(Trigger warning for rape & sexual assault)
Congratulations! You have just received your first online rape threat!
This is an exciting moment in any woman’s life. But you may have some questions!
The most important thing to remember is that while first online rape threats are always surprising, they are a normal part of a woman’s life. Some women get their first online rape threat very young; some do not get their first online rape threat until they have been online for many years! There is no wrong time to get your first online rape threat. The question of online rape threats is not if, but when!
Don’t worry if it seems like everyone has gotten their first online rape threat but you! You, too, will almost certainly one day experience a little moment of fear, and then shame over whether your fear is reasonable. Conveniently, many online rape threats tend to arrive under the cover of night, so they are waiting for you first thing in the morning!
When you get your first online rape threat, you may be a little confused! You may wonder, is this a real online rape threat or just a joke online rape threat? It can be disorienting! One way to tell is to peer at the fake registered email address it came from, or click through to the social media profile of the person who has penned it, and try to reason from there. Since that method is not entirely fool-proof (har har), here is another: if someone online threatens you with rape, then you have received an online rape threat! It’s true!
Once you receive your first online rape threat, it can be hard to know who to tell first. If you are at home, consider telling your husband or children, or even your parents! This can feel a little embarrassing! It can be awkward talking about being imaginatively assaulted by strangers in the midst of a busy day. But really there is nothing to be embarrassed about. “I just received my first online rape threat!’ you can say. “Will you hand me the peanut butter?”
If you are at school or work when you receive your first online rape threat, should you tell your students, teacher, or boss? Although online rape threats are a normal part of women’s professional lives and will certainly affect your confidence and performance, many people are still somewhat uncomfortable discussing them in professional situations. Some people may not respond positively to hearing about your first online rape threat.
That is okay! Remember that this is your first online rape threat. You can tell or not tell anyone you want! Of course, you will probably spend some time — time that you could have spent doing any number of other things, like exercising, doing the laundry, working on your book, interacting positively with the world and its inhabitants — trying to decide whether to tell anyone at all.
If you decide not to tell anyone, don’t worry, you will still have devoted the requisite time to considering the place of online rape threats in your life, and not getting those other things that need doing done.
If you do decide to discuss your first online rape threat, the best people to tell about your first online rape threat will probably be your women friends. Very likely they will have stories about online rape threats too, particularly if they are women writers! You can swap stories and jokes!
Once you’ve spent a substantial amount of time to discussing, or not discussing, your first online rape threat with those you know in real life, it will be time to consider whether and how to share this important news more widely. How long should you spend handling your first online rape threat? The normal length varies from woman to woman, just as the number of online rape threats varies from woman to woman! It’s important to acknowledge all the diverse ways women online are threatened with rape!
You might consider publishing your online rape threats! If you decide to, please remember also to consider all the sides to this decision: if you publish your online rape threat, are you giving power to the person who has threatened you online with rape? What if people do not understand or share your response to your first online rape threat? Might you help to make a more vibrant community of women who have been threatened online with rape? Is it important to compile evidence about how very normal it is for women to receive online rape threats? Or is it better just to move on? Who can say! Considering these questions is another way to have your day structured by your online rape threat, rather than the other things you had hoped to do.
Perhaps the best solution would be to start a Tumblr called “Our Very First Online Rape Threats!” where women can compare their first online rape threats. If you start this Tumblr, we feel it should be decorated with unicorns and rainbows! Lisa Frank may help you feel better about your first online rape threats. However, before starting this Tumblr, remember that it will be a major undertaking. There are so many women with online rape threats, and of course you’d have to set up the infrastructure for submitting and vetting and publishing and answering emails and tracking your stats and all that fun stuff related to a compendium of online rape threats!
Also, remember that this Tumblr will likely also receive several online rape threats! The internet is basically online rape threats all the way down!
You may feel that you would prefer not to get online rape threats. That is normal too! If you truly prefer not to receive online rape threats, you can take several preventative steps, such as not writing, not writing about gender, not writing about Ferrante, not writing online, not being online, not checking your mentions or comment moderation, and, of course, not talking ever. However, we cannot promise that these steps will make sure you do not receive online rape threats. Remember that it’s not what you do as a woman that leads you to receive online rape threats. Being a woman, by itself, is enough.
Sarah and Sarah: Team Women