Sexualised vitriol, rape threats, and angry sleaze online can seem extremely personal. Yet, lined up side-by-side, the messages look like they were generated by a machine. Their parts are interchangeable – as is the formulaic gibberish that results. Who we are and what we are supposed to have done wrong (or to have ‘asked for’) is irrelevant. To demonstrate, hundreds of real-life messages archived over 18 years have been sliced up and shuffled around to create two automatic generators. The animated image below shows the interchangeable nature of the messages and the formulaic gibberish that can result.
The Radio Edit version of the generator and the far more complex Extended Remix edition do the same thing as the above animation, but use more data in more complicated ways. The Extended Remix generator has the ability to generate more than 80 billion unique rape threats, abusive texts, and examples of aggresssive and entitled sleaze: i.e. more than 23 individual Rapeglish messages for every woman on earth. The random mash-ups it produces can be bizarre. Yet this computer-generated material is virtually indistinguishable from the real life messages many women receive every day. Often there is no clear connection between the content of the violent and/or sexually harassing material sent, and the identity and context of the receiver. Women are called ugly sluts for having opinions on taxation. Girls are threatened with rape for posting videos about fishtail braiding. It makes no sense. Until you realise that this is not about individual women. It is about gender.