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In early May 2012, Reddit history was made with an offhanded answer to a simple question: “What’s a secret that could ruin you if it got out?”
Thousands of comments describing the full breadth of the human condition flooded in, but one comment by user u/lynfect stood out — not for the actual secret, which was about stealing cash from a family member after a funeral, but for a throwaway comment attached to it.
“Oh, and my cum box.”
When pressed by other redditors, he went on:
Well, it is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a shoebox, or at least once was, and whenever I masturbate I cum into it. I’ve had it for two or three years now I think, so it has a fair amount of cum. It smells atrocious, and I tried to burn it once. When I lit it on fire, it was too damp due to the cum that it simply sizzled and didn’t manage to actually lite up. Turns out burning cum smells awful, so I had to spray it with a deodorant body spray just to get the old smell of burnt cum away. It also has some drenched papers stuck to it. That’s pretty much it.
Because people were asking, my greatest shame. [Warning: link to photos.]
Lynfect was hardly the first person to talk on the internet about collecting his semen in an unexpected receptacle. There is a long and storied tradition of young men on message boards like Reddit or 4chan showing off all manner of seminal fluid-filled vessels. Arguably, the Reddit cumboxers (warning: NSFW link) are more substantially disgusting, since you can really see the semen, as are the crustpanties (warning: again, NSFW). The 4channer who collected semen in a jar containing a My Little Pony figurine (warning: images exactly described) or the 2020 Minion cumjar project (you know what you’re getting into if you click this) are perhaps even more outrageous.
But lynfect’s cumbox was different, singularly unique. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why; it’s like trying to explain why a Mozart symphony sounds better than Salieri; what distinguishes the genius of a Jackson Pollock from a splatter painting my 5-year-old made. But I’ll try:
The photos of the box are simultaneously inscrutable and captivating, visually. You’re never quite sure what you’re looking at — even upon close inspection. There is the vast landscape of spatter stains, the moisture-wrinkled cardboard. There is the thing that looks like a banana peel, but clearly isn’t (it’s the paper wrapping that came with the shoes). And then there is the actual semen, which isn’t really visible because of lynfect’s attempts to burn it. In the end, what we are seeing is not cum in a box, but the suggestion of cum in a box, and then its eradication by fire.
And then there is the telling of the tale, the frank and unexpected throwaway admission that quickly escalates into a box of horrors beneath his bed. It isn’t just a simple “I jizzed in a box” story like other cumjars. It is a creation story; “I have created life,” lynfect writes in an update, noting the box has begun to mold. There’s Shakespearian drama to it: His initial mortal sin of sloth, which led him to use the box. His broken promises to himself that he’ll throw it away. His remorse and disgust at what he had created. And finally, his inability to free himself — even with fire — from the hideous monster that he’d created. He is cumbox Lady Macbeth desperately trying to wash the splooge from his hands.
He said it best himself: “I will never be rid of my need for it. I hate and love the box, just as I hate and love myself.”
I wish I could tell you that I found lynfect and interviewed him to reflect on his viral infamy 10 years later. But I cannot. Lynfect deleted his account, and despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to find him.
Before he quit, he did do an AMA not long after his initial post, which offered just a few clues about him. He claimed to live in Canada, was majoring in literature, so college student–aged, which would probably make him around 30 years old today.
At the time of the interview, lynfect had stopped using the box, since it was beyond repair. Instead, he said he’d been ejaculating on the floor and cleaning it up immediately afterward.
Other questions revealed a portrait of, well, the kind of guy you might expect to post about having a cumbox on Reddit. He had never been in a relationship and said he wasn’t interested in one; he wasn’t particularly close with his family; he claimed to have once masturbated while on the phone with his senile grandmother.
Redditors also noticed that in his user activity, he had posted to a subreddit r/picsofdeadkids. Lynfect’s explanation of why he participated there was simply, “It is interesting, can’t really explain why, but I like it, almost as if you are seeing something that you aren’t meant to.” Commenters were alarmed but not totally fazed by this. The fact that such a subreddit existed at all situates the cumbox and its discourse at a time when an untamed Reddit was a very different platform and culture than would be acceptable today.
Cumbox was a watershed moment for Reddit, a high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back. In August, then-president Barack Obama did an AMA during his reelection campaign where he famously answered if he’d rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck. “Internet culture” at the time was something that existed off to the side of mainstream culture, with viral cats, image macro memes, “epic bacon” type stuff — and Reddit was the premier destination for it.
Simultaneously, it was also a widely acknowledged cesspool of misogyny, racism, and horror. While today we might think of controversial content on Reddit being COVID deniers, political extremism, or misinformation, it’s almost shocking to remember how much worse it actually was in 2012. The controversy over the worst elements came to a head that fall. A Gawker investigation in October revealed the identity of the moderator of notorious subreddits such as r/jailbait, r/incest, r/misogny, r/hitler, r/picsofdeadjailbait, and several others with slurs in the name that I don’t care to repeat here. There had been pressure in the media and on Reddit to ban r/Creepshots, home to surreptitiously taken photos of women, and although Reddit leaders initially said that they wouldn’t ban it, they eventually did. It would take several more years for Reddit to start banning other toxic subreddits like r/gamergate, r/pizzagate, and ultimately r/the_donald.
Ten years later, the debate over “free speech” on social platforms is the hot topic again. But Elon Musk et al. might want to consider that when Reddit offered nearly unfettered free speech, it didn’t lead to a discourse of unpopular political opinions or anti-wokeism or a salon for the intellectual dark web types; it meant thousands of people subscribed to see photos of dead babies or proudly racist memes.
But the tide was shifting. Only weeks before the cumbox, Facebook bought Instagram. Snapchat would take off that fall. The internet was about to transform from a variety of message boards and blogs to a few social platforms ruled by algorithms.
The actual cumbox may have merely been a shoebox full of semen, but it represents the last gasps of an old internet. It’s not that the box couldn’t exist today — in fact, I’m certain that somewhere out there in the world, someone is ejaculating into a shoebox at this very moment — but the forces that lifted this one into virality and internet history no longer exist in that way. Like lynfect’s shoebox, that version of the internet was shameful and hard to destroy, but eventually fell apart. Now we’re all just jizzing on our floors. ●
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