How to Talk to Your Guy Friends About Not Threatening to Rape and Murder Women on the Internet

If you really think that you are a good guy, and that you are not the kind of person who would threaten to violently hurt someone for the hell of it, the onus is on you to fix this.

If you really think that you are a good guy, and that you are not the kind of person who would threaten to rape and murder someone for the hell of it, the onus is on you to fix this. Shutterstock

Dudes, can I turn my chair around and get real with you for a minute? We need to talk about the fact that scores of you and your buddies are jumping on the Internet and threatening to rape, maim, and murder women.

I’m sorry, I hope I’m not interrupting your morning manscaping, or evening perusal of The Paris Review, or midnight Call of Warcraft: The Ocarina Of Nintendogs binge, or whatever. I know this is kind of a bummer topic, but so is being told to “kill yourself, you ignorant f*ggot,” so.

For a long time, even before “#GamerGate” was a twinkle in a sad white dude’s eye, feminist cultural critics and some—mostly not-cis-dude—gamers and developers have been subjected to violent harassment from individuals who seem to be mildly troubled by their predilections for talking, typing, or otherwise expressing themselves in public, as opposed to shutting up and making sandwiches. Most recently, they’ve been under attack, online and off, for observing that many mainstream video games and related marketing materials are exclusively tailored to the imagined gaze of titty-obsessed heterosexual teenage boys. That’s fine and all, but it’s kind of, you know, limiting, and wouldn’t it be nice to have more diversity in video games?

Many of these gamers and critics, along with their supporters, have been “doxxed,” which is when some anonymous asshole puts stuff like your home address and workplace location on the Internet, because they are mad and want to make sure that the whole world knows where you live and work. Thanks to actions like these, some of these folks have had to abandon their homes and jobs out of fear for their own, and their loved ones’, safety. Even more have been routinely, overwhelmingly harassed, day in and day out, for the apparent crime of existing on the Internet as anything other than a cisgender white dude.

All of this talk of leaving women’s “mutilated corpses on the front page of Jezebel,” is, I’m sure, out of concern for journalistic ethics, and definitely not because of a widespread, deeply ingrained culture of toxic masculinity.

But look: On the teeeeeeeeny-tiiiiiiiiiny chance that GamerGaters are indeed a horde of gender-policing, misogynistic trolls who believe they can operate with impunity in a society wherein “boys will be boys,” and “women will live in abject goddamned fear every moment of their fucking lives,” it’s time for all the cool, good dudes out there to have a talk with their bros about how saying they’ll rape and murder people isn’t OK.

Maybe you think that goes without saying—that everybody knows threatening to aggressively sodomize a total stranger is not the coolest thing on Earth to do. But hey: It doesn’t go without saying for everybody, because literal thousands of somebodies are currently out there on the Internet right this minute terrorizing people with the promise of sexual violence of all kinds.

Those somebodies have brothers and dads and uncles and nephews and bosses and coworkers and yoga teachers and friends and fellow fantasy-footballers and dudes they always say hi to at the bodega and professors and grandfathers and mechanics and favorite bartenders and ARE ANY SINGLE ONE OF YOU TALKING TO YOUR BROS ABOUT HOW IT’S FUCKED UP IN THE EXTREME TO THREATEN TO RAPE PEOPLE ON THE INTERNET?

When’s the last time you heard a dude making a rape joke or saw your buddy harassing a woman on the street, and you actually fucking said something to him about how gross that is? When’s the last time you shared a Facebook post about enthusiastic consent? When’s the last time you tweeted or Tumbled an infographic about the prevalence of domestic violence?

Have you ever actually said out loud, in front of a bunch of dudes, that you don’t think abuse is a punchline, or that you wouldn’t stay friends with a guy who assaulted someone, or that you’d never put up with a dude who sent a woman anonymous emails full of bloody fetus pictures telling her to abort herself? (Shout-out to that guy! Don’t worry, bro, I got your message!)

Like, 180 people follow this dude on Twitter, for example. Yet nobody’s up in his mentions telling him that he might wanna rethink his little rape, uh, joke. How many folks at any one of these Halloween parties held their tongues when white men in blackface rolled up in Ray Rice costumes dragging blow-up dolls around? Hell, nobody had a minute to take this clown aside and have a quiet conversation about how telling Janay Rice in a tweet tagged with her handle to “shut up bitch you married the muthafucka now THATS funny” is not an OK thing to do?

Meanwhile, social researcher Jennifer Allaway does a survey about video games and is told by a self-described “killer of women” that she will endure half a decade of anal rape. And she is by no means the only one.

Bros, dudes, guys, and buddies of the privileged cisgender heterosexual persuasion, this is not my problem. This is not women’s or queer folks’ or trans people’s problem.

This is your problem. You fix it. If you really think that you are a good guy, and that you are not the kind of person who would threaten to rape and murder and silence some b1tch3z for the LULZ, the onus is on you to step up and make it happen.

I’m not gonna go all “wives, mothers, daughters, sisters” on your ass. Don’t do this shit for your mom. Don’t do it for your wife. Do it because you’re not a human scab. Do it because you want people to be better, and because you intend to hold humanity accountable for producing disgusting, petulant man-trolls who think they’re entitled to other people’s time and attention. Do it because you’re gonna stop the cycle of disgusting, petulant man-trolls right flipping now, in your own flipping life.

I’m already out here doing my part to make this world a safer, healthier place. I talk about how to end rape, domestic violence, street harassment, and abortion stigma literally all damned day every day. I do my feminism at the bar. I do my feminism at the coffee shop. Sometimes I make feminism funny, and sometimes I make it serious. Hell, I practice talking to my cats about feminism. I wasn’t born this way. It’s taken me years—and I’m still working on it—to try and overcome internalized misogyny and externalized racism and ableism. But I’ve continued to attempt it nonetheless, because my friends and my coworkers and my peers and my neighbors have actively and consistently had ongoing, public conversations that made it clear I could get my mind right or get the hell out of their lives.

Now it’s your turn. I don’t know what you bros do in your little man-caves besides talk about razors and guns and farts (did I get that right?), but whatever it is, not enough of it consists of policing each other and making it clear that in your circle, or your fraternity, or your workplace, or your comic book shop, or your household, it is unacceptable to be a creepy fucking misogynist.

I cannot and will not fix this nasty problem of yours for you. This is your work and you need to start on it yesterday. It’s as easy as talking—frequently and loudly—about how you don’t think jokes, threats, and offhand comments about rape, violence, and abuse are cool. And moreover, that any friend or family member of yours better fucking get in step with you on it.

This might feel weird at first, especially if you’re not used to this kind of talk. That’s OK. It’s not going to be an overnight fix, and some assholes are gonna fly under your radar anyway. Fear not. In fact, in case you need a head start, I’ve written up some suggested scripts for talking to your buddies:

  • “I don’t know, I’m more of a merlot guy. Speaking of, I think it’s pretty fucking shitty to threaten to rape and murder people on the Internet.”
  • “You shouldn’t yell out your car window at women on the street and call them horrible slurs and grab at at their clothes and bodies to try and get a reaction out of them. I wish Rick would leave his dog at home.”
  • “Every time you post about ‘raping’ a quiz or test, I lose heaps of respect for you, and it’s honestly getting to the point where I’m not sure we should be friends anymore. Watch out, there’s a pothole.”
  • “Thanks a lot, Doc, I can’t wait to take this sweet-ass vasectomy for a spin. By the way, young women who use social media are especially likely to have to deal with sexual harassment and stalking.”
  • “Ted, are you as good at respecting other people’s personal space as you are at baking? This angel food cake is phenomenal.”
  • “Everyone please proceed to the closest exit, I’m sure this is just a drill. While I’ve got you all here, I’d like to point out that prison rape jokes are a good way to get unfriended by me.”
  • Woof, I thought that last pigeon pose was never going to end! I’m really looking forward to going home and having the same expectations for my sons as I do for my daughters.”
  • “Man oh man, Bumgarner is on fire! Hey by the way, have y’all ever promised to kill someone on Twitter? I haven’t, because that would make me a garbage person.”
  • “I wanted to let you know that I’ll be actively not driving people out of their own homes by threatening to photograph their mutilated bodies for the foreseeable future, and also I can’t come to pasta night.”
  • “I’m thinking of planting some succulents out back. Everybody’s bodies are their own and no one owes me or my boner anything at all.”

Try a few of them in the mirror. Feel free to come up with some of your own. However you do it, wherever and whenever you do it, just do it. Good dudes of the world, please start having these conversations—whether you’re at your kids’ soccer games, or the office holiday party, or posting on Facebook from the Jiffy Lube.

People’s lives and livelihoods depend on it.