Don’t Feed The Online Bullies

by admin on August 4, 2014

I am an asexual aromantic woman, which basically adds up to “I don’t date.”

But when a polite “No thank you.” to a guy asking me out doesn’t work, I get rather pointed questions, “Oh, you have a boyfriend?” “No, I am just not interested, can you please drop it?” This tends to lead to homophobic ranting and/or accusations of being a stuck up bitch.

If I make the mistake of thinking the individual will listen to me and explain I am not sexually attracted to either gender and do not date anyone, the response, depending on if this is online or in person, will escalate to rape jokes or outright threats. In person doesn’t happen anymore, because I no longer socialize due to phobias this sort of thing made significantly worse.

But online, the amount of times I have received this response is beyond counting. I have left entire websites to avoid it. I do not join dating sites, I do not advertise my single status. As far as I can tell I do nothing to encourage the idea I am looking for a relationship. But somehow, some person I have never spoken to gets it into their head that “you just haven’t met me yet” is what I need to hear. No. Thank you.

Short of lying, what am I supposed to do? If they don’t listen to the first “no thank you”they get a, “No, leave me alone”, and then a block, but that only stops the individual. Do I just have to cut all the sites where those messages come from? Or is there something in my attitude I could change to prevent the first message from even being sent?  1007-13

Have you tried joining the Ehell forum?   I’ve made it pretty clear that I and the moderators have no interest in knowing the sexual preferences or exploits of the members so that subject isn’t even on the radar. Plus the members are far more civil and polite than most online communities.

I’ve been online for 20 years or more, been a participant in many online forums and one thing I do know is this.   The only way people know anything about you is what you yourself offer for public consumption.   If you are being harassed and bullied online for your personal preferences, it seems to me that somehow you are putting this information about yourself out into the public domain.   If you have to repeatedly leave web sites due to people harassing you, my question is what exactly are you telling them about yourself that gives them that amount of information?   If someone you’ve never spoken to solicits you, why are you even responding to that?  Hit the delete key and ignore.  You don’t owe people any explanations.

Years ago a woman from an online community sought my help against several bullies who were harassing her.   I think she expected me to get in the middle of the fray and kick some bully butt.  Instead I advised her to stop splatting her personal information and family dirty laundry to complete strangers who were then exploiting it.   An effective way to stop online bullying is to stop feeding them information they can use to stalk, twist and manipulate. I have been aghast over the years at what people will reveal about themselves online to total strangers who have basically done nothing to deserve that level of trust and confidentiality.   Don’t feed the trolls, don’t feed the bullies.

{ 124 comments… read them below or add one }

SherlockSara August 4, 2014 at 5:52 pm

From the perspective of a female gamer, I have seen and heard many many stories from friends about women being harassed JUST for merely having a female avatar — just running around playing in game, and people will randomly message them suggestive things. Actually, I know a man with a female avatar that was cold messaged out of nowhere and stalked around the game and messaged over and over by someone that he ‘turned down’ that would not believe he wasn’t an interested female. My friend blocked each avatar of the offender, but they just created a new avatar to keep trying to message.

So, I am not surprised this happened to you, OP. It does happen, more than people realize.

If anyone messages you with something that you don’t like… ignore/delete/do not respond. You are in charge.

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rachel August 7, 2014 at 9:09 am

Been am online female gamer for 10 years and never felt genuinely mistreated by a stranger because of my gender. Both genders get trolled, it’s not a sexist thing in most cases.

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PatGreen August 4, 2014 at 5:55 pm

Unfortunately being straight doesn’t mean you’ll be left out of the harassment and rape threats. If you meet someone in person your safety is more important than telling the truth. I learned when I was still single that sometimes the best defense is wearing a pair of rings on your left hand if you’re out and about. Though that won’t stop some people from suggesting “he” will never know it can cut down on the number.

As for the internet, many women have gotten rape threats from those who don’t like what they have to say.
http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/10/sexism_in_the_skeptic_community_i_spoke_out_then_came_the_rape_threats.html
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/04/21/female-journalist-gets-rape-threats-over-comic-book-criticism.html
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2380849/Twitter-trolls-vile-threats-rape-kill-TV-historian-Mary-Beard-female-MPs.html
http://www.xojane.com/it-happened-to-me/janelle-asselin-comic-book-rape-threats

So online you have a choice. Sit down and be quiet like a good little girl and only join nice forums. Or be open about who you are and what you’re like and prepare for the backlash.

Not every person wants to be a symbol or wants to fight for a cause. If you don’t want to then do just as the dame says and don’t share any personal information. That’s perfectly fine. Also, there are online support groups for those who are asexual if you want to check them out.

Stay strong.

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Yet Another Laura August 4, 2014 at 9:47 pm

And here is another one in which a high school student said no to a prom invite. She was stabbed to death by the guy who she declined to go with.

http://abcnews.go.com/US/conn-high-school-student-stabbed-death-apparent-prom/story?id=23470009

This is unacceptable. What as a society are we doing about it?

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Mya August 5, 2014 at 6:23 am

My parents live next door to a deeply unpleasant individual who, for no apparent reason, has taken exception to my Dad. He regularly verbally and physically assaults him and the Police have been involved several times. Apparently ‘Buckethead’ as we call him is on a final warning from the Police. He once stated to my Father that he ‘knew a bunch of dodgy blokes’ who he could call and how my mother and I had better be careful in dark car parks. It was heavily implied that he would ask these ‘dodgy blokes’ to attack us. I’m pretty sure ‘Rape’ was the subtext because otherwise why specify my Mother and I?

It sickens me how rape is used as a threat and ‘punishment’.

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Library Diva August 5, 2014 at 9:41 am

There is an entire Tumblr titled “When We Refuse” that catalogs stories like this. Very depressing and frightening.

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BellyJean August 5, 2014 at 10:54 am

Thank you, PatGreen – thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Lenore August 5, 2014 at 4:51 am

I am a mod on a rather large forum (not Ehell). While we do encourage members to obfuscate details as much as possible , if someone does receive harrassing messages, we nip that in the bud as soon it’s reported to us. It generally results in banning, and if the offender tries to sneak on again, we catch them 99% of the time.

I’m just saying, if you’re on a forum that has decent moderators, then your online experience should be more pleasant.

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rachel August 7, 2014 at 9:10 am

Those are incredibly rare to find. This website is the exception to the rule.

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Margo August 5, 2014 at 7:51 am

Sad;y, I don’t find OPs story difficult to believe. I have not experienced this kind of behaviour online but I’ve hard enough from people who have to know that it exists, and I am very uncomfortable with the victim blaming in Admin’s response and in a lot of the columns.

OP – it may be useful to try to slow down your interaction to be a little more cautious about how quickly you disclose information – not because you should have to hide who you are, but simply as this might reduce your stress if it allows you to identify some of the harassers before they notice you, rather than afterwards.

Also – no is no. You do not owe anyone an explanation. If you are not interested, you are not interested. It doesn’t matter whether the reason is that you are married, in a relationship, gay, straight, asexual or just don’t happen to fancy redheads. If you are not interested, then you are not interested.

I don’t know what type of response you have made but I agree with the PP that saying ‘no’ and ‘leave me alone’ more loudly, and speaking to security is an appropriate response. For in person activities you can do exactly that. For online ones the equivalent is to say, explicitly “I am not interested. Leave me alone” “I lready said no. Stop asking” “stop harassing me”, to block, to report. Do not explain why you are not interested, it is liable to be seen as a challenge, not as a period to the conversation.

And good luck.

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Elizabeth August 5, 2014 at 8:37 am

It sounds like you are being drawn into explaining; don’t.
Just say ‘no, thanks – not interested.’ Repeat-repeat.

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MrsL August 5, 2014 at 11:14 am

OP I’m sorry that you have to put up with this sort of behaviour. It’s absurd and it’s a sad reality of our world until enough people realize that it IS a real problem. Back when I was in university I had two deaths in my family within days (an uncle and my grandma/best friend). I was halfway across the country in a new city where I was pretty alone and I joined a Christian mom forum to ask a mom to please pray with me. I had someone begin talking right away and, when she suggested we go into a private chat room where she could “pray” with me I was sent a picture of a man’s genitals. On a Christian mom site. I had also joined an online gaming community and I wound up just quitting because male gamers kept harassing me. Apparently I had made my avatar too pretty.
We need to start really teaching men that no does mean no, “I’m not interested” means just that and that it is absolutely ok for us to reject then for whatever reason. We have zero obligation to entertain their boorish behaviour and they have every responsibility to respect our wishes.
We just witnessed a young man kill and wound a lot of people in California because he was angry that women weren’t his playthings. If that’s not an indication of a problem I don’t know what is.

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Alicia August 5, 2014 at 1:21 pm

I like men. I like flirting. I am anything but asexual. That said this never happens to me. I also moderate on four different boards devoted to four very different hobbies of mine. I’ve been moderating one of the boards for over 15 years. I’ve never seen this on any of the sites.
That said when a man tries to e-flirt and I’m not interested I simply say ” I’m flattered but I’m not interested. Good luck” If he messages back anything else except OK thanks I repeat word for word. ( Even on dating sites) and then block.
So yes you are likely engaging in risky online behavior. Just like walking alone,drunk, middle of the night in bad neighborhood in slutty outfit is not an excuse for a man to attack you it is not wise if you want to avoid being attacked. Online trying to justify or explain why not interested is not wise. Mentioning an unusual sexuality (asexual ) can be seen as a challenge. Only put out there what you want as common knowledge

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Kat August 6, 2014 at 7:05 am

It is really really sad that the best we can come up with for the OP to protect herself from harassment is to keep hidden aspects of her identity that others are allowed to share without consequence.

And I don’t even have a better suggestion. It’s just really sad.

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admin August 6, 2014 at 8:28 am

“Others” cannot possibly share information they do not have access to and if they were to gain illegal access to private information that was not published by the owner of that data, there are legal consequences.

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Kat August 6, 2014 at 9:58 am

Sorry, I meant, information others are allowed to share about themselves.

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The Elf August 6, 2014 at 8:32 am

It is sad, because things like this shouldn’t happen in the first place. But what else can you do?

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WillyNilly August 6, 2014 at 10:49 pm

I don’t think that’s really what had been suggested at all. It’s been pointed out talking about her gender, singleness, and sexual preferences (or lack thereof) is at least part of the problem – as it would be for just about ALL women. It’s not like others can go around talking about their sexual likes and dislikes without suffering from people who will take them up on that topic of conversation in a disgusting way.
Just about all the suggestions offered the OP have been tried and true methods used by others; other women aren’t able to share anything in particular that it’s been suggested the OP hide.

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Calli Arcale August 7, 2014 at 3:43 pm

I got the impression she was only sharing that information when pressed for a reason why she was declining obtrusive dating requests. I don’t see a reason to assume she’s been flaunting her sexuality and that therefore she has somehow invited this boorish behavior.

I’ve been on the Internet for a while. I don’t flaunt my sexuality, but I don’t hide my gender either. Not everybody figures out I’m a woman from my name, but most do. I was online long before I got married. I’ve had guys hit on me, but only once did I encounter someone who was horrible about it. I don’t think that’s because I’m smarter on the Internet; I think it’s mostly just that I’ve been luckier. I think that while it’s tempting to think we can protect ourselves from being hit on, it’s really just an illusion. People will make conclusions about us regardless of how much information we put out there, and much of those conclusions will be wrong. If someone mistreats you, it generally speaks more to what *they* brought to the conversation than what you did, and you can’t control what they’re going to bring. Always keep that in mind, and practice ignoring people. Don’t let them lure you into a debate about whether or not you should date them; you owe them nothing, and if you respond, you’ll only encourage them to try harder. For a lot of trolls, that will mean intimidation; if they can’t get sexual validation from you, they’ll validate their self-esteem by cutting you down instead.

It’s bully behavior, is what it is. And you do not have to stand for it. Ignore them. It takes a lot of effort to ignore the baiting at first, but eventually they realize it’s not working and they move on to other prey.

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Ceru August 11, 2014 at 10:15 pm

I felt the same way. I’m also aromantic and it’s uncomfortable to see someone in my situation get the response “well, you shouldn’t be admitting to it.”

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Liz W August 6, 2014 at 8:04 am

Say no. Once.

Any additional response to further inquiries gives the instigator the attention they crave. Even if it is a negative response, they only see that you replied and will continue to attempt contact.

If possible, do not even read new messages but archive them safely away so you have a record of harassment.

Read The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. Then read it again.

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James August 8, 2014 at 3:12 pm

I haven’t read that, but I agree completely with this advice.

Once someone has revealed themselves as unworthy of your time, don’t give it to them. You don’t someone an explanation for “no”.

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rachel August 7, 2014 at 9:26 am

I wonder if the OP is talking about Tumblr, a site full of militant “PC advocates” who constantly hate on things like white men, republicans, heterosexuals etc. which in turn attracts quite a few trolls and disgruntled people who will be quite militant

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rachel August 7, 2014 at 9:31 am

Back at them* I barely use my tumblr anymore for lack of finding common ground with people because every single fan community eventually attracts people who want to hate on my skin color and sexual orientation (not directly, because I don’t engage trolls and don’t say what I am.)

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James August 8, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Sadly, the OP’s story is way too believable. There are too many idiots who love nothing more than being nasty or getting someone nice & upset, and having their fragile little egos hurt can only make this worse.

As others have said, the best advice is, once someone reveals themselves to be such a person, disengage. The natural human instinct is to use logic & reason to explain yourself, but it never works. If you’re on a moderated forum, complain to the mods. If someone is emailing you directly, block them. Some sites will allow you to ‘hide’ posts from certain members so you don’t see them.

It’s sad that people have to do this to protect themselves, that all people can’t be civilised & reasonable in their interactions with others. But, some can’t.

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Amadaun August 11, 2014 at 2:30 am

First off – Visit AVEN if you haven’t already.

Secondly – her orientation has everything to do with her post. Would you rant against a lesbian who was sick of being hit on by men? She should never, NEVER have to adjust her actions for other people. Being nice to someone is NOT leading them on. And it’s not her responsibility for other people’s response.

Thirdly – I’m also an asexual (though I happen to be bi-romantic). And it’s probably one of the more misunderstood orientations out there, because it’s the most difficult to understand. Pretty much as seen here. For people who are hetero or homosexual, imagine that everything you did made the gender you aren’t attracted to hit on you. And refuse to take no for an answer, because sex will “cure” us. It’s even more uncomfortable than being a hetero girl hit on for no reason other than that we have breasts.

I’m not attacking anyone who’s posted about women who are interested in “male” activities, but that’s not what being asexual is.

And I’m going to have to point out to Admin that the only personal information that needs to be posted before harassment is usually noting that you’re a woman. That’s all. No other personal info beyond that. Even having a female-sounding name can get you attacked. Speaking over voice chat as a woman. And GOD FORBID that you turn down the teenagers hitting on you.

Admin – I’m glad you’ve never faced that dark side of the internet community, but saying that it’s the OPs fault for sharing too much is simply naivete. In many communities, especially gaming communities, having an alto voice is all that’s needed to attack someone.

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Jenna August 13, 2014 at 1:37 am

I too am an asexual (heteroromantic) and am happily married to a heterosexual who understand and accepts me for who and what I am. I found him entirely by accident, but I was happy that on the way I was able to know there were people out there that felt the same way I do.

AVEN was great. I met a lot of fantastic people there. You do sometimes get people who are hetero, homo or bi that troll and harass people, but they are quickly quelled. If you ever want to share your story and make friends with other asexuals, their community is the best. Hetero, homo, bi, pan, demi, a–whatever, they don’t discriminate.

I know and understand what you are and some of what you are going through. When you tell someone you are asexual, they are initially confused–then tack on that you are aromantic and their heads explode. In very simple terms, you are happy and content by yourself and don’t have romantic feelings for anyone nor any desire for sex. You can have platonic relationships, but it stops there. There is nothing wrong with you.

I had a weird phase where I just wanted to do crazy things and meet crazy people. When I explained I was asexual, they either thought something happened to me (like sexual abuse), I had a few screws loose and/or I had no desire for sex because I never had it (and to this day, I still haven’t). This happened a little bit online too, but I wasn’t bothered too much since I own up to being a “bitch” (or more accurately, a strong, opinionated, outspoken woman).

The truth is you are in a happy relationship with yourself. You don’t need anyone else to fill in that place in your heart where someone else might belong (or several others might belong, if you were poly-amorous). Others on the outside don’t understand and most never will. Online, you will find an ample supply of people hoping to offend you and make you feel small–but that world is easily set aside.

In real life, it’s harder. They will call you a prude, a bitch, a tease… and even when you try to explain, they cannot fathom what you are. In the end, all you can do is smile and, as cliche as this sounds, say “I am what I am and that’s all that I am”.

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Ginger0630 August 13, 2014 at 8:09 pm

Don’t even say “No, thank you.” Just ignore the message.

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Joanna August 21, 2014 at 9:01 am

She’s left MULTIPLE WEBSITES over this?? I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but…I too am active on any number of websites and I can honestly tell you that I have NEVER had anyone ask me out, let alone pursue/bully when I refused them. So it kind of begs the question as to precisely what kind of conversations or posts are occurring, which is making this such a huge problem.

That said, it really doesn’t matter as to her sexual orientation. She doesn’t owe anyone any explanations, whether she were straight or gay or anything in between. Simply saying no should be enough. And if for some reason it isn’t, she should contact the site admins immediately to report harassment.

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