In January of this year, on what amounted to a whim, I created an online project called Letters from Johns. To be perfectly honest, I can't even recall exactly why I did it, but I've been writing about the sex industry for years, and I suppose I was curious about why men pay for sex. Rather than hearing someone else's version of their stories, I was interested in collecting their stories. So, I put out a call on my blog for exactly that, and that's exactly what I got.
Every so often, another letter from a john would show up in my email box. They were state investigators, lonely, single guys, married men, enlisted, world travelers, virgins, and thrill-seekers. When Spitzergate hit, I got more letters than ever. (I wrote about the project here.) Eventually, though, the call girl and john coverage slowed. These days, I get fewer letters than I used to.
Last night, I got a new letter from a john. It was more sad than most, although many of the letters are somewhat sad. More often than not, the emails are testimonies to loneliness, and the lengths people, men, in particular, will go to be anywhere but alone. This letter, though, was particularly sad, and my guess is it came from a Boing Boing reader. Seeing as I hadn't gotten any letters in a while, and this one rolled in the night I started guestblogging, it's likely he came across the project from here.
Of course, I don't bring this up to out him. He's a John Doe, and all letters remain anonymous. Sometimes, though, there's a tendency to see stories like his, or those of the others, as belonging to lives that are nothing like ours, to "Other-ize" them, when, in fact, the themes of these letters -- the desire to transcend one's internal abyss -- are not so unlike the stories of most who have experiences that require them to find out what's hidden in their darkest places.