The Internet Is Full Of Trouble

Yet another statement of the bleedin’ obvious, I know but bear with me. Way back then, in the long ago, when the internet was all static pages of text about particle physics and Terry Pratchett, it seemed to be that it was all about having new and interesting experiences at 56 kilobytes per second, or thereabouts. One of the happiest sounds I knew was a modem handshaking with the world. I remember getting my first email account at St Andrews in about 1988 before the internet was even a thing. I know that I didn’t use it much. I saw everyone else I knew with an email account every day anyway.

I used to read stories in the Grauniad about how the internet – now it was invented – was going to change everything. We would all be able to talk to one another, there would be no more barriers to communication and it would all be simply marvellous. Well then, that turned out to be one of those wishes about which we really should have thought twice. We can now all talk at one another, there seem to be no barriers to any fucking communication and wouldn’t it be simply marvellous if some people just fucked the fuck off?

I don’t think anybody imagined that neo-Nazis would get an internet connection too. It was unanticipated as the superabundance cat pictures. Controlling the media is a basic totalitarian tactic. Our political masters would love to be able to do the same but they lack the commitment to do it in a thoroughgoing fashion. A cynic or conspiracy theorist would say either that they already do control both the media and the messages on it, or that the owners of the media already control the politicians to a greater or lesser extent.

We all know how important the internet has become. Our body politic is a cyborg now and we can’t be sure where some of the signals controlling it originate.

What prompted all of this wasn’t politics but personal relationships. I remember having an absolutely wonderful time when I was single on the internet. Looking back, I was using my privilege as a middle-class, white man but I hope I was always respectful when I went out on a date. My wife and I met on a dating site well over a decade ago, on the forums first and then in person. I don’t think we matched with one another but we got on very well when we met up so sometimes those algorithms must have been talking mince.

I don’t think things are as easy now for people. I hear horror stories from my friends on dating sites of shitty behaviour from shitty people. When I were a lad and Shep were a pup and it was all fields round here we used to view internet dating forums and the like as just an extension of the social sphere and the usual social norms would apply. There were always arseholes of course but they were small in number, easily identified and isolated and we could look after one another. No real man would ever have identified himself as “involuntarily celibate” for example. The most we would admit would be a bit of a dry spell but it was all going to be fine. We were on a dating site after all.

Now we have toxic masculinity. The things which were once private – the domestic violence, the gaslighting, the belittling, the objectification, the denigration, dehumanising – now have a public outlet. The small men doing huge damage to wives, sisters, mothers and children can share what they do with other small men.

I’m not sure what I wanted to achieve this evening. I seem to have spent the last hour or so remembering how wonderful things were in the good old days and how fucking awful things are now. The best thing about the internet now is that like minds can now connect across the world much more easily than they ever have in the past. The trouble is that that is also the worst thing about the internet.

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It’s Not Acceptable. It’s Just Not Acceptable

I read Sam Lewsey’s recent blog post with a mixture of sadness and and anger. I’m sorry to bring my own blog back with what is going to be a long fucking rant about what is wrong with my fellow man. Maybe the next one will be about cake and kittens.

Now that the weather is warmer and we’re seeing a little more skin than we’ve been used to of late, it seems that some of my fellow men have forgotten how to behave. They really need to join the Don’t Be A Cunt Club. It’s easy. There are only two rules. Rule 1: don’t be a cunt. Rule 2a: learn to read. Rule 2b: pay very close attention to Rule 1. If you wouldn’t say something to your mother or sister, you don’t say it to random women on the street.

I’ve been reminded of the existence of The Everyday Sexism Project which exists to catalogue and chronicle the experiences of women every living day. Reading the entries ought to make any thinking human being reconsider their behaviour. Women should feel empowered not to put up with this sort of shit all the time and men, well they really need to stop and think for a moment before they pass that comment or whistle or do whatever their penis is telling them to do.

It’s about power, of course. It’s always been about power and you need to feel that you have some power in order to challenge whatever source of oppression is around. When you do, whether you’re a man or a woman, you’re going to be told that you’re humourless, that you need to lighten up. Worse, if you’re a woman you could be told that you’re frigid. Yes, of course she must hate sex because she doesn’t like being propositioned in Tesco’s when she’s looking for some fish fingers and a bag of frozen peas. She’s in the freezer section because that’s where women go when they don’t want to have sex. Fuckwitted men who behave like this towards women have such a high opinion of themselves that they must believe that all women must want them all the time. Unbefuckinglieveable.

(Alternatively, the men must have the sneaking suspicion that their wives, girlfriends or – who knows, maybe sheep and dogs? – furiously finish themselves off manually after the men have cum three strokes in again, the women all the time cursing themselves for getting involved in the first place. The men must look down at that sad little piece of gristle lying in their hand as they take a piss in the middle of the night and wonder why it all goes wrong every time they open their sorry, sorry mouths. And nothing will ever make sense to them, ever, ever, ever.)

I must find the article again where I read that a lot of homophobia comes about because the sort of arsehole men I’m talking about here believe that gay men treat all men in the same way that those arsehole men treat women.

Some people, women as well as men, will blame the woman for acting or dressing provocatively. This is of course patent bullshit. Men have for hundreds of thousands of years looked for signs of sexual availability in women and acted when they think they’ve seen them. However, you’d think that in 2016 a woman would be able to go for a run on a sunny day and not get chased around like a mallard duck on a pondful of drakes. She might look a bit hot and sweaty but she didn’t get that way because she wants a booty call. Being human in the Twenty-first Century surely means being more than a collection of evolved behaviours. We must have learned to be more than just that.

Further, if a woman were to out with no knickers on and one tit hanging out of her top, she still wouldn’t be asking for it. You could question her tailoring but no more than that. There is a problem with the male gaze. We still haven’t evolved behaviourally much beyond the savannah times I mentioned above.

It comes down to this: she doesn’t want to have sex with you. You might think she looks hot but she just wants to do what she’s doing and not get the hassle. She’s not going to suddenly want to have sex with you because you say something to her. She really won’t want to have sex with you now because she’s already heard four other blokes say more or less the same thing to her in the last thirty minutes. She didn’t want to have sex with any of them either.

Dude, go off somewhere private and have sex with yourself. You obviously need to wank and nobody else wants to see you wank, no matter what that video you were watching on the internet last night might have suggested.

There is a rather excellent book called Take It as a Compliment. One of my clients publishes it so if you buy it from a bookshop, I might get a few pennies. Each time a man makes a woman feel less than she is, it’s not a compliment. Each time a woman has to brace herself to pass a building site (sorry for the cliche, but it’s one of the most male places I can think of) or psych herself up for a night out because of the comments and gropes and all the other shit  that go down every time she goes out the door, then we’re all diminished. We all lose out.

Life should be about exploration, sharing and joy. Experiences like Sam’s sucked a little joy out of the world and not just for her. That joy can never be recovered. Her friends can rally round her and we all have but we’ve all lost something because some arsehole saw a bit of leg and thought he’d like a piece of it.

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