in the photos. I used both male and female "identities," as the gender wasn't really what turned me on—it was the exhibitionist nature of sharing photos, even if they weren't mine. I only traded with others claiming to be 18-plus, and I never met anyone. It was all seemingly harmless internet fun.

Now I'm a 23-year-old heterosexual male, and I just began dating a girl that I like a lot. The problem is that now I seem to have recurring negative feelings about those online experiences. Part of me feels like it was a terrible thing to do, and I'm an awful person for doing it. This same part compels me to "confess" this to my new girlfriend.

Confused And Distraught

My response after the jump...

Ah, the religious upbringing—that hellish gift that keeps on giving you hell. Before those first pubes sprout, preachers are pounding it into our heads that there's only one correct way to express ourselves sexually. We are then condemned to spend the rest of our lives measuring our actual sexual desires and experiences—which tend to be messy and perverse, as human beings tend to be messy and perverse—against a simplistic, unachievable, stultifying, and supposedly "blessed" sexual ideal.

Rest assured, CAD, adults that have indulged in nothing but Bible-belt-approved hetero sex—that is, penis in vagina, strictly within the bounds of matrimony, always open to conception—are rarer than Laura Bush's orgasms. Or American goals in a World Cup match. Or sane Scientologists.

So stop beating up on yourself. What you did was completely innocent and, as adolescent exploration of sexuality goes, completely harmless. You managed to safely explore sexuality, fantasy, and gender without getting hurt or hurting anyone. Oh, you may have raised some false hopes in the folks you were chatting with, or helped to circulate pictures that the original owners may not have wanted passed around, but those are venial sins. If you do decide to tell your girlfriend about your online games, CAD, don't present it as some deep, dark secret, but as something freaky and funny you did when you were a teenager.

Fnally, CAD, the internet is teeming with people pretending to be what they're not, from straight women pretending to be gay men to hairy old fags pretending to be smooth young twinks to FBI agents pretending to be 13-year-old girls. So just chill the fuck out, okay?