Get a friend request. Say ‘Yes.’ Five minutes later, you are bombarded with, “I’ve had a bad day…. Show me your tits.” This goes from one request for Boobs to an onslaught of begging and pleading. This isn’t an isolated situation.
Of the many people this happened to, this happened to a friend. She will get friend requests followed by a heavy press for some sort of sexual interaction. These are guys from all over the world (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the US, Canada-- many nations are putting their best creeps forward). She will toy with them, challenge them and berate them. In some cases, she sends back screencaps of gay sex knowing guy-on-guy action is the bane of their existence.
I watched this phenomenon as it played out in her Facebook feed. I started to ask some deeper questions: What’s really going on here? Why is being asked to show her boobs? Am I a part of this problem?
What’s Going On Here?
Sex is all over the Internet. My aforementioned friend is very beautiful. There are types of Women that a guy will go for. If someone had a penchance for gothy chesty brunettes who were in the 5’6” range, with the aid of Google, they could find all of the photos and video they’d want inside of 15 minutes. Between Tumblr, Fetlfe and Pornhub, a sorry soul wouldn’t even have to pay for it. Women, desperate to show off and get noticed at any cost, will post all sorts of material just for the brownie points of being lurid.
While sex sells, giving it away creates a profound impact on the price of sex. By a weird quirk, this easy access to any type of nudity and kink has caused sources of non-Internet porn to wither. The number of XXX video stores and magazine shops is down to almost nil. Playboy realized that sex wasn’t selling their magazines and stopped their centerfolds. On the Internet, you can pay for the really good stuff, but the free bin has plenty to trawl through.
In short: no one who wants porn needs to go without.
Why Show Your Boobs?
With the ubiquity of porn, you’d think no one would say “show me your boobs” to a random stranger. It’s not about the boobs.
I watched as Cory Cook pleaded with my friend. As an aside: pleading isn’t sexy. Cory (cory.cook.1848 ?) didn't need to see boobs. His plea following a bad day lays bare exactly what he was looking for. He needed power and control that he didn’t have in real life. Cory was looking to exert his power over a woman he doesn't know on the Internet. That exertion of power and unequal exchange in a sexual context is the cornerstone of rape.
There is a fallacy that only pretty girls get raped. I actually have heard women on a few occasions say something to the effect of “I’m pretty, so I’m at risk of sexual assault.” I’m blockaded from engaging on that statement because to engage would diminish their fear of sexual assault or ask them to reconsider they were, indeed, pretty. But given how many women are sexually assaulted and why sexual assaults happen, it’s clear that not just the pretty ones are getting targeted. If pretty women and the homely ones alike are put in the crosshairs for sexual aggression, this isn’t about sex. It’s not about my friend’s body. It couldn’t be about sex because a picture of boobs is not an actual woman. The best you could consider is that the pictures are fodder for masturbation. If that were the case, then Cory lacks both imagination and a woman. If he needs material to work from, then the Internet has lots of porn. He needed to convince her to yield.
Sexual assault has a number of components. There is the sexual context that packs along a lot of guilt and societal baggage along. There is the tangible fear of harm for non-compliance. There is the exertion of force through physical, economic and/or psychological means. Even if you take out one of these ingredients, there is still enough to create a life altering episode. All Cory lacked was the physicality to carry out present harm, but he was using coercion and nagging to an epic degree to get a picture of my friend’s boobs. While it may have worked on someone who was less self aware or had less self-esteem, this is not about a victim’s capacity for defense, it’s about the one carrying out the assault.
Am I A Part Of This Problem?
I spend a lot of time on the Internet. I like women. Porn can be swell. I have asked for nudes. When I saw this full court press for pictures of boobs, I did pause and think, “oh, Jesus: I’m just like this guy.”
I considered my online interactions. I won’t apologize for liking women and having quite a lot of pervy daydreams. It’s how I’m wired. The “lights” as it were went on early. I joke that I think I learned to walk as a toddler because walking let me cover more ground in my search for women. Porn can be swell. When I step back just a bit and it’s not hard to get analytic and meta about it. If I like women, porn diminishes my exposure to actual women (I only have so many hours in a day), so porn runs counter to what drives me. So: porn only gets a little bit of my mental bandwidth.
When I get to topic of “can I see your boobs?” Yep: I have asked for nudes. But the very big differentiator is this: I didn’t ask for nudes for the sake of control and getting some complicity. I asked as the evolution of racy discussions and as something like an appetizer for what was imminent. If I were to get a “no” I wouldn’t plead or beg. It probably says something that I never got a “no” because those requests have been seldom and I was in safe enough territory that it seemed like it wasn’t a stretch to take the conversation there. In a couple instances, I was sent racy photos and unsolicited nudes. I didn’t protest, but I took a photo to be a photo. A photo is never a “you can do anything to me”
Somewhere in the mix, keyboard courage is in play. Whether a woman is hiding in a basement desperate to be noticed; or a man who’s second statement is “show me your boobs,” the one thing you can pin on the Internet is its capacity for anonymity and unilateral action. It has turned interactions from a real quid pro quo between people to this new exchange dynamic that we haven’t grasped. When I talk with a real, non-condensed, non-digital person, the experience is special. The time, the place, the person and where we are in our lives: they’re all variable that are nearly unique. With online interactions, the Internet lets you bottle and capture distill life into a digital simulation of that interaction. There’s an off switch which doesn’t exist in reality. Unfriending and unfollowing are easy remedies for discomfort. Imagine being at a family reunion and Uncle Carl is annoying, so you “block” him in real life? That can’t happen, we have to negotiate the messy aftermath of being human.
Online, there is no messy aftermath that can’t be resolved with a delete function. Really: this piece is accompanied by screengrabs of Cory perving on my friend. If she had blocked him after seeing “boobs.,” there would have been no exposure. If she had deleted the thread, it would have been lost in the past as though it didn’t exist. If I delete this post, all of Cory’s attempt to emotionally extort nudes would vanish. Maybe the convenience of online life is what’s making the drive by assaults easy to carry out?
What do you think?