what happened to sextoon

(yes, it was a website devoted to cartoon pornography)

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This BNET concerns a site that displays cartoon pornography. It contains one small screenshot of the landing page, which features adult cartooning. It’s just the one image and my commitment to citing/embedding primary sources outweighs my prudishness in this regard. Just scroll past it really fast if you care that much. I have no idea if your spam filter is going to let this email through. We’ll find out next week, I guess. Also, if you are one of the subscribers related to me by blood, please do not bring this up the next time we speak.

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With that out of the way, here’s today’s Exhibit A, from Twitter user @collnsmith:

Obviously, I am intrigued. Colleen, our tweeter, said in the replies that “I was searching a gif archive and kept seeing the sextoon watermark, then looked at wayback machine lol.”

In early 2012, Sextoon asked its members to accept Jesus Christ. It’s cut off in that Twitter image but the full snapshot directs curious users to "www.qotquestions.org/hentai-Bible-sin.html” which is funny to me because that domain name is clearly supposed to be gotquestions but they typed a ‘Q’ instead, as if Sextoons’ new evangelical webmaster was reading the URL off a Post-It note. If you go to the correct address, you’ll learn that “Hentai is not true, it is not noble, it is not right, it is not pure, it is not lovely, it is not admirable. Hentai is neither excellent nor praiseworthy. Just like all other forms of pornography, hentai is addictive (1 Corinthians 6:12; 2 Peter 2:19), destructive (Proverbs 6:25-28; Ezekiel 20:30; Ephesians 4:19), and leads to ever-increasing wickedness (Romans 6:19).”

How does a cartoon porn GIF site make such a pivot? I did some investigating. The first thing I did was find Sextoon in the Wayback Machine and head to its premium membership form, which collects billing information and therefore is often the best way to find information about whoever runs a website.

Sextoon offered a number of payment options and subscription plans over the years. According to the earliest snapshot of its subscription plans from 1998, options ranged from $9.95 a month to $32.95 for six months, which would be cheaper than the price of Disney+.

According to its mail-order form, Sextoon Company was/is registered to 6800 West Gate Blvd. in Austin, Texas. Doing its part to keep Austin weird, I guess. (I want to take a moment here to acknowledge how incredible it is, in retrospect, that you could sign up for premium access to a cartoon porn GIF website using the United States Postal Service in 2001.)

I searched that address on Google and came up with a listing for the company, Sextoon Company, tied to a man named Robert Johnson, as well as a phone number. Like any intrepid journalist, I called the number. It had been disconnected. So I googled something like “robert johnson sextoon” and here is the part where I tell you that I did not find out why Sextoon had turned to Jesus. But I did find something else that kind of flipped all of my assumptions upside-down.

I’ll level with you: I kind of assumed that any supplier or consumer of cartoon porn would want to keep that activity on the down-low. For one thing, it’s porn, and for another thing it’s cartoon porn. Yet Robert Johnson’s work on Sextoon was well-known and he was beloved by many.

Here’s the initial post from a thread on Alldeaf, a forum for deaf people, on September 7, 2003:

Hi Folks!

It is sad news to share you that Mr. Robert Johnson, Deaf creator of popular website Sextoon got killed by speeding in Texas this morning.

I had known Mr. Johnson or "RJ" as one of my friends at Gallaudet University for several years. His immensely artistic talents got attention of alot of studenbts and staff and he did cartoons in the Blue and Buff, Gallaudet University students newspapers. In addition, he did wonderful works on party posters for his fraternity, Kappa Sigma and a few other organizations and Spirit Week posters for the Class of 1990 that RJ and I proudly belonged to.

Rest In Peace, my buddy.

According to a local news report, Johnson crashed into a dead-end guardrail around 2:30 a.m. on September 7. He was alone in the car, and police chalked the crash up to a lack of familiarity with the area. Johnson “was remembered by family and friends a talented artist and successful entrepreneur.”

The Alldeaf thread goes on. “What??? you are shitting me? I used to chat with him on AOL years ago. He was so comical,” another user replied. “Ofc, I never meet him in person. I did buy his first sex cartoon comic book. I love his sex cartoon works because they are the best ones.”

The user who started the thread, KingCobra, responded the next day with a longer remberance of Johnson and their days together at Gallaudet, a university for the deaf and hard-of-hearing in Washington D.C. “He contributed alot of wonderful and amazing artistic works to Gallaudet University. He did draw some cartoons for the Blue and Blue, which are students newspapers at Gally, and did party parties for his fraternity, Kappa Sigma and other students organizations.”

KingCobra also supplied this anecdote:

I never forget that he cracked me up hard at one time. When we were using computers at the Benson Hall Computer Lab and we were sitting in opposite of each other. He saw me picked in my nose and signed, "Darryl? You did find your diamond in your nose yet?" and I laughed hard.

KingCobra let everyone in the thread know that Sextoon would continue on in the wake of Johnson’s death. It would continue for another 8 years of so before the Jesus stuff. (That thread also contains some funny old-school forum drama where everyone got mad at a user named VamPyroX for being insensitive and then VamPyroX went offline for a few days and came back and responded to everyone’s criticism, post by post in an extremely defensive tone.)

Here’s a memorial for Johnson set up at the now defunct rj.deafi.com:

Memories of Johnson can be found sprinkled through the Old Web. A 2004 Blogspot post asks, “Remembers the Aids Man?

The comic book was known as "Dino-Man" and it was produced by Deaf artist/writer in Robert Johnson and one person, I can't remember who.

IN the story, Dino-Man is a deaf superhero who met a guy who was HIV Positive and he decided to mix ... ahem ... the steroids with his blood ... he turned into ... AIDS MAN!! *growls in the background with his hands clawing in the air*

It was incredibly dumb story. So easy to poke fun at it and suffice to say, the series was folded after the first issue.

The blogger’s brief post adds that “My sister who is lesbian and often wary of men told me that she enjoyed chatting with RJ and that he is very charming and generous man. She was duly impressed with his laid-back approach towards women in general, despite the fact that he wrote a lot of raucous works on women.”

As of the most recent Wayback snapshot, more than 459 rememberances had been left for Robert on his memorial guestbook, which features a photograph of him skydiving. Reading through all of the rememberances, it is immediately clear that Johnson was loved by many, many people, and that he died too soon.

One of the entries that caught my eye mentions his expertise in the early web:

I have known RJ for very long time. He helped me a lot to get through computer graphix business. I took it hard to believe that he was gone because today I wanted to proud show him my first web site that I designed after all he helped me and at same time I found out he was gone. So sadden, his art works and his brilliant personal will never be forgotten. Liz, you have my prayers.

In fact, you can learn a bit more about Sextoon if you dig through all of the comments. “I have known RJ for long time. I was an former model for his website(www.sextoon.com) he used to have deaf modeling site but not there anymore and changed to all cartoon animated,” Todd from Long Island wrote. “We have always talk online and He is a great heart guy and fun to talk to. and finally i had a chance to meet him in Florida recently. Rest in Peace.”

Another laments: “I couldn't believe he is gone. He is the most successful and respect. He is damn great artist. So, all of us will miss you and sad will be no update for sextoon.com.” One thing that becomes clear as you flip through all of the rememberances is that Sextoon was a known part of Johnson’s identity but far from the thing he was most well-known for.

Mostly, all of his friends found Sextoon to be really funny! “I was looking forward to seeing more of RJ's artworks on Sextoon. I always laughed when I saw it,” one mourner wrote. Robert Johnson wasn’t just a cartoon-sex guy — he was and upstanding and supportive member of his community.

The thing that really broke me was at the end of the Alldeaf forum thread. The final two posts in the thread, #55 and #56, are separated by 8 years.

Clearly this person was still thinking of Robert Johnson long after he had passed. That final post links to a listing on FindAGrave.com, a crowdsourced website where you can find a grave. Alongside one of his many cartoons, Johnson is remembered as a talented artist and loving son, husband, brother, and friend. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it doesn’t mention Sextoon.


Elsewhere…


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