The Double Standard Still Exists: Misogyny on the Web

I’ve been on Facebook for a long time.  It used to be limited to folks with mail addresses with the .edu extensions.  It was some place where I could quietly stalk my daughter’ activities and friends and trade things with students. I was glad when the girls left MySpace because most of my time there was spent deleting friend requests from middle age male trolls who had pages full of glittery comic pin up girls and nothing but extremely desperate women for “friends”.  I may have my share of self doubt, but I am not evidently self-loathing enough to befriend stalkers and dudes looking for nasty pictures and opportunities for sexting with one hand.

Later, Facebook proved a good resources for my friends that blogged at FireDogLake and spreading information about activist events.  About a year later, the place went crazy.  It is still mostly where I can track youngest daughter’s activities and pictures.  Doctor Daughter has all but abandoned it since she discovered future employers stalk future employees there.  I specifically hate the chat feature but there are also disturbing pictures and ads that pop up.  I still hang in there but try not to linger. As an example,   I’m still in the process of trying to wash my brain of an animal cruelty photo I wish I hadn’t see yesterday.  I also tire of all those Farmville requests.  But that’s nothing compared to some of the other things I see.  I  find the ads that announce there are men looking for good women supremely offensive. I don’t want to participate in public mating rituals for the desperate.  Honestly, it’s just gross!

Now, Facebook has become a lot more commercial and what probably drives me crazy the most are all the ads.  I’ve been on the internet for nearly 30 years now and it’s no longer the place where you can escape American Consumerism and the pursuit of customers.  It used to be a nice little place where no one but academics, students, and computer geeks hung out.  Facebook is just one good example of what keeps going wrong. Don’t even get me started on all the confusing and unwanted upgrades.

Then, just when I think the social networking biz has hit bottom, something else comes to my attention.  Evidently, I’ve been fortunate enough to miss these websites. Cath Elliot at the UK Guardian’s story is this: ” Facebook is fine with hate speech, as long as it’s directed at women: The social network’s ‘jokes in the pub’ analogy, defending its decision not to take down pro-rape pages, is offensive”.  Never thought I’d say I’d miss the glitterati pin up girls at some point.  Oy!

It was back in August that feminists first began to notice the proliferation of pro-rape pages on the popular social networking site. Two months later over 176,000 people have signed a US-based petition calling on Facebook to take them down, and nearly 4,000 people have signed a UK-based petition calling for the same. The Facebook pages, such as the one cited above and others that include “You know she’s playing hard to get when your [sic] chasing her down an alleyway” still remain.

Facebook’s initial response to the public outcry was to suggest that promoting violence against women was equivalent to telling a rude joke down the pub: “It is very important to point out that what one person finds offensive another can find entertaining” went the bizarre rape apologia. “Just as telling a rude joke won’t get you thrown out of your local pub, it won’t get you thrown off Facebook.”

And in some ways they’re right: telling a rude joke probably wouldn’t get you thrown out of your local pub. I’d suggest, however, that propping up your local bar while inciting others to rape your mate’s girlfriend “to see if she can put up a fight” would not only get you thrown out, it would in all likelihood get you arrested as well. Still, at least you could log on once you got home and post your offensive comments on Facebook instead, safe in the knowledge that they wouldn’t do anything about it.

What Facebook and others who defend this pernicious hate speech don’t seem to get is that rapists don’t rape because they’re somehow evil or perverted or in any way particularly different from than the average man in the street: rapists rape because they can. Rapists rape because they know the odds are stacked in their favour, because they know the chances are they’ll get away with it.

And part of the reason rapists get away with it, time after time after time, is because we live in a society that all but condones rape. Because we live in a society where it’s not taken seriously, and where posting heinous comments online that promote sexual violence are not treated as hate speech or as content that threatens women’s safety, but are instead treated as a joke and given a completely free pass.

Facebook should’ve outgrown its awkward geeky college boy sensibilities years ago when it sold out to the corporate overlords.  However, it’s clear that the last frontier of hatred continues to be sexism.  That Guardian Op Ed popped up just days after this one showed up in The Economist: The changing adult business At a XXX-road:The adult industry is seeking respectability—and profits.  Are the English the only ones concerned with the way businesses on the net exploit women? There’s a title now for it: porntrepreneurs.

Big changes are afoot in the global adult entertainment business. The recent launch of the .xxx internet domain, whose addresses went on sale in September, betokens the industry’s new respectability—although the decision comes at the end of an acrimonious debate that exacerbated criticisms of the internet’s governance (see article). But the ease with which the internet gratifies people’s appetite for porn has—at least so far—eroded their willingness to pay for it. The plethora of free flesh available on “tube sites”, where surfers watch and upload online video clips, has disrupted old business models. Companies are consolidating; and barriers to entry are getting higher because of new technology and savvier competitors.

Old-style pornocrats are struggling. Shares in Private Media Group, an adult company listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange, have fallen from around $10 five years ago to less than 70 cents today. Subscription revenues are flaccid and sales of erotic DVDs have fallen by 70% across the industry in the past five years, reckons Steven Hirsch, the founder of Vivid Entertainment, who is something of a Bill Gates of porn. His strategy has been to focus on specialised products like celebrity sex tapes and pornographic parodies. Other big brands like Hustler and Playboy have chosen to diversify, and now trade on their names as much as their naughtiness. Playboy gets kickbacks from the bunnies that adorn clothing and other consumer-goods worldwide. One of the most profitable parts of Hustler’s business is its casino in Los Angeles.

Manwin, a Canadian firm that owns the world’s largest network of adult sites, is a pioneering pornbroker. The group has expanded fast. It now owns seven of the 20 most trafficked tubes, along with paysites and live camera services. The firm uses technical know-how to boost profits, but it does not keep or sell users’ data. It has figured out the best length for free teasers in various niches: long enough to pique the user’s interest, but not too long to keep him from paying for more.

Jejeune porntrepreneurs need to learn about new technologies. “Cam sites”, whose live sex chats benefit from interactivity, are doing spectacularly well. LiveJasmin, a cam company, is about the 50th most visited site in the world, and is the number one adult destination. Revenues have jumped by between 10% and 20% every year since it launched in 2001.

Many say that mobile technology is the future.

Mobile technology?  Do men EVER get any work done? XXX domain names?

This is serious business and signs of high tech social dysfunction.  It makes me feel like all that stuff I did in the 70s for women’s equality was for naught.  I can’t believe this is the world that’s been left to my daughters some time.  Here’s the ending paragraph from The Economist. I’ll just quote that and end this with a huge sigh.

So long as commodifying desire remains the route to success in the free market, the future of the adult industry seems assured. Some see the tubes as a boon, since they get people used to consuming erotica. The proportion of Google searches that include the word “porn” has tripled since 2004. Boffins disagree about how much troubling tropes in porn affect behaviour. They have certainly shifted the boundaries of normality, towards more exotic practices in the bedroom and fads in pubic hair (or lack of it). To be truly adult, the porn industry may need to be franker about its side-effects.

11 Comments on “The Double Standard Still Exists: Misogyny on the Web”

  1. bluelady says:

    “it’s clear that the last frontier of hatred continues to be sexism.” And that’s what the election season of 2008 made abundantly clear-opened my eyes to how far we have not come.

    “Mobile technology? Do men EVER get any work done? XXX domain names?” I have to laugh…….
    Not only do they ever get any work done but how can real life ever measure up?

    Now about Farmville- I promise to never send you requests but my garden is quite fine even though its been raining here in the Northeast for a frigging month or so.

    • dakinikat says:

      I’ve gotten quite zen about the farmville requests. I tried it awhile to see if there was anything compelling about it actually. I guess I found that meeting deadlines for imaginary crops to be gathered before they wilt was just too much additional pressure in my already busy life!!! 😉

  2. dakinikat says:

    Just in case you don’t follow all the links, if you read the petition, here’s what you find:

    The following are actual pages on Facebook: “Raping your mates girlfriend to see if she can put up a fight”, “Kicking Sluts in the Vagina,” “I know a silly little bitch that needs a good slap,” and “Riding your Girlfriend softly, Cause you dont want to wake her up.” These clearly are in violation of Facebook’s own policies and need to be removed.

  3. bluelady says:

    Signed it. That stuff is disgusting.

  4. Branjor says:

    Signed the petition. Constantly beating women to a pulp, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, is the only way to keep a patriarchy going. Men don’t intend ever to stop.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    The man in the picture at the top of the post reminds me of Rick Perry.

  6. Beata says:

    Thank you for alerting us to this, Dak. I signed the petition. I have never been on Facebook or MySpace or any of the other social networking sites. Something about them always gave me the creeps. But then I am old enough to remember “the Internets” when it had no search engines and was used almost exclusively by academics.

  7. northwestrain says:

    It is always a shock to realize how much some males hate us.

    I really don’t think a lot of males really understand or bother to understand women — why do they have to anyway — they are taught that women are inferior to the penis.

    Berry 0bowma is a hater — and he is not going to change.

    Why don’t more women complain — self loathing — and they don’t want to be unpopular feminists. Most people don’t even know what the word “feminist” means.

    I stumbled onto that article from the UK last night or this morning — so I’m glad DAK highlighted the misogyny.