Previous Next 

Nov 07 2018
Boy Culture Turns 13 Comments (0)

6a00d8341c2ca253ef019b00b67803970d-550wiWelcome to the (Boy) Culture wars!

It blows my mind to realize that Boy Culture is now 13 years old — it turned 13 on November 6.

I am naturally technophobic; I avoided the computer classes that started just as I was entering high school, preferring to focus on more useful fare like British Tradition. (So glad I at least forced myself to sweat through my O.P. tops in the somewhat related typing class, which proved to be the most useful course I ever took.) Therefore, when I decided I should launch a blog to keep my writing skills from rusting over and to add my voice to the world, it was a challenge for me to figure out how to create one, and what it should or could be.

The first blogs I remember seeing were Towleroad and Page Six Six Six aka Perez Hilton, and I didn't even totally grasp how to read them at first. Visually, it was confusing. Content-wise, I of course cottoned to Towleroad, but Perez made me queasy — how were so many typos okay? (How are so many typos okay to this day for TMZ?)

I can still remember the joy I felt when I figured out how to post, how to upload an image and how to embed a video. I remember every time a post blew up, bringing in hits and new readers. I remember the longtime commenters, the trolls, the (not-exaggerating) stalkers, the anti-gay gays, the friends I met in person after they discovered my blog, the spam and the never-ending (and validating!) pitches and free tickets and photographers' snaps of half- or all-naked male models that I was sent and told to use at my discretion.

I've used Boy Culture to express myself, to help express others and to connect to people internationally. Have I built a brand? Maybe a very small one.

I've used it to show off my humor (both high and low), to flaunt my obsessions, to reality-test my sexual diversions and perversions, to laud the art I love, to lash out against the enemies of gay people and to broadcast my admiration for Madonna. Unfortunately, I've also had to spend time debating a long list of pathetically time-worn topics, everything from what free speech is, whether gay people should be expected to be liberal, why people who do not identify as racists can still do racist things, why it's okay to take photographs of people in public without their permission, why flamboyant gay people are not why homophobes hate us and many more. It gets exhausting, and I think it's a microcosm of why people get very concerned about their lawns as they age — they're sick and tired of engaging in the same debates over and over with new cycles of citizens.

I've used my blog to help me gather Kickstarter funds for my Encyclopedia Madonnica: 20th Anniversary Edition, and I will also shortly be announcing how to order my next book, MLVC60. It was very helpful in raising money for Boy Culture: The Series (which is shot and will soon be edited).

In spite of all these things, positive and negative, the blog has faced and continues to face some serious existential challenges. I was once part of a blogging network, earning a small but worthwhile amount of money each month from Google and other ads. Because I've always kept things on the verge of racy, this led to my expulsion from that network, and to a ridiculously unfair banning by Google AdSense that was, in part, the fault of my not being forwarded the exact image Google objected to, resulting in the image staying up for over a year. By the time I'd removed it, Google AdSense had apparently lifetime-banned me — and there is no way to get any representative to explain why or to offer any insight as to whether making changes could lead to my being welcomed back. Losing that sum of money every month year after year has been a drain, and it doesn't help that I still encounter people who earnestly believe this blog is my day job and primary means of support.

Also, the blog is named for my novel and the movie of the same name, but I think over time the title has become too specific. No blog can be for everyone, but I think in 2018, calling something Boy Culture and then posting about LGBTQ issues is limiting; I've had to joke awkwardly that I love girls, too, when saying the name of my blog to women.

More broadly, people do not read blogs like they used to, and there are countless more places to get news and entertainment than there were 13 years ago. A prominent gay-rights activist and artist spoke to me very respectfully about my blog before mentioning he doesn't visit it anymore only because blogs are not where we get our news anymore. It wasn't insulting, it was true, but it felt like discussing my funeral while I was alert enough to plan it.

The weirdest thing is that I now spend more time than ever —EVER — posting on the blog (and on my spin-off nostalgia site, and on all related social media), and yet it is harder and harder to keep the eyeballs consistent. I recently had a remarkable spike of readership thanks to a freak-accident, gone-viral Facebook post (thank you, Barbra Streisand!), a sexy Q&A and a few other hot stories, with readership sailing past five times my usual daily count. This lasted a while, but it's been sinking back to normal levels, and normal in 2018 is a bit more than half of, say, 2008.

I used to be linked by peer blogs far more often, but even some blogs and other online sources that I consistently link to either rarely or never return the favor. The name of the game for the past several years has been to contain readers on your platform and not send them anywhere else, unless it's for cash. More of an irritant have been the sites whose interns scan my site for news tips, post them without a link or with a buried hat tip, and then do far better with the posts on social media thanks to corporate backing. There's only so much I can do as a team of one.

Which leads me to social media: Though my blog was red-hot before social media, and though social media is responsible for many of my hits these days, social media has cannibalized me. It's to the point where my Facebook pages are far, far more filled with engagement, which is pushing (pulling?) me toward simply posting everything there. Easier to share, no struggle to get people to leave to another platform. However, if I were to simply Facebook or Instagram everything, then those problematic platforms will have succeeded in moving the conversation from my turf to theirs, and I'll have even less than very little to show for it, least of all autonomy.

All of this is leading up to the likelihood that after threatening to drop my blog for years, I may well have no choice but to follow through — and soon.

I have options, including a Patreon account and an OnlyFans (for my photography, which has drawn more of my attention over time), but I've also known for some time that my blog is probably not good for me in any substantial way, and that even the writing part, which motivated me way back when, is really just sapping time I could be spending writing novels. I actually don't even have time to do the crazy-long lists for which I've become known, and which I enjoy doing so much. I must admit that each time I get some positive (or even just meaningful) feedback, each time my posts are shared on social media, each time something I've written elicits a response, it keeps me going a li'l longer, and this often happens on days when I am totally fed up — I'll get a message urging me to push on forever.

I'm not sure when, exactly, the blog ends, but it will probably soft-end more than vanish. Honestly, the biggest help will be when I finally give up the ghost on the news roundups, an overwhelmingly time-consuming part of this endeavor.

So ... thank you for reading for some part of 13 years, and thanks in advance for continuing to check out this site for as long as it lasts.

As always, for now, you can find me on Facebook (personal and blog), Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. You can also visit my site (also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter).

Your thoughts are welcome. — Matthew