When you’re developing programs that collect data, you don’t really expect to find any juicy surprises, but it’s certainly welcome when you do, especially when you uncover the clever techniques of children. As I was scraping data online to learn more about self-published titles, authors, and series, I would randomly scrutinize the pages of books in order to validate my results. In scraping data from Amazon and the like, something interesting began to manifest from underneath the covers. I began to notice strange conversations taking place in the reviews section, amid the comments of disappointment or satisfaction. There would be the occasional remark about performing an act of sex or something which mentioned fighting animals. Say, what was this about?
“Puts dic.k vin her pussy and fucks hard and fast”
“No. Three feet of my cck in your ass. ;}”
“He heard the black stallion and galloped across the grassy plain, stopping a good distance away. He reared and whinied challenge.”
As a pattern began to emerge, my interest was suddenly piqued. You can’t expect me to walk past a door that opens to an odd theme park. I’m going to step over the threshold; there are no other alternatives. As I read further, it became apparent that there were two types of activities which were taking place: game roleplaying and virtual sex. The first was fairly innocent, as the writers pretended to be animals. My initial guess was that these review sections were an online sanctuary for furries (and for the first time, I began to feel a bit of sympathy for them). The horseplay was fairly timid, but the cats converged into “clans” and fought wars with each other:
“How long have you been RPing?”
“Yup. I started out at the Hunger Game books, then got locked out of ALL of them. But my friends lead me here…curse them…I hate RP, but I can’t stop.”
“I saw…I tried making GoreClan…But only cats with bad grammar and the wannabe ‘pure black pelt with icy blue eyes’. FAIL”
The virtual sex, on the other hand, was a facetious attempt at being lascivious, and I thought that I might be reading the lost passages of Scrotie McBoogerballs. Who would attempt to reverse engineer a reviews section into a Penthouse Forum? Some kind of bored prankster? I present only one of these choice exhibits:
“Evan started to drink Cat’s pee. Evan pulled off Cat’s shirt and bra. Cat started squirting milk at Evan and her pee stream died down. Evan took one of Cat’s boobs and his tongue drew circles around her nipple. Evan pushed Cat to the ground, spread her legs, and began to lick Cat’s pussy. Cat became wetter and wetter. Her juices flew into Evan’s mouth. Cat let out a scream in delight. Cat sucked all the cum out of Evan’s cock. Evan said, ’Hey Cat. Do you wanna walk home…naked?’ ‘Yes.’ replied Cat. Evan stuffed the trash can with their clothes. Cat walked Evan home, then she walked home. The two texted each other. Evan sent her a video of him squirting cum at the camera. Cat sent back ‘LOL’ and a picture of her boobs sqirting milk. They texted all night and the next day Evan said, [END] PESTORY 4 AT STOP THE WORLD I NEED TO PEE!!!!!”
As I read the “review”, the sophomoric side of me began to chuckle a bit. Boobs…whose inner child doesn’t find something like that amusing? And, more importantly, what child-brained idiot would use such language in an attempt to titillate someone’s loins? And that’s when I began to ponder another possibility. Maybe it’s not a child-brained adult moron. Maybe, it’s just simply a child. As I began to look further at the reviews, I found all the proof that I needed:
“xD Luckeh…and talon, we were talking bout how i was waiting for my mum to take meh to the doc since im sick. Then Slaughter said that….post below yours.”
“What’s gs? That’s a beautiful name Demon. I really like it. I know a girl name [name omitted]. She had a BF, then an 8th grader said that he caught them having se<_>x. Everyone at school said she was pregnant. She was such a sweet girl…I pissed me off to hear what they said about her.”
“If peeps are making fun of you, they must be very immature. What grade are you in? Only second graders would make fun of that. Nobody makes fun of Brad Pitt.”
“DOUBLE FIST PUMP!!!! Hey my sister and I share this [device] so we’ll be posting as SoftShine and Outt. Sorry for the inconvienence, but go ahead and KILL HER!!!!!!!”
And that’s when all the pieces fell into place (especially with certain words being purposefully mangled in order to avoid detection by parental filters). Kids around the world were using the reviews sections of books on a bookseller web site to socialize through their fantasies (whether it be surreal, violent, or sexual). More than likely, I imagine that these children had parents who were trying to protect them in some way, with limited amounts of computer usage and with parental filters put on the eReader device. But anyone who remembers being a kid knows one thing: there’s always ways around an obstacle.
Upon finding their intended forum (i.e., reviews section of a book), the child would create and then update a single review repeatedly, using it as a conduit for conversation. Once they were done, their last entry would be something innocuous, like “Great book!” or “Goodbye!”…and it would be as if the lewd conversation had never taken place. They had found a WiFi detour around their parents’ intentions of sheltering them…just as I and many others had. In a way, you could say that they had done all of us proud. Unfortunately, though, some of us were less proud. As expected, some pious adults took offense to it, and they updated their own reviews in order to scold these bawdy, heretical children:
“Listen, this is very innapropriate. Please stop. I cant live a life of horror and everyone on my [device] saying stuff that you did, [name omitted]. Please stop. I am a daughter of god and i dont need to know that kind of stuff. That was very innapropriate and i can report that. But because i know that when i make a mistake, i can repent, you can fix this.”
And some of the more gentle ranks of the roleplayers were disappointed and frustrated in their sexual peers, vowing to gather and stop their brothers and sisters:
“Do you mean [device] sex? Because that is not how you spell it it is not spelled s-e-c-k-s it is spelled s-e-x. If u do mean [device] sex, dont do it. It is terrible so dont do it and dont support it. If you r against it too, go to star res 11 to help me stop it. My code name is silverleapord.”
I know that some parents might take umbrage with this sort of thing, especially with the concern that devious adults might be interacting with their children. “How can we protect our children from this awfulness? What companies and government agencies can we yell at?” Could companies do something about this issue, by blocking children from the reviews section? Possibly. But what if they actually wanted to review the book and reach others’ thoughts? More importantly, there’s a broader lesson here which should be learned by parents. With something as ubiquitous as the Internet, children will eventually find access to it and will then interact with the rest of the world. It’s only a matter of when…but it will eventually happen.
After spending a few minutes going through these humorous comments, I was generally amused and baffled at this vibrant subculture, likely created through an eReader device. As we get farther from childhood, we forget how isolated and curious children are. In that way, I found it somewhat encouraging that children still sought to push the envelope and explore, in an age where technology encourages them to be passive. Eh, as long as it stays online, who cares? Let kids be kids…hmmm…but wait a minute…then again, what if I was the author? On a more negative point, I realized that authors might not want these kids playing in the reviews of their books, since it might have an adverse effect on sales…if I found myself in that position, my more benevolent stance might suddenly switch to “Get off my lawn, you little bastards”…
…however, context is everything. There might not be a need to stifle these kids. We know that children’s creative energy needs only to be pointed in the right direction. So, let’s do the right thing here. I can imagine a situation where ribald conversations in the reviews section might actually do some good.
“Hey, kids, Uncle Pete knows a spot where all the cool kids hang out. Right over there!” :)
Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.