The fierce Ella Dawson, someone who I am truly honored to call a friend, wrote an excellent piece entitled “A Friendly Reminder That You Don’t Know Me” on her site documenting some harassment she was subjected to this weekend. With her permission I’m posting an excerpt here, but I implore you to go read her full post, then return here. (I know I’m asking a lot.)
I am a woman who talks about her vagina on the Internet and that gives strange men the mistaken impression that they know me. They don’t. I sustain a steady stream of snarky observations on Twitter and that gives strange men the mistaken impression that I want to hear from them. I don’t. I post a lot of selfies and that gives strange men the impression that I am asking for their praise. I’m not. A woman doing her own thing on the Internet is like a woman doing her own thing at a bar: sometimes she wants to chat with strangers, but that “sometimes” is rarely, if ever, and probably not at all.
Read the rest here…
Are you back?
I’ve often called myself a “Professional Oversharer” with my tongue firmly in cheek. My comfort level with sharing parts of my life that many consider “private” is a huge reason most of you continue to read my work. Starting conversations with the goal of de-stigmatizing sexuality, masturbation, life with mental illness, my evangelical love of sex toys – this fills me with joy. As I am comfortable sharing these things, I’m thrilled to “give permission” to others to also share. Empathy, education and connecting via shared life experience is one of the beautiful things about life online.
However, my social media presence, my writing, the work I do – I am only showing you snippets of who I am. While I strive to be my authentic self across platforms, most of my life continues to be very private. You cannot accurately know the entirety of my personhood from what I post online alone.
This is a sore subject with me as folks have tried to “diagnose” me via my social media. This has happened occasionally over the years but picked up frequency when #OrgasmQuest went viral. “Sex Addict”, “Attention whore”, “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” – just a couple of the diagnosis or labels forced on me by “experts”. It’s infuriating and there really isn’t a way to push back against that.
Then we move into the harassment that Ella highlights in her piece.
I’ve been a woman who has openly written and spoken about her empowered sexuality online since before the term “blog” existed. When I’m writing frequently my twitter mentions are a horror show of unwanted sexual advances. My “Message Requests” folder on Facebook? Scrolling through that is like running a through a gauntlet of dick pics and tales how these dude’s magical dicks will forever cure my anorgasmia. Oh, the endless tales of their magical dicks.
When I had an OkCupid profile that straight folks could see, I’d open my messages to find full-blown erotica written about dudes sexual fantasies about me. Someone once sent me a picture showcasing how he had printed out one of my selfies and jerked off onto my face.
Dudes? DON’T DO THAT. IT’S CREEPY AS FUCK.
No really, Fuck you.
I no longer reply to unwanted sexual advances, I go straight to blocking. Why? Because back in the day when I would politely decline or state that the advances made me uncomfortable there would be that “wonderful” 180 into insults and threats. 30 seconds ago you wanted to fuck me, now you’re telling me how you hope I get raped or killed. Once that became an obvious pattern, I made the change to swift blocking for my mental health.
The prolonged exposure to these unwanted advances has had other consequences for me.
Last night I had a profoundly sad realization. Once upon a time, I loved to “sext”. Loved erotic messages between myself and my lover(s). They were pleasurable fantasies that built passion between times together. It was a wonderful and treasured part of my sexuality.
That is gone.
Explicit sexual messages in text form, even from people I am deeply sexually attracted to or have an established intimate relationship with, make me wildly uncomfortable. My guard instantly goes up. Instantly defensive. I’ve tried to push through the discomfort with trusted loves but to this point I’ve been unsuccessful.
To be honest, I feel robbed of something special. I feel disappointed when I need to explain this, especially as most of the people I love are long distance. Where such communication would deepen our connection. Anything past playful flirtation and my walls go up. I’m going to keep trying to reclaim my comfort here, but I know that progress will be slow.
What I want folks to understand from this post…
Connecting, sharing, interacting with people across the internet is still something that I love. Something that I want to continue to do for the rest of my days. What I want everyone to understand though is that unless we get to close friends – you don’t actually know me. You may think you do, but my experience has been that the person you think I am is far more a projection of who you want me to be than my actual self.
You see snippets of who I am and those snippets are authentic. These authentic snippets are not the full picture of who I am. There are very, very few people who I can honestly say know me well. As much as I do love to connect via shared experience, very much of myself is private and not for public consumption.
Being an openly sexual person, a pleasure revolutionary, an activist passionate about a wide array of topics about sexuality does not mean I owe you anything. I do not owe you selfies. I do not owe you nudes. I do not owe you the time or mental space to deal with unwanted sexual advances. I do not owe you answers about my life beyond what I share. Allow me to repeat I do not owe you anything.
If you are friendly, respectful, and treat me like a human being in online interactions there is a very high chance that I will respond in kind. There is a very good chance that we’ll form a friendly relationship. I love people. I do not love being treated like an object that exists solely for someone’s sexual fantasy. There are people who do enjoy that, please direct your attention to them and respect my boundaries.