“Simon Peter said to them, ‘Mary should leave us, for females are not worthy of life.’ Jesus said, ‘See, I am going to attract her to make her male so that she too might become a living spirit that resembles you males. For every female (element) that makes itself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.'”
–Gospel Of Thomas, 114
I first interacted with Internet Culture back in 2005. (Well, I did write and post some fan-fiction somewhat earlier, but that was just weird…weird weird weird. We never talk about that period of time…caught in the web of this wily cabal of middle-aged Quantum Leap slash scribes, teaching me the Old Ways of harvesting shaky Subtext and spinning it into something closely approximating Canon…my memory is admittedly foggy regarding the subject.)
The first message board I really participated in was a fairly well-known esoteric-type outfit. Being prudent, I kept my identity concealed; albeit with a recognizably female user name and avatar. Within a week of using the service, I received my first outright threat of violence, prompting the moderator to ban the user in question.
I couldn’t really figure out what specifically pissed this user off about me; I wasn’t posting anything confrontational. I certainly wasn’t confronting him in any way or form. I was merely discussing a topic, and this dude just glommed on to everything I said and just got angrier and angrier until he finally threatened to hurt me.
I’ll admit: it very briefly crossed my mind that perhaps this guy was simply set-off by the fact that I was (in theory) a female knowledgeable about the same topics he was interested in; that perhaps I seemed like a “smarty-pants” and as a woman I needed to be knocked down a few pegs just as a matter of course.
But I quickly cast that suspicion aside: that was just paranoia. I was sure this sort of thing happened to guys all the time too. I mean…we were all working, more or less, towards the same goals on that board, right? To push past the bullshit and get to the Truth. “The Truth Is Out There.”
I then dropped that account and started another under a non gender-specific name. I continued at that board without incident after that. Was it the gender thing? Certainly, you can’t make such a sweeping generalization based on merely one incident.
By this point, I started to also blog about comic book related topics—as that was my current industry—under my own name and identity. Weirdly, I “attracted” the same sort “critics” as that one really cranky dude on the conspiracy message board. There rarely seemed to be an exact reason for what turned into long attacks and screeds in my comment section by these individuals. Often, some sort of banal and inconsequential line or phrase would be the culprit. And no matter how much I tried to engage in conversation with these people to figure out what exactly their point was, it would devolve into this type of circular argument that would end with expletives and—surprise!—threats of violence. Bonus: threats of sexualized violence!
It was the sexual nature of some of these threats that once again made me ponder: was my gender an issue here? Or was that me being unfair again and making sweeping generalizations?
Meanwhile, I was doing gangbusters under my male identity in the fringe online space. Oh…it wasn’t a male user name. I never claimed to be a guy. I just…didn’t identify myself as female. And they assumed I was male, since I was so knowledgable of the same topics as they were. And so I never corrected them.
I decided to launch my first blog on those topics under an anonymous identity. Never had a single troll. Only received two pieces of negative email the entire time I maintained what would become a series of several anonymous sites: one, from the actual maker of the tin foil hats saying that my post on tin foil hats was “unfair” (I gave him a guest editorial to make it up to him) and another from a woman who said I should stop “worshiping” David Bowie because Bowie was a statutory rapist (technically…true).
Meanwhile, back in Geeksville with my own public blog, I had:
* A very popular blogger who made it his “mission” to humiliate me on a regular basis and direct his followers to go troll my site.
* A somewhat mentally ill minor blogger who would regularly post highly sexually-detailed attacks on me to the point that one of my own readers, who may-or-may-not have been in the Mafia, offered to “whack” him.
* One of the most popular comic book writers at the time (a so-called “feminist,” yet!) write to me and literally tell me that I shouldn’t be “allowed” to blog anymore.
* Regular anonymous emails threatening to ruin/hurt/rape me & etc.
Meanwhile, back in Weirdsville, in this strange alternate male(ish) identity I had carved out for myself, I was living out what felt to me to be my true calling. I had a bunch of friends, valuable constructive feedback, and tons of readers. I also enjoyed the intellectual rush of witnessing, in real time, what I thought were new/mutating social movements that would have a growing relevancy in the decade to come.
And that was probably, if I had to pinpoint it, my biggest flaw & failing; I was too fascinated with the intellectual aspects of what I was observing to really contemplate the eventual ramifications of what I was observing.
If I had to compare this bizarre dual-existence I maintained at that time…oh God, Mr. Orange from Reservoir Dogs, for sure! But it wasn’t me going “undercover” for any entity or agency. Rather: it was me, hungry to live out my own true life, to be accepted, to have friends, to express myself…qualities and actions that I was constantly told I deserved to have and do, but which never seemed to quite work out.
Because no matter how much I was getting the shit kicked out of me by the male trolls, much of the mainstream feminist geek community didn’t quite feel comfortable with me either. To be frank, I don’t think my “energy” really jelled with them; if I can be really honest with myself, it was probably a little too subconsciously male.
I was accepted by nobody…unless I went “undercover,” as it were. Then everything was fine. But a lot of the men I got along with as Mr. Orange may very well have been the types to torture me in my public identity. It was this patently fucked-up situation.
To me, Mr. Orange was always coded “female.” Not Steve Buscemi’s Mr. Pink, who scowled at being given the decidedly “non-masculine”code-name; it was already established in the “tipping scene” that Pink was a crank, and that he was later given the name just to piss him off.
But Tim Roth’s Orange always seemed, at least to me, to be slightly…just a little too “pretty” than the others, a little too slight. And always there was this tension bubbling under the surface that, while he mostly seemed to fit in, he could be “exposed” at any time (his anxiousness in the men’s bathroom during the famous “commode” scene being the most representative of this vibe).
Was this why Quentin Tarantino gave the name Freddy Newandyke to Orange? “New,” for being the latest member of the gang, and…well, “a(n) dyke.”
It may be true that perhaps I’m “reaching” a little bit too much in this interpretation; if so, it is only because I’m a person writing on the Internet (and a slash fan-fiction writer to boot).
By 2013, I had completely pulled away from the comics/geek community. I became, essentially, a recluse. Simply put, I gave up. I was literally diagnosed with PTSD from all the trolling and threats and anxiety. The one time I wrote publicly about this diagnosis, a troll helpfully emailed me to let me know that only men—soldiers—got PTSD. That women’s lives were, in general, far too easy for them to undergo such a male disorder.
To be fair to the trolls, the seeds of my PTSD was planted waaaaay before the invention of the Internet. My father was bipolar and extremely verbally and physically abusive to me. After he died, my mother’s boyfriends took over that role; one was a pedophile who, after unsuccessfully grooming me after so many months, attempted to strangle me in my own bed.
As with the case of the feminist cliques I failed to feel embraced by, I had a hard time hanging out with other girls (in fact, I think the aforementioned Quantum Leap middle-aged slash fan-fiction writers back in the early 90s might have been one of the few female groups I ever felt “at-home” with). I wanted to hang out with other boys instead and talk about mutual hobbies and stuff like that…but after puberty set in, most were only interested in having sex with me (I mean, the ones who could get past how weird I was).
I was extremely naive (probably with a touch of Aspergers-spectrum type stuff) and got taken advantage of a lot. I moved in with a 32-year-old when I was sixteen, and had my virginity taken by his abusive coke-head roommate. I was never raped per se, but I was “almost raped” to a ridiculous degree. When in those types of dangerous situations, I would often “slip into” a much more masculine version of my own personality: sometimes in a non-confrontational “we’re all buds here right?” way, and sometimes in a more aggressive way. I remember chasing one guy out of the house by lifting a chair—not a small folding-type but a big wooden one—up over my head and threatening to clobber him with it, pro-wrestling style.
I was very good at “talking myself” out of being attacked physically. Did that two years ago when a mentally-ill guy cornered/trapped me in an elevator & grabbed me; I just started “talking” to him. Talked myself right out of that elevator, unmolested except for the grabbed arm. As I left he commented—I shit you not—that it was one of the best conversations he ever had.
Anyway…by 2013 I gave up my public persona and dedicated myself largely to my private persona. I massively expanded my research and my blogging work to what felt, to me, like an absolute renaissance of my writing “career.”
I was so successful that I…decided to start writing this material as my own, public, female persona.
And I deeply regret that decision now.
This time around, I didn’t receive the outright trolling that I had experienced as a comics blogger. Rather…I got contacted by a number of men who seemed to feel that me blogging about these esoteric topics was just a cute little trick that of course was OBVIOUSLY being done to find a guy to have sex with.
I’m not talking about those among you who have sent a polite note here or there giving me kind words about the site, or messages of support. I’m talking about being deluged by 50-80 emails by the same person, emails I stopped answering a long time ago because the initial ones were disturbing. I’m talking about being sent erotic poetry as a “first contact,” the email focused on my physical appearance and the possibility of us having sex and not on ANYTHING I actually researched or wrote; and then with this person, again the deluge of continuing emails even after I stopped answering them.
I’m talking about literally being told that the only reason I wrote any of my posts was because I wanted to “be” with this particular man; that I had no agency or interest or independent life outside those parameters. I’m talking being criticized by several men after I would write about my own fluid gender identity; being told I was “wrong” & confused, even being angrily accused of trying to “turn” them gay.
After comparing how I have been treated as an anonymous/theoretically “male” writer, and as a publicly female writer…folks, I’m going to have to go out on a limb here and come to the conclusion that yes, my gender has been a factor.
You know, I’ve known a number of women from the comics/geek community who not only gave up their careers due to harassment, but gave up on the company of males period. I’ve known women who have been so physically/mentally traumatized by their experiences that they are done having sexual intercourse with men, are even done being women.
It is very tempting for me to be done with being a woman. It wouldn’t be that hard. Part of me would like to reclaim the Divine Feminine, but it feels like an increasingly dangerous enterprise; an enterprise that only would make me more vulnerable and open to harassment.
I don’t hate men. I love men.
In 2006, after successfully recovering from a long illness, I had finally (I thought) reclaimed my Divine Feminine. I had gotten in shape, styled my hair, bought new clothes, and generally did all the things that InStyle told me would help reclaim my Divine Feminine. I got a new boyfriend, we had sex, and my cervix was torn open almost killing me.
I remember my bloody hands fumbling with my shitty grey Nokia phone, trying to record a voice message that stated if I had died, they needed to know that this guy didn’t attack me. And he didn’t attack me—it was the very definition of a freak accident, an accident so freaky in nature that the hospital that treated me turned my experience into a case study for medical students.
And, when all was said and done, I did indeed almost die. About ten minutes from bleeding to death, by the surgeon’s estimates. I was plastered in blood. There were even spots of blood on my boyfriend’s ceiling. Everyone (cops, hospital workers) chose to initially believe he had raped me, despite my words to the contrary. The worst I could say about him in retrospect was that he was somewhat of a goofball, and kind of had a slightly crooked dick.
After I wrote publicly about this experience the first time, I discovered it became its own mini-genre of porn. Which…you know was touching, I’ve always tried to be a trailblazer.
A couple of years ago, I finally became friends with a woman around my age, who liked the same esoteric topics I did. We had this really cool supportive online friendship for like six months. It really healed all those years of feeling like I couldn’t relate to other women; of always turning to other men for friendship.
Of course: this person turned out to be a guy.
I don’t hate men. I love men. But I’m getting tired.
Please don’t come at me with any MRA talking points; I know them all. I probably know them better than you do. Please don’t tell me “men suffer too.” Of course I know that.
Please don’t send me a link to a place like Breitbart or Infowars to “prove” your point; Andrew Breitbart had offered me a blogging job once and I appeared on Infowars as a guest. Please don’t cast this an “SJW” thing…that shit is old. You essentially kill the entire conversation when you pull that card. Please don’t cast this as a “Trump” thing, or a “libs vs. conservatives” thing, or invoke Jordan Peterson (I can listen to his lectures in doses, but per the law of diminishing returns at some point I have to shut him off).
I don’t write this because I am seeking a “solution.” I’m not sure there is one, quite frankly. I’m writing this to just let off some steam, some tension.
I’m not writing this as a “feminist” screed…though it would be pretty delusional for me not to see how the larger historical mistreatment of women has at least partially led to this current dilemma I find myself in.
I’m not writing this as a men vs. women thing.
If you want to know what I think the true, ultimate, elemental, metaphysical origin of this conflict is, I think it’s “archonic.”
I think this is an archonic issue dressed up in the temporal/biological “rags” of a vast disconnect between males and females that can very likely, eventually, end this species.
And I don’t have any answers. Just trying to let off some steam.
I suppose I could always go back to writing fan-fiction. Many women my age and older, who had tried to go into these more male-dominated fields such as comic books and science-fiction but were harassed away, would retreat into such online writing groups. And many of the stories they wrote would, interestingly, involve same-sex relationships; often male-on-male.
In that vein, we can look at Reservoir Dogs as, essentially, a platonic love story between two men. Mr. Orange and the older Mr. White have a palpable bond throughout the movie. Before he dies, Orange has to admit to White that he was an undercover cop; the movie ends on White letting out this chilling primal scream of betrayal.
Out of curiosity, I checked online to see if there were any Mr. Orange/Mr. White fan-fiction stories. And yes: there was.
I had a theory that women sometimes write these types of homosexual fanfic stories as a way to safely explore a relationship (or, frankly, just sex) with a man. She “wears” the persona of one of the male characters (often the younger/more feminine one) as a way to stay “safe.”
Of course, you could say the same for the avatars we wear online.