I’m done watching people try things for the first time on the Internet.
Right behind YouTube pranks in which parents pretend to kill their own children, stereotype-worshipping “shit people say” videos, and fast-motion cooking tutorials for dishes that are almost always wrapped in bacon, staged “first time” videos are the new worst genre of clickbait.
And that genre has finally reached its awful apotheosis with the now-trending “Lesbians Touch Penis for the First Time,” produced by lesbian singing duo Bria and Chrissy and fast approaching its first million views.
If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t feel obliged to add to that number. You already know everything you need to know from its title. Three lesbians, all of them YouTube stars in their own right, fondle the genitals of an attractive gay man who smiles compliantly, laughs occasionally, and never says a word.
“Ooh, it’s softer than I thought it would be,” says one as she touches him below the waist. “It feels like Play-Doh that’s been warmed up.”
Over the course of three eternal minutes, his anatomy is also described as a hot dog that’s been left out too long and as a noodle “but not like the noodle you play in the water with but like the noodle that you get at an Italian restaurant.” Another lesbian moves his penis around, asking him if it hurts when she does. If this weren’t being filmed as part of a shameless bid for eyeballs, it would be a pretty dehumanizing situation.
Things didn’t have to get this bad. We could have cut off the pointless proliferation of voyeuristic “first time” videos at the pass before “Lesbians Touch Penis for the First Time” became the viral sensation du jour, or even before the same singing duo made “Gay Men Touch Boobs for the First Time” last November with similarly inane results. But we didn’t and now, well, here we are.
It all started so innocently. First, our Facebook friends invited us to watch babies trying lemons for the first time and we complied. The videos were cute and, judging by the hundreds of millions of views they have since accrued, they were almost universally beloved. Few sources of humor translate across languages and cultures but a child shuddering at the taste of citrus is one of them.Then, about a year ago, BuzzFeed began conducting a meaningless set of social experiments not on babies, but on adults whom we can only hope are not their interns, all under the guise of getting people to try new things. And that’s when these videos become inescapable.
The full list of situations that BuzzFeed has staged in the name of novelty is staggering in its sadism. To date, the media company has made men wear maxi pads, spray-tanned redheads, asked each gender to try on the other’s underwear several times, filmed women lifting weights with their vaginas, exposed people to temperatures below minus 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and twice put pairs of best friends behind curtains so they could comment on each other’s naked bodies.
Would that the list ended there. But according to a BuzzFeed-made YouTube playlist, they have created dozens and dozens of these videos. On two separate occasions, BuzzFeed has filmed women urinating standing up for videos with over 12 million collective views. They have asked exes to cuddle with each other after breaking up and solicited strangers and straight men to kiss on camera. Showing people porn is another favorite theme. Once, they even asked three young people to live in simulated solitary confinement for 24 hours in order to make a statement about prison conditions. The conclusion: They are bad.
In 1971, Phil Zimbardo had to get a grant from the government to conduct his infamous Stanford prison experiment. Today, he could just tell attractive twentysomethings that he’ll be putting the results up on YouTube and including a link to their channel.
It’s safe to say, as AfterEllen editor-in-chief Trish Bendix observed of the lesbian penis-touching stunt, that these videos aren’t really teaching us anything new. Cuddling with your ex is awkward. Who knew? Straight men don’t normally kiss each other but they are still physically capable of doing it without their faces melting off in the process. What a surprise! The human experience is vast and varied but “first time” videos aren’t exactly bringing it to light. Even as entertainment, they are vaguely uncomfortable, like watching full-grown adults complete dares that we all should have gotten out of our system as sixth-graders.
To be fair, this trend isn’t all Buzzfeed’s fault, although their subgenre of people sampling Americanized versions of food from their country of origin—Mexicans eating Taco Bell, Italians trying Olive Garden, Chinese people having their first Panda Express experience—deserves special mention for clogging Facebook feeds far and wide. Who could have guessed that mass-produced casual fare would fail to capture the flavor of home-cooked food? Shocker.
No, the thrill of watching other people have new experiences is so tantalizing that YouTubers of all stripes have shown up to rake in the views.
And in 2014, Davey Wavey, a gay YouTuber with nearly a million subscribers, made one of the most bizarre and successful “first time” videos so far. He posted an ad on Craigslist asking for women who had never seen their vaginas, miraculously found four people who did not think he was a serial killer, and filmed their reactions as they had an Eve Ensler moment with a mirror inside a booth in his studio. It was supposed to be inspirational, and several outlets described it as such, but I mostly felt disquieted by this brave new world in which women help a Craigslist stranger procure ad revenue by talking about their genitals in a makeshift neck-high changing room.
Postscript: The next year, Mr. Wavey did some “first time” vagina viewing of his own, when two of his female friends dropped their pants so he could check things out for himself.
But maybe now that “Lesbians Touch Penis for the First Time” is behind us, we can put the whole enterprise to bed. The shark has officially been jumped, every last one of our adolescent curiosities has been satisfied, and all things that can be experienced each have their own YouTube video.
Let’s try not sharing them ever again, for the first time.