FOR SOME, it's a lifeline to like-minded souls. To others, it's a guilty pleasure--a bit of gossip to peek at when you're idle at work. How do I give a good blowjob? Who's the foxiest member of Sleater-Kinney? Are these questions you wish you could ask the world at large? Well, welcome to the Chainsaw Message Board. Founded by former Team Dresch member Donna Dresch in 1996 as the interactive section of her label's website, the Chainsaw Board has been a place for queers, punks, and riot grrlz to meet on the Web to air their views, make confessions, and sling mud. Until recently, the bulletin board was unstructured and anonymous--made-up screen names shielded users from identification. When Dresch decided, in June of this year, to install a user registration system, a firestorm of argument erupted on the sight. "Some of the posts were getting out of hand," explains Dresch. "But if I took a posting off [the old board] people would say I was censoring."

Many people still accuse Dresch of heavy-handedness, saying that a moderated bulletin board is, at best, no fun and at worst, a suppression of basic rights. Even though her new software allows anonymous postings in both the Health/Sex and Free-For-All sections, many users balk at having to register their e-mail addresses in order to go to the Music, Queer, Travel, and Miscellaneous forums. "It's all Hotmail accounts anyway," says Dresch. "Only if someone was being a total asshole would I block their IP address so they couldn't post." What would get you thrown off the board? "Posting threatening messages about people or bands, mainly," explains the web moderator. "There were times when the old board would get so out of control that I would just shut it down until everything cooled off."

Arguments about the merits and failings of registration abound. One user calls the Chainsaw Board "a community of hypocrites who think they reject the standardized ideal of 'group' and 'posse' when really all they do is reverse it." A more favorable posting quotes an essay by Jo Freeman entitled "The Tyranny of Structurelessness" which describes the fallacy of laissez-faire society and discusses the difficulties posed by structureless groups. With a tinge of regret, Dresch recalls the untamed spirit of the former board and notes, "I liked the anonymous board when people would post confessions. People would say the most insane stuff about stealing from work and cheating on their girlfriends. They never told anybody except the board. I totally miss that, but in the end, too many people were getting hurt [by unsubstantiated gossip and menacing posts.] Some people were really obsessed with making it bad."

Although the new format of the Chainsaw Message Board might discourage some of the more intemperate post-ers, there is still plenty of gossip and ranting on the board. You can bet if a username is "Mark Wahlberg" or "Corin Tucker" it's unlikely that those messages were posted by those real-life individuals. Harder-hitting issues, like discussions of transgendered exclusion and business boycotts, tread upon the slippery slopes of personal philosophy and emotion. Recent topics have kicked up dust surrounding the dyke band The Butchies' participation at the Michigan Women's Music Festival (and its gender restrictive policies) and a flurry of angry posts directed at rock label Sympathy for the Record Industry, whose website currently hosts a downloadable girlie calendar.

Dresch, who began the board as an extension of her fanzine, sees the web community that she hosts as a place where information can be safely shared among "girl and/or queer powered" users. "I love that queer kids congregate here. If the board had existed when I was in high school in 1983 I would have probably been too scared to type the word 'gay' into the computer. It was hard enough to go through the card catalog in the library. I'd get nervous when I got to 'homeowners' because I knew I was getting closer to 'homosexual.' I didn't know that there was anyplace for me to go. Now there are gay/straight alliances in high schools. I don't know if the board makes as much of an impact on anybody else as it did to me when I created it...and does to me, still."

Check out the Chainsaw Message Board at http://www.chainsaw.com