Tuesday, December 6, 2011

So you've encountered a girl on the internet...

This is probably pretty well-trodden ground, but somehow it seems like the message hasn't been absorbed as much it could be, so I'm treading it again.

Hi, my name is Tara.  I'm a girl.  I hang out on the internet a lot.  I blog, and I tweet, and I reply to tweets, and I hang out in the occasional chat room.  Sometimes you can even watch me try to be funny.  I like to think I'm a mostly nice person even if my online persona is made up largely of my most caustic and sardonic traits.

But nice as I may be, the chances are good that I am never going to have sex with you.  I'm sorry.  It's nothing personal.  (Or maybe it is, but we'll get to that later.)  I'm also never going to get naked for your amusement or cybersex with you or any of the other weird things you may be hoping I'll do if you just ask on the right day.

And therein lies the rub (THAT IS NOT A PUN OR AN INNUENDO):  there seems to be this thing where men on the internet feel as though it's perfectly fine to say things to women on the internet that you wouldn't dream of saying to us in person.  (Or maybe you would.  I don't know your life.  But if you would, then good luck with that whole sex thing because DAMN.) I'm torn as to why this might be but best I can tell it breaks down to three potential reasons:

1) Entitlement.  Culture is often such that women are seen as objects who exist for the arousal/entertainment of men.  Therefore some men feel entitled to use us as such.

2) Internet anonymity.  You wouldn't dream of saying certain things in person because there would be immediate and humiliating and/or painful consequences.  But behind the safe curtain of the internet you can say whatever comes to mind with little fear of reprisal.

3) Ignorance.  Maybe you just really don't know that what you're saying is not OK.

"He asked what color my panties are – it must be LOVE!"
Now I'm not saying all men are drooling mouthbreathers, so please hold all flames until I've actually earned them.  I know lots of men, and many of you are very nice indeed and quite able to talk to girls.  If you find yourself nodding at any point during this post then you probably fall into this category.  But some of you could really use some help with not being creepsters, whether purposely or not.  So here goes.

You've encountered a girl on the internet!*

It's dangerous to go alone, so take this primer to help you on your quest for... whatever it is you're questing for. 

How to Talk to Girls On the Internet

A few helpful tips to consider as you navigate the world of online females:

We're more than just dolls. 
Yes, it's OK to tell a girl she's pretty.  Many of us quite like it.  But if our appearance is all you ever comment on, and/or you do so constantly using words like "hot" or "sexy," then you've moved outside the realm of paying a nice compliment into being sort of weird and objectifying.  (Double points if you've never met us in person.)

Now before you start in on "I'm just paying a compliment!" stop and think a minute.  Is this a compliment you would pay face-to-face?  Is it a compliment you would want to hear someone give your sister?  If not, you may want to rethink it.  There's a difference and you and I both know it, and trying to hide your sleaze under a blanket of faux niceness is just tacky.  If you're going to be smarmy at least own it so we both know exactly what the score is.  And then don't throw a fit when you get blocked.

You want to pay a compliment?  Say "pretty."  Hell, say "beautiful."  But better yet, express some actual interest in who we are underneath our makeup and clothes.  We can think and talk and read and obsess over TV shows and have hobbies, and we like to discuss them.  And we like guys who want to discuss them with us, and you'll get a lot farther if you treat us like a person rather than a picture with a pulse.  Which brings me to...

Our appearance is not up for public vote.
I wear glasses sometimes.  I don't really like them, but other people do.  On the internet you get a lot of people who are into the "sexy librarian" thing and will happily tell me this every time I am seen in said glasses.  I have been seen without them and told I should start wearing them again.  I have also been told that I should wear my hair one way as opposed to another as well as other helpful suggestions.

But here's the thing:  NO.  You don't get a say.  If you like my hair down as opposed to up or you like the way I look in glasses, that's fine.  Everyone has preferences and you're entitled to yours.  But I don't come to your house and tell you what to wear to work or what to do with your hair, so you don't get to assume that your opinion of what I look like is of any consequence to me.  That you feel free to instruct me as to what I should look like to better please you implies that you really need to go back and re-read the first tip before going any further.

We don't owe you attention.
I'm glad you liked my blog post/tweet/dating profile.  But that doesn't mean that I'm required to accept your Facebook friend request or entertain you or whatever else you have in mind.  I don't know you.  You could be very nice, or you could be Buffalo Bill.  So if I an disinclined to meet you in person or friend you back or whatever, that doesn't make me a bitch.  That just makes me someone who doesn't know you and for whatever reason may not want to.  Or maybe I just want to take more time, or have some online spaces that are more personal than others.

Whatever the reasons, unless you're actually slighted in some way (and I say this because women are hardly ineffable and I'm leaving the possibility open that we might be unnecessarily prickly in our interactions with you), our refusal to pay you some level of attention does not give you the right to hurl invective at us.  Sometimes the answer is "no."  That's life.

Unless specifically stated otherwise, we don't want naked pictures of you.
Ditto for details on whatever sexual fantasies you may have about us.  You'd like to think this goes without saying, but OKCupid has taught me otherwise.

Unless we specifically ask, please assume that we do not want to know.  We do not want to see.  We do not want to hear about the dream you had about us and Lindsay Lohan and a kiddie pool filled with creamed corn.  Some things are better kept to yourself.

When we say "no," we don't really mean "that's so witty please continue."
You made a joke/come-on/comment.  We expressed displeasure with it.  This is not your cue to push the boundaries or put us in our place or whatever other insane thinking might cause you to keep doing the thing we just said we didn't like.  You're certainly free to do that, but don't be shocked and offended when you get a negative response.

It's not cute.  It's not witty.  It's the grown-up equivalent of pulling our pigtails, and we should all be past that by now.  If you're trying to get my attention there are far more effective ways than by pissing me off. All that will do is cement you in my head as "that asshole," and make me a lot less likely to give you a fair shake when you try to engage with me for real.

The appropriate reaction to rejection is not aggression.
There are lots of types of violence.  Obviously since we're talking about the internet I'm not talking about you punching some girl in the face.  But tossing around gender-specific insults, slut-shaming, violent rhetoric, abusive language, disgusting "fan" art/Photoshopping, etc. still fall under a violent banner.  If I don't want to talk to/meet/sleep with you, that doesn't make it OK for you to launch your asshole torpedoes at me.  It doesn't make it OK for you to start Facebook pages calling me a slut, or to dedicate a hashtag to insulting me, or to pass around pictures you've doctored.

And no, "she was a bitch about it" isn't an excuse either.  Grow the fuck up.  Sometimes women turn you down.  It'll happen a lot less often when you stop treating us like something to which you're entitled by some divine right.

I know some of this sounds really bitchy.  Sometimes I'm a bitch.  (I know that sort of contradicts the "nice person" thing up at the top of the article, and lord knows I hate to invoke that Meredith Brooks song, but it does make a good point in that the two are not mutually exclusive.)  And like I said above, many men are lovely creatures who are perfectly capable of talking to women online and off with no trouble at all.  Many men are perfectly lovely creatures who honestly don't know they're crossing a line sometimes.  Many men are just dicks. This post is mostly for the dicks, and maybe a little for the clueless mostly-goods. 

The bottom line is this:  the internet isn't a magical environment where you get to air all your worst qualities without consequence.  Even if that consequence is just you getting blocked or ignored, it's a cause and effect.  And if you want to be treated with respect by the vagina-owners on the web, you're going to need to reciprocate. 

*By "the internet," I mean places where the general populace might hang out and not sites specifically designed for porn or "chat with live girls now!" or what have you.


  1. *checks very carefully*

    Nope, I have nothing to add to this. This pretty much covers every single thing I detest about many of my fellow men I've come into contact with. I mean I've become more quiet in RDA chat because it's gotten out of hand with the number of people but also because there's a lot of "BOOBS"ing if there's ever a woman on in any video (and a lot of fighting over ponies and a lot of "this sucks" and "when's WTFIWWY"ing but I digress). It usually calms down enough after WTFIWWY to be tolerable.

    It's the same reason I flat out refuse to watch videos on TGWTG's main site anymore. There's too much trolling and stupid comments and so on and so forth.

    I mean, I just don't get it. I was raised by my parents to treat everyone, man or woman, with respect and dignity to the best of my ability. Of course, I'm not perfect just like they're not perfect, but I do my best because I feel like that's what's the right thing to do. So I just never understand some of the idiotic things men will say to women or about women on the internet because you KNOW they'd never say those things if a person was standing right in front of them. It's that exact sentiment that created the whole internet troll.

    Netiquette is a dying art unfortunately and it's making the entire internet harder to deal with. It used to be that I couldn't read past the second or third comment on youtube videos or yahoo news articles because there would always be spam or some idiot making a paranoid, racist diatribe. Thankfully there's a system now to make more popular comments shift to the top and that generally cleans it up some.

    In conclusion, the abridged version of my above comment/rant: *applause*

  2. there are no girls on the internet.

    all guys are guys
    all girls are guys
    and all children are fbi agents. SORRY.

    this post is completely false.

  3. Ugh, sorry you've had to deal with these assholes - then again, you can't really avoid them on the internet. If they're not sending pictures of their dicks, they're shouting racist or homophobic words or just blatantly trolling.

    I wish this was just on the internet, because then I could put it down to stupid people hiding behind a wall of anonymity, but the whole sorry Rebecca Watson affair suggests that not only do plenty of people think it's OK to behave like this in real life, but they include a lot of supposedly intelligent guys.

    On the other hand, none of these creepy bastards will ever get the chance to breed, so there's that.

  4. "Unless specifically stated otherwise, we don't want naked pictures of you."

    A friend of mine keeps complaining that this keeps happening to her as well. I'm still baffled this exists and not quite sure if I wanna ask, but... how did it come to this sounding like a good idea?

  5. This is excellent. I couldn't have said it better. And did we mention that all this stuff also applies in real life?


    Crypticpsych: RDA is sort of a strange animal. It does quiet down considerably after WTFIWWY is done (and I always feel bummed that so many people bail after the bit). Sometimes the chat can be fun (if mind-numbingly fast) and some nights they're just dying to do their best 4chan impression. But weirdly if the OPs do a bit of yelling they get very contrite. So... clueless maybe? I don't really know.

    JediSwift: Lame comment is lame. Call me when you exist 1996.

    Matt_B: I've been lucky enough to encounter very little of this in real life. Though I am a LARP gamer, so there's always going to be a level of it going on there.

    Unknown: I have no idea. But the dude who sent me a pic of him naked sitting on his coffee table apparently thought it was an awesome idea. It wasn't.

    Chez Moi: YES. Yes it does.

  7. I really hope you don't ever have sex with me, that would be awefully hard to explain.

    Funnily enough a large portion of my friends are nicer online than in person. That should worry me, but I'm largely the same. People can't ban you IRL.

    The obvious caveat of "that's just how Irish people say hello" applies here though.

  8. LOL, yes, that would be awkward. And how is it the Irish say hello exactly?

  9. It kinda worries me that some guys need instructions on how to talk to girls...then I remember the internet and feel sad...

    Happier note, I saw a red and white polkadot hippo a while ago.

  10. A liberal sprinkling of curses with an occasional personal insult mostly. I still remember people being surprised at how much I cursed when I was last over to see you lot.

  11. I love the smell of common-fucking-sense in the morning. Accurate, blunt and clear, this blog is a excellent read.

  12. Thanks for showing me this tara. After reading this i 5 or 6 times i can see where i went arong with roses and various various various other girls. after 150 rejections to 4 horrible relationships i became cynical of girls and bitter. i am surrounded by relationships and i think everyone should be with someone else. there are a bajillion girls out there i should resort to stalking like i did to the 10 girls i did that to roses included. i want to feel love . so i i am going to improve my social skill with women. stalking is wrong and i need help. i joinded a loveshy support groupe. and i reaad both blogs you sent me about 5 or 6 timeslol. Thanks tara you have opened my eyes.

  13. Ahh, the internet. The only place that 'criminal abuse' is confused with 'compliment.'

    Great post. Unfortunately, as the generation raised by the internet is hitting college age, this sort of behavior in real life is becoming noticeable. I never thought I'd ever have to explain to multiple people why poking my girlfriend in the boob is unacceptable, especially while I'm THERE, but that's happened 3 times this year.

    Your post should be read aloud at orientations, for colleges, businesses, everywhere.

  14. I have nothing to add except from 'you're absolutely right'.

    I've got pervy comments Every. Single. Time I've put a photo self-portrait on deviantArt. The most charming being 'your suck fucking beautiful'. ...Um, points for not saying hot, but Freudian much? These aren't even nudes or fanservice-y shots.

    Apart from one time when I got propositioned and sworn at, every guy to ever hit on me IRL has been scrupulously polite about it. Even the guy who was so drunk he thought a cheap Halloween wig was my real hair was still able to understand a firm goodbye.

  15. Aww, Tara won't sleep with me. Now I have to something boring like get on with my life and try to be a decent person or some crap. That's so harrrrrrrrrd. (That's what she...OK OK put the weapon down....)