Clara Barnhurst

Random men messaging me is a constant. Every woman has a chorus of men in their message requests talking to themselves. I peek every now and then in a morbid search of Schrödinger’s dick pic because I occasionally get readers who actually want to talk to me. It means I get to have a lot of dull exchanges with ‘admirers’ punctuated by some lovely human conversation.

Complaining about internet weirdos is not new, and there seem to be tiers of responses. The first is no response and really, that’s the best option. When I first started getting these things, I would just ignore them.

Then something happens. We snap. I don’t know if it’s the pressure or the sense of injustice or the desire to just call these people out, but we start to respond. For me, it was the potential for that person being a reader, so now I look through the message requests once in a while. The polite ones got a reply.


After a while of attempting to engage, we enter what I can only describe as the ‘shut the conversation down’ phase. At this point, we’re tired of opening rituals and we want them to get to the point, prove they’re a creep or whatever. It doesn’t even matter if they’re crazy or stupid or just lecherous. I’m in that phase: I don’t want them to ask me how I am. I want the to skip the small talk and cut straight to the motives.

The final phase in our development of creep coping is the sarcastic phase. At this point, a person doesn’t wait to find out what motives are: they just rip into people. If they respond at all. I’ve seen a few rather hilarious rants from people in this phase. I wish I was in this stage with people because it seems far more entertaining. It certainly makes fun reading — they’re everywhere. Go find them, would recommend.

The other morning I got a request from a guy who actually seemed half decent. No connections so that’s iffy, but hey. Could have read something. Might be another good friend waiting to happen. That’s always the hope, right?

This dude was pretty benign, as it happens, but he did claim we were connected through a group he didn’t know the name of and seemed oblivious that the message client told me what groups we had in common anyway. No connections. So that was creepy.

But what really got me over it with him was he called me cute. This might seem difficult to understand, but people who randomly call me cute on the Internet before we’ve cut to motives are almost always creeps. If your motive to talk to me is I’m cute, don’t bother.

It was smoothly done, really. Snuck in there after a comment about something I probably didn’t do but was plausible enough for me to be unsure. He saw some post I made (I make a lot of posts) and oh, by the way your [sic] cute. Conversation potential gone, I shut him down and moved on.

The compliment was clearly a hook. To a more vulnerable person, being told they’re cute would be disarming. My self image issues are many and varied, but that specific strand of low self esteem isn’t part of my problems. In that respect I’m lucky. He lost me at, “Your cute.” Otherwise I had half a mind to actually talk to the guy. He was trying so hard!

I’m still trying to work out how their brain works. Men in general. It’s always men. I don’t want it to always be men — women can be creepy too! But it is. What does some random on facebook think they’ll achieve, I really don’t know. It’s the same as the guys that shout vileness at me from their car. What, do they think I’m going to go over there and suck their dick? No? Then what is this about?

I get that it’s a dominance game, but I’m not even sure how I’m being dominated. OK, so two years ago I would have felt threatened by this stuff, but they drive off! They don’t get to see the impact of their words, just as the folks online don’t get to see it either.


In a weird way, I can use how I’ve progressed through the phases of coping with harassment as a marker for how far I’ve come. Two years ago, I was threatened by it and did my best to ignore people. A year ago, I wasn’t threatened anymore but I couldn’t joke about it or talk them down. Now, I’ll shut down a conversation I don’t like but I won’t try to mess with them. That’s the next thing, if I get there. I’m happy where I am.

We’re often told to ‘own it’ when it comes to being harassed. I think messing with them, turning the tables, making them feel as small as they’re trying to make us feel, is the way many choose to own their harassment. Of course, we shouldn’t have to own this stuff: it’s harassment. We endure harassment from a sea of people in the hopes that we run into one of the rare ‘good ones’.

It's a shame the human connections are so far in the minority, but I’ve only been blogging to a larger audience for a year now. I haven't had the magic beaten out of me, so I walk into this stuff. Besides, the one or two connections I have made in the past year are valuable. One is going to be a bridesquid (it’s a story) at my wedding! So for now, it’s worth dealing with stupid.

Comments (1)
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Joanne Berry
Joanne Berry

I totally relate to this. I blog, I'm on Flickr, and I have a Facebook page, and it's a constant stream.

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