“aaaaauuuuuhhh ... aaauuuuuyyyy.”
An American soldier stationed in Afghanistan whom I’ll call “Steve” keeps texting me moaning noises. He’s not in pain, he just wants me to fuck him, or more specifically, wants me to “shove that mother fukin’ cock inside my pussy and watch me ride that cock with my tight pussy walls...” A handsome, mixed-race serviceman from DC, Steve is very, very horny because he’s been on active duty for months, which means it's been at least that long since he’s gotten laid. So he spends a lot of time on an iPhone app called Scruff spelling out elaborate sexual fantasies of what he’d like me to do to him. Most of them involve me choking him with my dick.
Scruff is a gay hook-up service that allows you to check out dudes living anywhere in the world and basically take a gay vacation without having to leave your apartment. You can enter the address of your childhood home, for example, and you’ll probably run into most of the dudes you thought were gay in high school looking for sex. If you punch in Saudi Arabia, you’ll get a bunch of hairy headless torsos and pictures of cars. But if you select Afghanistan, you end up with dozens of US Armed Forces personnel posing in their uniforms or with their assault rifles, desperately looking for distraction.
When I downloaded Scruff, I didn’t have much interest in chatting with guys down the street who wanted to get in my pants as quickly as possible (“Wanna fuck?” “No”), so I started chatting with soldiers overseas, which seemed a lot more interesting and hot. Plus, given how paranoid the military is about people talking to soldiers in war zones, it seems like a weird loophole that you can just download a free app on your iPhone and get them to send you a picture of their penis.
The first guy I started chatting with was a muscular black guy who likes to post photos of himself in his underwear. He’s been mostly stationed in Germany (he really likes German guys), though now he’s in Afghanistan trying not to get killed. He likes to show off his dick, which is legitimately impressive, and sent me a lot of photos of himself shirtless in his barracks in front of an American flag. Although he seems pretty horny most the time, he says he’s never used Scruff to hook up with other guys while deployed, but he did once use Adam4Adam (a gay dating and hookup site) to meet another soldier for sex in the showers at 3 AM when nobody was around.
There’s one subject that seems to get most military guys riled up, just like anybody else: penises. One man, whose profile says only, “Give me your porn,” responded to my “hi” with close-up photos of his hard cock, including one shot of himself wet in the shower and a closeup of himself jerking off. Some soldiers are a little less direct, but at some point, most of the conversations evolve into them sending me a photo of their dicks, at which time I usually tell them that it’s really big and scary and impressive—even if it’s not always true, it seems like the least I can do, given the fact that they might get shot at tomorrow.
Steve, whose profile photo is of him holding a big gun in uniform in front of a brick wall, loves giving detailed, verbose descriptions of dirty things he wants you to do to him, usually without any prompting: “Spit on my you asshole. choke my neck as u plow fuk the cum out of my ass walls. auuuuggghhhhhhh... shit that fuking cum load all over me.” He mostly wants to be dominated, though he also really likes the idea of watching himself get fucked in a mirror. At one point I asked him if he was alone and he said no, he’s sitting on a bed under his bunkmate.
But the longer I spent talking to these guys on Scruff, the more they ended up going on about shit that has nothing to do with sex. Given that these gay soldiers are stuck with a bunch of aggro straight dudes in a foreign country where a lot of people are trying to kill them, it’s understandable that something like Scruff would make them less lonely. As one soldier told me, Scruff helps with homesickness, “though mostly it’s nice to browse.”
An Air Force guy told me that he can’t imagine there’s enough privacy to actually pull off a hookup on the base, though he’s never actually tried. His life is a never-ending cycle of “gym, work, lunch, work, dinner, gym, bed,” so he’s got other things to keep him busy. We chatted about everything from how he got into military to the fact that the air quality is so bad over there that he has a nonstop itch in his lungs, which he calls “Kabul cough.” And although most of the people he works with know he’s gay, he can tell that some of them don’t like it. They haven’t done anything dickish to him, but he just has “a feeling.” I also chatted with one guy at length about his dog.
That’s the nice thing about this app: It allows you to figure out that even though a lot of gay guys around the world are leading very different lives than you (“What’s up?” “Napping. You?” “Trying not to die.”), there’s a lot that we have in common. We’re all worried about the same shit: that our straight coworkers don’t like us or that we’ll always be single or that we need to go the gym more or that we want to go on a vacation somewhere warm.
It’s also clearly a gay truth that we all sometimes want to stare at someone’s else’s dick—and that offers an opportunity for patriotic, penis-owning Americans everywhere. Just so you know, guys, there’s a care package that’s very easy to send.
Thomas Rogers is a freelance writer based in Berlin and New York. He has written for New York magazine, Slate, and Salon, and is currently working on a book about sex and technology.