The disturbing reality of being a woman on the internet is the almost casual sexual aggressions we’re subjected to on a regular basis. I don’t remember the last time I went an entire week without receiving an unsolicited photo of male genitals.
I deal with this onslaught of unsolicited penis by re-posting their willy-selfies after decorating the submitted images to my liking – an eel partying at a tiki bar, butterfly resting on a branch and brown mouse are my latest works of art – to my public Instagram account (@rachelgeebee).
Ironically these men often don’t like me reducing their crown jewels to a cute rodent or marine creature – they suddenly become shy and they report my postings. The images are then removed by Instagram. Oh the irony that Instagram allow men to send these images with no recourse, and then allow those same men to report my edited images as offensive when I re-post and tag them.
Over the last three years of fashion blogging, I have been able to group these genital-sharers into the following:
Type 1: Older males, generally 40+, excited by the new technology that allows them to follow through on their sexual offender-esque urges without consequence, taking a sneaky pants-less selfie with smug self-satisfaction and who disappear once embarrassed by my re-posting of their messages, never to return.
Type 2: Younger boys, snapping several photos of their pride and joy from as many angles as possible with a snigger, thinking no one has ever dared do anything like this before, oh the thrill of it all, this consequence free low-level sexual offending. Don’t tend to mind when I re-post their images, but tend not to stick around and will eventually block me.
Both type 1 and 2 are ignorant to what it means to a woman to be subjected to unwanted sexual attention. They don’t recognise their behaviour as disturbing; they believe women should be pleased they attracted attention, and this is more intensely true because I happen to be plus size.
I don’t believe it is my job to educate these men on how wildly offensive that concept is. I highlight their behaviour, shame them, and walk away.
Recently I have found myself unwillingly introduced to a third category of over-sharer – a growing group of mostly under 22yr old men who submit long, descriptive scenarios of what they would like to do to me, most often captioned along side a photo of me, and then predictably a photo of their wang. When I block them, or name and shame them, they go on to create new accounts and come back, taunting me that there is no escape from their gauntlet of dick. Depending on my mood at the time, I find their cries for my attention pathetic and desperate, sometimes even slightly amusing but always a little scary.
Scary because of what their online personas reveal about their true nature, scary for the women who know these men in real life and scary because I wonder whether I have men in my life who see me as sexual object and who harbour secret, sexually violent fantasies toward women, simply because they are women.
Something I didn’t expect to experience was the shame associated with being on the receiving end of unwanted explicit sexual attention, I felt it manifest itself when I realised I felt uncomfortable sharing these messages with my close friends and family on Facebook – but not my largely unknown Instagram following. I was ashamed to show people I work with, my parents, my best friends – male and female – that someone had reduced me to less than human, to an object. I address my own feelings of shame by embarrassing those men on Instagram, exposing their unwanted behaviour in public, and leave it there.
This week I was forced to reassess my position and why I was ashamed of the messages I was receiving. I began a photo album on Facebook called “Being a woman on the internet” and uploaded the latest offensive messages I had received, a small step towards not being ashamed of what a small number of men believe is acceptable behaviour.
It started with this lovely imagery:
I blocked him. Then another account messaged me, cropped out is a photo of an erect penis, of course.
I blocked him. And another account.
I blocked him. And another account – now posting my images with the caption “I need something big in my mouth”
I blocked him. And then the same account from above began to impersonate me using a photo taken from my Instagram and part of my bio:
Then another account. This charming young man then shared that he was posting my images with sexually explicit captions – giving my images a voice that matched the fantasy in his head, one where I was asking for sexual attention, asking for sex from men, attempting to slut shame me for posting a photo in a bikini.
The caption reads “Big Titty chick looking for some good dick ps I’m taking big gulps”
At this stage the harassment had spanned five days, and I had reached out for support from other women online who had recently shared they also had been subjected to similarly explicit and unrelenting messages from someone on Instagram. After a couple of these conversations, I began to connect the dots and was certain I knew who the person harassing me was. A stranger, not someone I had ever met or interacted with, just a stranger who saw me as someone less-than that he could target without consequence, and enjoyed the chase and attempted to hold power over me when I fought back.
When he messaged me again, I told him I knew his name – Kalim – I told him I knew that he attended Veritas Christian School in Lawrence, Kansas. My messages were seen and the Instagram account quickly deleted. I emailed the school using an email I found on their website and asked for someone to make contact with me about Kalim.
I found Kalim on Facebook, his numerous photos were public, so I liked each one. I put up a status on my Facebook and explained who Kalim was and asked my friends to visit his profile and like his photos, no comments, just like them and remind Kalim how small the internet is. They did. Kalim blocked me on Facebook.
I found Kalim’s girlfriend, I messaged her on Facebook and said she may like to check her boyfriend’s phone. I sent her the messages and photos Kalim had sent me. She pleaded with me not to write this post. Not to ruin Kalim’s life, he would lose his scholarship, and not graduate she said. The consequences of what I was doing and having contacted the school, was enough she said.
I sent a Facebook message to a female relative of Kalim’s – I suspect his Mother – and advised her to look at Kalim’s phone.
I tagged the school in the explicit messages Kalim had sent me on Instagram – @Verisaathletics public account featured a photo of Kalim smiling with the local news team and the caption “Way to go Kalim!”. I shared this with my followers. My followers then also commented on the @Verisaathletics Instagram account. The school turned their Instagram account to private.
I messaged Kalim’s personal Instagram account and told him I was going to write this post. He replied “I don’t even know who you are”. Kalim changed his username several times in the space of an hour, I kept up, and changed my tags in my photos to reflect those changes, holding him accountable for the messages he sent. Not allowing him to hide from what he had said to me.
Kalim messaged me directly apologising for upsetting me, pleading with me to drop it, praying to God for forgiveness, then he said “I didn’t even say anything bad, just things you didn’t want to hear”
I told him how offensive that in the midst of his life apparently being over, his life ruined, he had the audacity to try and convince me I should be flattered by what he thought about me, that he owed me and at least one other woman an apology and I expected to see one online. He stalled and I told him I would give him until the morning to make a public apology, ideally on his personal Instagram account.
In the meantime, an email purporting to be from Veritas Christian School arrived in my personal inbox – sent from a Gmail account. I questioned its authenticity and was advised to google the sender’s name to confirm his identity. Yes, dear readers, when someone approaches me as a victim of sexual harassment, I also put the onus on them to confirm I am who I say I am. The contact asked me to please stop using social media to contact them/talk about my issue with Kalim as I had their attention now. Well thank goodness, all a girl was after was a little attention.
Veritas, here is a protip: I was unlikely to agree to that on a good day, nevermind on a day where your student has been sexually harassing me and you wanted to address it by Gmail.
I responded and said I required official communication from the school, from a official school email, to recognise the seriousness of Kalim’s behaviour. I received no response for several hours, until I tagged the school Instagram account in my latest update on the issue. Micah, Director of Facilities, Vertias Christian School emailed me a one-liner from a @veritaschristianschool.org email address letting me know this was his school email address and his phone number to call him. When I did call, Micah began by thanking me for alerting the school about Kalim’s conduct, from the bottom of his heart.
And he had provided Kalim’s family with my personal contact details when the school and the family had met today. He advised me that he didn’t know what it’s like in New Zealand, but here in the USA we have no authority over Kalim as there was no proof he did these things during school time. Wait a minute. I have alerted you to the disturbing behaviour of one of your students, a 19 yr old man, engaging in scary, threatening behaviour specifically toward women and you have no responsibility to him, or other students? – this is where your responsibility ends?
Micah responded and said that the only action he was willing to share with me, was that they had met with the family and asked me if I wanted the local law enforcement’s contact information. I told him I could find that online myself. I advised him I would be using my small online platform to talk about Kalim and the school.
So now I am waiting to maybe be contacted by the family of a 19yr old who has been sexually harassing me online, who has my full name, my personal email, because Veritas Christian School decided to provide those to him without running that by me first. Go team!
Micah mentioned that someone else had contacted the school about Kalim’s online behaviour – Micah assumed it was my husband but it was not, this is concerning as it confirms I am not the only victim, and that the school does not appear to recognise that there is a pattern to Kalim’s behaviour. Perhaps Kalim can attend a Sexual Offenders course and Micah and the rest of the Veritas board can attend a course on how to address the concerns of victims appropriately.
This morning Kalim posted an anonymous apology under yet another Instagram account, admitting very little, and tagging myself and one other in it. And it wasn’t good enough.
So here is my post about Kalim, a 19yr old man who I believe thoughtfully and methodically stalked and harassed four women (that I know of, undoubtedly there are more of us) across multiple social network platforms, who sent numerous photos of his genitals to these women, who sent them explicit messages, who used their photos to try to shame and punish them for not accepting his unwanted attention. Kalim who visited women’s blogs so he could merge their photos with objectionable pornographic images to taunt them with. Kalim who wants to attend University and play college basketball, and who has proven to harbour dangerous and misogynistic opinions of women.
To those who know Kalim – don’t minimise Kalim’s behaviour – I believe Kalim didn’t get caught fooling around, playing a joke online, he dedicated time and energy to objectifying and scaring women. This is who he is, this is what he has been investing his time and energy doing when sitting around using his phone. Laying on the couch using Facebook? No, sexually harassing women. Chatting to his girlfriend online? No, sending women pictures of his genitals and saying they can run but can’t hide from him.
This is rape culture and Kalim is in the thick of it. Get him some help.
19 DEC: UPDATE
Since posting this account of my experience with Kalim and Veritas Christian School I have been able to confirm that the school representative I spoke to Micah Stegall is or was a Lawrence Police Officer. Kalim also played basketball for Veritas Christian School yesterday. I am incredibly disappointed in Veritas Christian School, actually disappointed doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel. I feel sick that an institution claiming to hold Christian values, values its sporting achievements over the safety of students.
If you’d like to contact the school directly please email their athletics programme director – Brett Temple: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or perhaps comment on last night’s game here: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2015/dec/19/veritas-picks-pair-victories/