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Don’t Let This Happen to You!

Ah, the true promise of metroblogging: coverage of the all-important “ladies determined to be skanks” beat, neatly divided by city for ease of reference. Gothamist has never devoted substantive attention to this issue; Gawker (not really about NYC any more! But, whatever) and Young Manhattanite touch on it only rarely. The exciting new web publication Skanks in NYC promises to fill in the gap, however, kicking off its first entry with, “Ok so there are so many nasty bithces in the NYC scene, so now we can write about them.” Oh, happy day!

The first of the nasty bithces covered by Skanks in NYC is a thirty-six year old Vogue cover model by the name of Liskula Cohen. Liskula Cohen is also the second, third, fourth, and fifth woman covered by Skanks in NYC. In fact, she is the only person covered to date by the exciting new web publication Skanks in NYC. Oh, and also she is suing Google so that they’ll tell her who’s behind it?

Yeah, I know, ha ha, she’s suing the Google! What a quixotic thing to do! The person behind Skanks, if I had to guess, is either (a) a shitty ex-boyfriend, (b) a shitty aspiring boyfriend whom she rejected, or (c) some variety of stalker, so suing a hugenormous corporation for confidential info is an unlikely first step toward discovering his (her?) identity. However, I’m also assuming that she scoured the list of stored numbers on her cell, and was unable to obtain a confession or lead from any of them, so I can’t really judge her for going un poco crazy on this one.

One of the amazing facts of life in this, our modern age, is that since technology is advancing faster than society, dudes (and certain ladies) keep inventing new ways to be misogynist dicks on the Internet. There’s “revenge porn,” wherein your boyfriend makes sexytime movies with you, then posts them to the Internet when you break up. It’s awesome for him, because it’s proof that he has sex, but totally shameful for you, because it’s proof that you have sex. So, that takes care of the “crazed stalker” angle. For creepy, terrifying dude-on-the-street harassment, we have upskirting, wherein a dude can crawl between your legs, take a picture of your crotch, upload said picture to the Internet, and receive zero jail time because you do not have “a right to a reasonable expectation of privacy” regarding your vagina and its photographic presence on the Interwebs and/or use as a masturbatory aide. Fun! Yet only an extreme demonstration of the fact that no-one has a right to a reasonable expectation of privacy on the Internet, or in the world: anyone can photograph or film you at any time, and any photographic or filmed representation of you is subject to uploading and comment by the meanest people in the world, and you cannot make it go away. The pictures on Skanks in NYC were apparently taken from Liskula’s own MySpace. Only the color commentary is new.

This would be no big deal – if your worst problem is the existence of mean people on the Internet, then I envy you your problems – except that, when it happens to women, it’s usually about misogyny, and it occurs within a cultural context where misogyny is not an empty threat. There’s that old Margaret Atwood story – when she asked a man why men feared women, he said “we’re afraid women will laugh at us,” whereas when she asked a group of women why they feared men, they said “we’re afraid men will kill us.” That’s not a baseless fear. In a world where it’s common for defense lawyers to get rapists off the hook by insinuating that their victims are “sluts,” being called a slut on the Internet – or living in a culture where the word “slut” can be applied to any sexually active woman – may, in fact, make you substantially less safe.

Of course, it is up to women to protect themselves! Therefore, I have constructed this questionnaire, to tell you whether you are vulnerable to Internet harassment.

(1)Are you sexy?
If so, have you assented to any requests for sex? Be aware that, by doing so, you may cause people to call you a “slut!”

(2)Are you sexy?
If so, have you denied any requests for sex? Be aware that, by doing so, you may cause people to call you a “bitch!”

(3) Are you unsexy?
Be aware that you can answer “yes” to both of the questions above, and also answer “yes” to this one! This is because beauty is subjective, and also photos can be unflattering. If you are unsexy, like Vogue cover model Liskula, you will cause people to call you things such as “horse faced” and “old.”

(4) Do you use social networking sites, such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.?
Seriously, stop that! Using the same technology that everyone else on the planet possesses will only cause people to harass you.

(5) Have you ever been filmed, photographed, or seen in public?
(5a) Have you ever expressed an opinion in an Internet forum, or in a non-Internet forum, or kept a journal, or allowed someone to overhear you talking to yourself?
You should be aware that such actions function as engraved invitations, reading, “pray sir, insult me in a highly gendered fashion, preferably on the Internet, so that all may see!”

(6) Are you a dude?
What? You’re not? My God, you really are asking for it.