More Insanity On the Internet

This piece originally appeared on 17 April 2007 on my blog Knowledge and Valor.

Continuing on the topic of the complete and utter lack of humanity that has cast a wide net over online society, I’ve come across several discussions of the targeting of female bloggers with online threats and harassment. While the vast majority of this truly pathological behavior is the work of straight males, women are not immune from attacking other women or targeting them for ridicule. That’s obvious when one explores sites dedicated to “snark” and celebrity gossip. However, the world of politics does not provide a woman refuge from attacks by other women. Hell, if women can be vilely targeted for writing about computer software, there is no safety anywhere…

I’m not going to re-hash the Kathy Sierra thing, but I have to echo and expand upon some of the sentiments expressed by Joan Walsh at salon.com. The thing that struck me the most as I perused the comments at the Sierra blog, as well as entries about it at feministing.com and various other places, was the insistence by a considerable number of commenters that online attacks and misogyny–up to and including sexual threats against women on the web–has to be expected, accepted and tolerated. It’s just one more bomb in the war of assholes. They don’t need to control their stupidity or the hate rotting their souls. They have the absolute goddamned right to threaten women, and those women better just shut up and take it. If they don’t, if they dare speak out against it, then they’re “drama queens,” as one commenter on Sierra’s blog called her.

The whole thing reminds me of something that happened to me when I first started going online in the mid-90s. At the time, I was using AOL simply because it was the easiest way to get online without a credit card at that time. Not long after I started going online, this creep started contacting me via IM. Every message from him was sexual in nature. What’s more, he lived in my own city. (Does it surprise anyone that he was also employed in the “corrections” industry–specifically, as a probation officer?)

At first, I would simply try to steer the conversation to something more appropriate. I made it clear that I was very happily married and in no way interested in cybersex. He wouldn’t take the polite request to knock it off. So, finally, I flat out told him to stop contacting me. I told him I found his constant sexual badgering to be obnoxious, and I blocked him from contacting me further.

That should have been that. After all, I had not initiated any of the contact with this man. I had made it clear that I wasn’t interested in his sexual needs. I had tried to be nice about it. Unfortunately, he wasn’t going to let it go. In retaliation, he contacted AOL and reported me for posting “offensive content.” I still have no idea what “offensive content” I might have posted, but the idea that this creep would try to have me booted from my ISP because I refused to take part in his demands for sexual response infuriates me to this day.

The fact that this guy lived in the same city as I do still gives me the creeps. Fortunately, his attempts to “punish” me for refusing to make myself available to his demands were not physically threatening. However, the very fact that he made any such attempt at all is indicative of a twisted mind.

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