The Random Rape Threat Generator Origin Story

– Emma A. Jane

I began collecting examples of e-misogyny in the late 1990s during my previous life as a journalist. While I’d always received old-school, snail-style hate mail, most of this came from retired naval officer-types chastising me for ignorance about subjunctive conditionals. Things changed when I started including my new-fangled email address at the end of my newspaper columns (#itseemedlikeagoodideaatthetime, #wtfwasithinking). All of a sudden, my inbox was inundated with rapey emails from anonymous correspondents calling me a ‘tart desperate for cock’, a ‘half ugly lesbian’, and so on. I was told my posterior was both old and sad – yet also in need of a savage ravaging (in one case, for an eerily specific ‘two hours every day’). All feminists, I was informed, needed to be ‘gangraped to set them right’.

I was intrigued. I also asked my male peers whether they too were receiving emails from disgruntled female newspaper readers threatening pack sodomy, de-testiclisation and wall-to-wall anal invasion. They said ‘no’.

In 2011, I switched careers, started work as an academic, and began a series of ongoing research projects into gendered cyberhate. Among much else, I have been struck by the interchangeable nature of the over-the-top misogyny that has become so oddly ordinary for women online. While cyberhate has certainly become more prevalent, more rhetorically noxious, and more threatening over time, the language involved in individual messages is strikingly similar. This is regardless of the year a message is sent, the channel via which it travels, and the woman it targets. For instance, the emails I received in Australia as a feminist columnist in the late 1990s, are incredibly similar to those sent to a Catholic blogger on the other side of the world more than a decade later.

I am, of course, not the first person to notice the weird uniformity of misogyny online. The website Fat, Ugly or Slutty, for example, collates and taxonomises remarks received by female gamers. Comments are filed in categories such as ‘Crudely Creative’, ‘Unprovoked Rage’, ‘Lewd Proposals’, ‘Death Threats’, ‘Repeat Offender’, and ‘Sandwich Making 101’. The writer Sady Doyle also notes the ‘overwhelmingly impersonal, repetitive, stereotyped quality’ of the abuse, as well as the fact that ‘all of us are being called the same things, in the same tone’:

What matters is not which guys said it: What matters is that, when you put their statements side-by-side, they all sound like the exact same guy. And when you look at what they’re saying … they always sound like they’re speaking to the exact same woman. When men are using the same insults and sentiments to shut down women … we know that it’s not about us; it’s about gender. (Doyle, 2011, emphases in original)

I agree. The electronic venom directed at one woman is often all but indistinguishable from that directed at another. Indeed, one of the perverse paradoxes of Rapeglish is that the most personal of insults, attacks and threats can seem generic, routine, and almost tedious as a result of their pervasiveness.

Enter The Random Rape Threat Generator.

References

‘Cyber violence against women and girls: A world-wide wake-up call’ (2015) The United Nations Broadband Commission for Digital Development Working Group on Broadband and Gender, available at http://www.unwomen.org/~/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2015/cyber_violence_gender%20report.pdf (accessed 14/12/15).

Doyle, S. (2011) ‘But how do you know its sexist? The #MenCallMeThings round-up’, Tiger Beatdown, 10 November, available at: http://tigerbeatdown.com/2011/11/10/but-how-do-you-know-its-sexist-the-mencallmethings-round-up/ (accessed 21/12/15).

Jane, E. A. (2015) ‘What I’ve learned from my study into gendered cyberhate’, Daily Life, 31 August, available at: http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/dl-culture/what-ive-learned-from-my-study-into-gendered-cyberhate-20150828-gj9qsu.html (accessed 6/11/16).

Lewis, H. (2011) ‘“You should have your tongue ripped out”: The reality of sexist abuse online’, NewStatesman, 3 November, available at: http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/helen-lewis-hasteley/2011/11/comments-rape-abuse-women (accessed 23/12/15).

‘You play video games? So are you… Fat, Ugly or Slutty’, Fat, Ugly or Slutty, available at: http://fatuglyorslutty.com/ (accessed 5/11/16).