Catapult is a platform founded in 2015 by Elizabeth Koch, with the mission of publishing “stories that celebrate life…Stories that reveal all the layers—the sinews and hairy knuckles, the iron and meat of history and influence…stories that land us squarely, concretely, in someone else’s shoes.”
My first essay for the platform was a chance to unpack my distinctly non-linear career path, to contextualize sex work as labor, and to outline how my stint as a traveling salesman has fueled my creativity.
Having serpentined through many art/finance divides, I find that this unlikely gig sustains my writing practice in ways large and small. I love traveling through my territory, and the places and spaces it affords for writing: Amtrak and commuter rail cars, airplanes, small-town coffeehouses, anonymous motels. I feel something akin to Maya Angelou, who said of writing in hotels, “I go into the room and I feel as if all my beliefs are suspended. I value the perspective on my environment I’ve gained from getting to know the 400-mile radius around me.”
“You’ve Got Male” is a reflection on my earliest interactions with the internet (dating back to 1996), and chronicles the rise and demise of our online sexual freedom, from the wild frontier of the Naughts to the passage of SESTA/FOSTA, legislation that encodes a moral panic about trafficking innocents (innocence?). It appears in the visual compendium/collection of critical essays Matt Keegan: 1996 from Inventory Press.
We were pioneers in the vast unknown: we embarked to the wheezy chimes of the blippy modem, and were greeted on arrival by the upbeat intonations of an anonymous vocal actor, so full of promise: “Welcome! You’ve Got Mail!” AOL’s software suite gave newbies like me access to the world’s largest “walled garden” browsing environment—a controlled, user-friendly platform offering email, file storage, content (games, news, and gossip), and interactive features such as instant messaging and chat rooms. AOL rapidly became the largest internet service provider in the country, with more subscribers than the next largest fifteen ISPs combined. At its peak, AOL had over thirty million members.
Many thanks to Matt Keegan for including me in this momentous work, and to Claire Lehmann for the thoughtful edit. The book release is in October 2020 and is now available to pre-order here.