Today’s column at Role/Reboot looks at the recent exposure of two of the Internet’s most spectacular “creeps” — and at the culture of male complicity that sustained them. Excerpt:
We need to see that in their own bizarre way, cyber-predators are as much exhibitionists as they are voyeurs. They derive obvious pleasure from violating young girls’ privacy. But as their boasting makes clear, an equally vital turn-on comes when they are recognized for their ability to source and post images that no one else can. It’s “kiss and tell” behavior in which the blackmail of children substitutes for the kissing, but the payoff is the same: other men’s praise.
It’s important to warn teens about the dangers of webcams, and it’s vital to hunt down nasty trolls like Brutsch and sadists like Maxson. We need to acknowledge, however, that this is a strategy that focuses on drying up the “supply” of images and videos that get posted online. The real solution lies in ending adult men’s demand for visual access to the bodies of the underage and the unsuspecting. That’s only quixotic if we believe that most straight men’s sexuality is both naturally predatory and naturally directed toward adolescent girls.
The currency of “creepshots,” “jailbait,” and blackmail isn’t sex. It’s power—the power to capture the image of a girl who doesn’t know she’s being photographed, or to shame her by endlessly reposting what was meant to be a private image. What drew male fans to Brutsch and Maxson wasn’t just the chance to see pubescent boobs, but to bond over the experience of another human being’s humiliation. Ending the allure of these forums will mean challenging men to make this kind of exploitation fundamentally unacceptable.