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Real Talk: Being a woman on the internet

I promise regular programming will soon return, so if you're here for fashion check out my latest posts here and here

For those of you still with me... today I need to have a bit of a rant. Because the last few weeks have seen a serious ramp up in the number of cocks finding their way into my inbox and the number of filthy, disrespctful messages I received, and the amount of assholes I've had to deal with who thought they could call me 'boo' or 'honey' or 'baby'. And I've had ENOUGH!  

Being a woman on the internet is tough. In fact being a woman on the internet can be downright horrid. Since I began blogging I have received a constant stream of online sexual harrassment. It trickles into my emails, my Facebook messages, my Twitter feed, my Instagram comments, and worst of all my Instagram direct messages. They are insidious. Ever present. Revolting. They come rain or shine, from across the world. And they come from men.

Male readers are never something I have looked for, and in fact I frequently block the ones whose accounts look in any way dodgy. Often, when I have had a particularly rough time of it, I just block any new men who follow me. But some of them do slip through. I also don't want to ban by gender. Some of the men who read my blog are my most thoughtful and engaged readers, and have never done anything inappropriate. But, my content is intended for a female audience. My more provocative or sensual content is also meant for women - it is not meant to titilate but to add to the growing canon of this sort of imagery of plus size women. It is a reaction to years spent feeling like I wasn't allowed to be or feel sexy or sensual. And I know I'm not alone in these feelings, and I know there aren't enough of these images - particularly of certain body types / shapes. I am creating the sort of content I long wanted to see to sort through my relationship with my own body. I am clear on what I am doing and why I am doing it. And I try to be clear about this in my posts, and in how I pitch my content. And yet a small part of me can't help but feel like I might be courting sexual attention from men. That it's to be expected. That "men will be men". And that this is just something I have to learn to live with and put up with if I am going to continue to share those sorts of images (or indeed any images it seems). 

But no! I’m not going to accept it. I am secure in the reason I make / share the content I do. And no matter what content I am making or sharing, I know that the way I am treated online would never be okay. 

And saying this behaviour is to be expected of men... Horseshit! Giving some deviant creeps a free pass, and saying men are like this. No! There are many, many men (the vast majority in fact) who would never behave in an inappropriate way. And who are totally confounded by men who do. When we say "that's just how men are" we are pulling all these decent guys into that category. And we are taking away responsibility for their actions from the assholes who are behaving like this by forgiving them on the basis of their gender. No! We will not lessen the shame around violating women on the internet. Because it is that shame and horror and disgust that signifies that this behaviour is not okay. And may well be preventing others in engaging in it. If we sweep it away as something unavoidable and inherently male, then we are almost forgiving it as an accident of biology. One more time... No! 

So what behaviour are we talking about here? Well, I am not so naive to believe that there might not be people out there who, shall we say, get a certain amount of satisfaction or pleasure from *ahem* viewing my images. And I am not the thought police. We are all turned on by a multitude of things and the media we might use to *ahem* stimulate is collected from all over the place. Loads of unwitting celebrities, strangers, hell even friends have been safely tucked away in my wank bank for a rainy day. Not that I tend to need actual images - mental pictures and imagined scenarios do just fine. So really - no shade here people. We all do it. So if some of my images are used for this - whatever. This is not me bigging myself up. This is me just knowing that all sorts of things float all sorts of boats, and I’m sure I float someone’s. So - on an intellectual level, I am aware that this probably happens. 

What I object to is being violated. That violation occurs when someone brings me into their sex act. Makes me a part of it. A picture of me that’s inspires someone’s lust is not me. It’s just pixels. A string of ones and zeroes. That has nothing to do with me. I am simply the subject. And I willingly put that image into the world, knowing it would travel far and wide. So if that image is what you need to get you off - I don't give a shit. Go for it. What I DO NOT want, and SHOULD NOT have to experience is being part of someone's fantasy, someone's sex act, someone's wank.  

This violation I speak of can occur in numerous ways, but it usually means finding a way to include me in a fanstasy or sex act, usually in one of the following ways - 

1. Someone tells me what they are planning to do / what they have done as a result of my image. They are telling me this because it gets them off to do so. A small part of them is perhaps hoping I react favourably, but the telling is what has already delivered the thrill. As soon as that message is opened I have been violated. And I know that there is no way I can react that will give me the upper hand in this situation. As soon as I’ve read it, they’ve won. If I block them (which I do) they still know it got through to me and I saw it. If I lambaste them and give them hell, I run the risk that that’s exactly what they want too. A lot of people get off on being shamed (no judgement - if this is a consensual arrangement then you get yours), and some people who enjoy being humiliated lurk on the internet where they can shock people with anonymous impunity, because let’s face it - there are very few consequences to this sort of behaviour. 

The other day a young guy popped into my DMs. Apparently he’d messaged me before with an innocuous message that I’d replied to, but I didn’t remember the conversation. This time he was responding to a picture I’d posted on my insta stories. First he told me he hated me (?!) so I replied saying excuse me you don’t even know me. Then he replied saying he hated me because he had just "jizzed in his pants over my picture". Yes he said that. Then when I took him to task and said “That’s revolting! How do you think that’s an appropriate way to speak to another human being - unsolicited!”  he told me he was just joking and it was his “under cover way of saying you’re beautiful” and that he doesn’t usually talk like that. What? I don’t give a shit. You talked to me like that. You thought you could. Why??? What would give you the impression that I would be open or receptive to that. In fact I don’t care what signals you thought I was giving off - I wasn’t. And until I say “talk dirty to me” don’t say that shit to me. Ever. Sure he's just a little idiot on the internet. But he's one of hundreds I have dealt with since starting my blog.

2. Someone sends me a graphic image - usually depicting a sex act. I’m not a prude. Really. But just like anyone else I have boundaries of what I do and don’t want to see. I also have very strict boundaries of who I want to share it with me. Some of the things I have been sent I never would have wanted to see. Would never have sought out. But I was given no choice. Sending someone a pornographic image without their consent is assault. Do not send someone a pornographic image unsolicited. 

3. Someone sends me a picture of their genitalia. I don’t think there’s a woman I know who is unfamiliar with the ubiquitous dick pic. First and foremost - no one should ever send an unsolicited picture of their genitals to someone else. If you think someone wants one (and be fucking sure here buddy!) ask before you click send. For god’s sake - just check. 

When I first started to receive these sorts of images I admit to being grossed out, but partially amused. The penis, in my opinion, is a particularly ridiculous looking organ at the best of times. And unless it is a penis that belongs to someone that I want to be intimate with it’s never going to inspire lust or awe! Quite the opposite. It usually prompts scorn. So tee hee to these ugly naked mole rats that kept appearing in my inbox. However, those early days of mild amusement at the desperation of some men have since turned to revulsion and hatred. Every unwanted penis that pops into my DMs feels aggressive. Feels filthy. Feels like an attack. Again, it's just the sheer volume. The knowing that there will be more tomorrow. The knowing that someone thought it was okay to send you that. Disregarded your feelings, didn't imagine you as a fully fledged human being with rights and agency. Instead just sent you something they know is not okay - because they wanted to. For them. 

4. Someone sends me graphic or demeaning messages. These usually revolve around what this person would like to do to me. Or me to do to him (it’s always a him). Or what he’d like to see me do. They are graphic. They frequently make zero sense. And they are sometimes accompanied by pornographic pictures illustrations. You know, just to drive the point home. They usually involve a lot of talk of body parts and semen. If I don't reply they sometimes turn ugly - nasty violent things. Demeaning comments. In fact that's the case with all of the above. Some of them assume I am an escort. Many ask me for a fee. Because obviously any woman just existing on the internet (these are not necessarily response to lingerie pictures which in the grand scheme of things I post very seldom) is there to serve men, even if it is for a price.

So, this is what is lurking in my direct messages on Instagram. On a daily basis. This is what I come across when screening my DMs for messages from actual people who follow me to talk about fashion and body confidence and mental health. I won’t stop checking my messages - because I want to engage with the people who are there for legitimate reasons. And I shouldn’t have to stop checking my messages. 

I am so sick of being subjected to the sexual whims of men. I am tired of flinching when I open another disgusting message. I am tired of trying to think of ways I can limit the number of these messages I get. I am tired of men thinking I owe them a response to a comment or a message. I am tired of feeling raw and exposed. Like the slightest thing will set me off because I am cup that is so fucking full, one more drop and I will spill over with rage and exhaustion and sorrow. Because I sometimes can't believe there are that many men who think this behaviour is okay.  Because I feel violated. Over and over and over again. Because I know this is not who men are - I know loads of lovely, wonderful, compassionate, brilliant, beautiful, respectful men. And yet, I can feel myself hardening. Developing an over sensitivity from prolonged exposure to perverts (and fucking penises). Losing my sense of humour, and on constant guard for creeps. And I don't like being like this. It doesn't sit well with me. And it makes me sad that experience and the constant cock onslaught is doing this to me.

It's not the worst thing. I know this. There are truly terrible things happening to women all over the world. And an inbox chock full of cocks is hardly up there with them. But it is an indicator to me of how far there is still to go, even in our comparitively priviledged Western bubble. And those sad little phalluses are a constant reminder that life on the internet is different and indeed harder (see what I did there) for a woman. 

Images by Diana of Fashion Loves Photos


  1. I find it so weird - are they trying to be the modern day flasher? Either way it's gross and uncalled for and I'm so sorry you have to put up with it! x

  2. Those post was so raw and I love it. It is so difficult being a woman on the internet and the Dm's really get to me sometimes and comments. As women I'm glad we at least get to support each other through these things. I hope one day these kinds of men have more respect for women as human beings, not objects of desire. I can hope at least. I hope it doesn't harden your heart too much, you're a wonderful person and so many of your readers support you and love your photos for the empowerment and the great fashion you bring us. X

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  4. My sympathies (I have never done any of these things and never would.) What might really bum you out is that when you're 50 this sort of thing might dry up and then you might *miss* it, lol. Life can be so unfair ...

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