The famous online service started in France in 1982; Minitel produced the whole new idea of communication. There were countless services provided by the Minitel, but out of all, the most famous, popular, and groundbreaking service was 3615 ULLA.
3615 ULLA was an adult dating service launched in 1987 where users could have live sex chats. The idea of having free sex chats with others while keeping anonymity was a huge sensation to the 3615 ULLA users. Some said “tomorrow we can” and one user had a nickname “big dick JH” (Camé 1995). Through a series of advertisements, ULLA faced its golden age in the mid-late 1990s, when it received “received 2 million connections” or “300,000 hours of connections” per month (Hanne 2012). Its popularity even reached the United States. As shown in the 1989 Pom’s Magazine, the ambition of conquering the US market really started with the popularity of 3615 ULLA (Pom’s 1989). Minitel knew ULLA was the service that worked in the US. Shout outs to 3615 ULLA were visible in movies. In Roman Polanski’s movie Bitter Moon, one can find 3615 ULLA advertisement poster on a cafe window and on a bus. A take away point here is that the service of sex chat went public. The market for sex calls and sex chats was like a black market. People knew it existed, but it didn’t rise to the surface. Simply put, people wanted it to be a hidden/private idea. But 3615 ULLA attempted to turn this social sentiment upside down. It launched advertisements in ways that even children could see. I say 3615 Minitel service providers were trying to say something like, “Why hide your sexual desire or desire to have sex chats? Why hide when everyone does it?”
Although Minitel did contribute to the gradual social openness regarding sexual desire, I say the world as we know it is not totally ready to embrace full sexual desire openness. In 1987, a former prostitute named Ulla sued the 3615 ULLA service to get the sex ad banned. The particular ad that Ulla referred to showed a naked woman saying “I am Ulla” (Nundy 1987). This legal proceeding demonstrates how people were embarrassed to be related to something sexual, and this tendency still persists today. We don’t openly say “I want to have sex chats” or “I want to have phone sex tonight.” Well we can say such to our close friends privately, but it’s hard to imagine saying so on Facebook.
I believe Minitel 3615 ULLA contributed to the birth of many services that attract sexual desire. Thanks to 3615 ULLA, we have numerous dating applications like Tinder and Hinge where users can chat with other users and express sexual desire. But still, they are regarded as below-the-surface services; many feel embarrassed to launch these applications in the public. 3615 ULLA set the foundation of expressing and acknowledging sexual desire, but the society proves that we are still not ready to fully embrace this very basic instinct.
Camé, François. “Chronique Minitel : 3614 MGS.” Libération, May 5, 1995. https://www.liberation.fr/ecrans/1995/05/05/chronique-minitel-3614-mgs_134146/.
Hanne, Isabelle. “3615 Met Le Ulla.” Libération, July 2, 2012. https://www.liberation.fr/ecrans/2012/07/02/3615-met-le-ulla_950103/.
Nundy, Julian. 1987. “HIGH-TECH PHONE LINK PROVES TO BE HOT STATE SERVICE: [NATIONAL, C EDITION].” Chicago Tribune (Pre-1997 Fulltext), Sep 02, 5. https://. www.proquest.com/newspapers/high-tech-phone-link-proves-be-hot-state-service/ docview/291063634/se-2?accountid=11752.
“3615 USA?” Pom’s , n.d. https://archive.org/details/magazine_poms40/page/n57/mode/2up?q=3615+ulla.
Regine. The Dead Minitel Orchestra. April 18, 2017. We Make Money Not Art. https://we-make-money-not-art.com/the-dead-minitel-orchestra/.