Okay, the star rating is a lie. Twilight
rox. But you know what does not rock and gets only one star? Real-life Twilight
tells the basic creepy-old-man-stalks-young-girl story. You know the one. It’s everywhere. He woos her by being vaguely threatening and manipulative. She sees his condescension as the patient musings of a wiser soul. It’s fun in a book, but when you see it in real life, walk the other direction. In my experience, it is possible for creepy stalkers to come around almost anywhere, and the internet is no exception.
I don’t want to get lecturey on you, but I think that, especially for people who are the typical targets of stalkers (all you Bellas out there), but really for everyone, it is important to be aware and smart and even suspicious. Don’t give your address to people you don’t know. And don’t think that a compliment is always what it seems. Sometimes compliments are manipulation. If someone makes you uncomfortable or seems suspicious, don’t be afraid to tell them that. Don’t feel pressured to keep yourself in an uncomfortable situation or to talk to people who skeeze you out. You don’t have to be afraid, just remove yourself from the situation. If a friend tells you to watch out for someone, give that advice a chance. I know it’s obvious to say, but I like being reminded every once in a while that you can’t control other people’s actions, but you can control your own.
As an example, I’ll tell you a story of one time when I wasn’t smart and didn’t remove myself from a situation. This is a pretty specific situation, and it takes place in Ukraine, but I really think things like it could happen anywhere.
So, my friend, Vanessa, lived in the middle of the country, and I was going to visit her. We met in Kyiv to take the bus back to her city. The bus we got on was old and rickety, and the only seat was right in the front. We were exhausted and Vanessa fell asleep against the window. The bus driver kept looking at us in the rear-view mirror, but I didn’t think anything of it because we were American and got stared at all the time. He must have been going about thirty miles an hour the entire way there, because I think we got in about two hours after we were supposed to. Vanessa told the driver, in Ukrainian, where to drop us off, but he drove right past the stop down to the regular station. We got out at the station and Vanessa was pissed. It was really late, and it would have been easy for them to let us off at her stop. She had just woken up, too. We had both been sleeping off and on.
We got out of the bus to get our luggage, and as we were grumbling and trying to find our bags, the driver’s assistant came up to us and explained that they were actually going to let everyone off and drive us BACK to her stop. Oh! We slapped our foreheads. That makes so much more sense. We got back into the bus. (NEVER GET BACK INTO AN EMPTY BUS.) Duh. We were really tired, so that’s some excuse, but not much. Anyway, the driver’s assistant got behind the wheel, and took off in the opposite direction of the town. So, there we are, driving out in the middle of the country (but really the middle of nowhere because there aren’t even houses or lights or anything) with these two old, creepy Ukrainian guys.
Vanessa was freaking out a little bit, and started gathering weapons around her. She had her keys out and some kind of antenna from the dashboard. I don’t remember what else, but that is exactly what you should do if you find yourself in a situation like that. Self-defense 101. The driver, now freed from his driving responsibilities, sat across from me and asked us the Ukrainian for “do you girls like to party?” We quickly answered “no.” He told us that he had a stash of vodka stored in the back of the bus for just such an occasion. He slid his hand over onto my leg. Vanessa immediately slapped it off. You could see the gears in our brains turning. What if we were murdered, there in the Ukrainian countryside, and just left out to rot? What if we escaped, but spent days wandering in circles in the empty fields and eventually died of thirst? Could we jump from a moving bus? Why did we get back on the fucking bus?
Then, after about ten or fifteen minutes, they pulled up to a gas station – in the middle of friggin’ nowhere, mind you – got gas, and headed back to town. We were fine. We were shaken, and it wasn’t a safe situation, but we were fine.
What I’m telling you is this: it’s not your fault if you are the victim of unwanted attention, but there are a lot of things you can do to be smart and safe. Take a self-defense class. Be honest with other people. Listen to your instincts. Block people on the internet if they are making you uncomfortable. Don’t harass people yourself, but if you’re uncomfortable, be smart. Learn from your mistakes.Twilight
is fun. I’m the first to admit it. Fictional Edward is a boyfriend you could buy at Claire’s™. How much does that rock? But in real life Edward is just an old, bossy man with a thirst for blood. That’s not romantic. It’s gross. While awesome, fictional Edward got into Bella’s home through her window, gross, real-life Edwards get into our homes through our computers. (Not literally, although, oooo sci-fi fan-fic waiting to happen?)
It recently came to my attention that a member of goodreads was accused on another website
of using Goodreads(.com) and other places on the internets to harass people - basically he was accused of being a real-life Edward. (I expressly claim the content of that link, though I apologize for its graphic nature. Goodreads(.com) does not claim the content of that link. : this should in no way constitute legal advice to anyone, including Goodreads(.com) or affiliated agencies, but according to §§10, 12, and 14 of my and the accused member's contract with Goodreads(.com), as well as U.S. federal law, 47 U.S.C. sec. 230(c)(1), and U.K. law, Defamation Act of 1996 §1(3), Goodreads(.com) is only a content provider, not a publisher of my statements, and has no liability for what I say on here.
Although Goodreads(.com) may not be convinced that any users of its service are creepy, I am persuaded. We are separate. Please don’t blame it for what I say. I have talked to both parties involved in the incident. Below are the accused’s responses to me. The girl who originally posted the accusations has asked that we not contact her, as all of the harassment she has received from questions about that post has been just about as awful as the original harassment. I hope you will respect those wishes. I would be glad to answer any questions I can about this either in the thread below or in a private message.
You might not think that the accusations are true, and that is entirely valid. I did the investigation I needed to do in order to confirm for myself that the accused member of Goodreads is creepy, you can do what you need, or ignore the situation entirely, as you like. I understand the importance in a trial of presuming someone innocent until proven guilty, but I do not believe that I need to wait to have an opinion about someone until that person has gone through a trial. I can have an opinion based on whatever standard of evidence I like, and the testimony of a witness, combined with my own experience, and countered by nothing, is enough evidence to persuade me. Also, I am willing to err on the side of caution where the potential for harm is either exposing Bellas to stalking and harassment, or exposing an innocent man to loss of business. Both are horrible, but the former is more horrible to me. Again, everyone should balance that for themselves. Honestly, beyond blocking him myself, I'm not very interested in this particular person, as I don't think he's at all unique. He serves as a symbol in this review, yes, but a symbol of something much larger and more ubiquitous. If someone STARTS harassing the accused member because of the things I wrote here or for whatever reason, I will think that harassment is as stupid as any other harassment.
The community manager of Goodreads(.com) has informed me that the appropriate way to deal with a potential predator on Goodreads is to inform the community manager of where the offensive posts exist, and he will delete them. That seems to me like just about the worst way possible to deal with situations like this. Not only does it cover up for the offender by erasing evidence, it also makes it difficult to warn people in the future of patterns. I think the stupidest (bless their ‘lil hearts) way to deal with stalking is to pretend you can stop it by erasing it. I have already blocked the accused member because I don’t want him to access my friends through my profile, but I think censoring his account or his comments is a ludicrous way of “dealing” with a situation. Also, I frankly think that crazy people have the right to read books and talk about them, too. Just because I don’t want to be friends with the accused member, doesn’t mean other people, who are not in danger of being targeted by him, shouldn’t. Plus, deleting his account or comments doesn’t accomplish anything, as he can make a new profile, or write new comments. The point is that we should all be careful (especially the Bellas). Again, trust your instincts and learn from your mistakes. If you have bad instincts, trust your friends. Do the opposite of what Bella does because Edward, in real life, is the opposite of what Edward is in fiction.
I’m a big fan of the Take Back the Night movement, but I don’t think the night is the only thing that shouldn’t be dominated by fear. So this is your call to take back the internet. When goodreads originally took down this review and the others like it, I had invited people to copy my review and write about their own experiences with real-life Edwards. I invite you to do that again if you would like. You are definitely responsible for whatever you copy or change from this review, but you are welcome to it. The world is there for all of us to enjoy, for men and women. Parents shouldn’t be afraid to let their kids use the internet. We are real people on here and should treat each other as such. Don’t let people gain power through fear.
POSTS from me to the accused Goodreads(.com) member
message 10: Sep 26, 2010 09:14am
People around here seem to be very concerned, and with good reason, about this: http://morbidprose.livejournal.com/24399...
Do you have a response to these accusations? More specifically, have you given attention to other people that they have perceived as unwanted or offensive, or have you threatened people? I'm also specifically interested to hear what you have to say about the accusation of racism.
For myself, I'm not very concerned about being friends because if you harass me, I can always block you. I don't want my posts to expose other friends of mine to that kind of harassment, though. If you don't respond to this with some kind of reasonable explanation, or if you delete this post, I will probably block you. I would rather not block anyone, but I don't want people I care about to feel uncomfortable posting on my threads. I look forward to your response.
message 11: Sep 28, 2010 07:54am
I had hoped you would be upfront about answering the livejournal accusations because it seems both childish and overly formal to need to set a deadline for you. However, because you have not responded, I will be more clear. I am willing to wait until 11:59 p.m., PST, on Wednesday, September 29, 2010 for you to provide a reasonable explanation for the accusations listed on the livejournal link in my comment below.
If you delete either of these posts, or if you do not respond by that time, I will understand that as you acknowledging that the accusations are true. At that point I plan to block you as a user and do what I can to make it known on goodreads that you have acknowledged the accusations. I recommend you post your explanation here on your own profile for future reference in case this issue comes up again.
(At this point, the accused member sent me a PM with the quoted language in the message below.)
message 12: Sep 28, 2010 01:45pm[The accused member] Wrote: "I saw the first line on your comment to me and couldn't read any further. I don't read or discuss Bad News. I cannot read anything that will be hostile or minatory or derisive."
It surprises me that you say this, given the books you seem to usually read. I'm left to assume that you mean that you cannot read anything derisive about yourself. I think it has come to a point where you might need to learn how to read that type of material, as many people, including myself, are prepared to take your silence on the topic as admission of guilt.