Helen Lewis-Hasteley of the New Statesman asked me to contribute to her article on the hate mail and threats received by female bloggers, as we seem to be particularly prone to receiving threats of a sexual nature.
The article is here, but the one thing I did note, is that although I do receive a fair amount of threats relating to sexual violence, threats of general violence are by no means limited to men. Some of the most hateful stuff has been written by women, but women by and large tend to articulate their violent reaction in a different way.
Whereas men seem to want to express their rage in the form of sexual violence, women articulate in it a way that often seems more carefully crafted. Using the metaphor or analogy of a missile, the comments that allude to rape and sexual violence are the equivalent of being at the receiving end of a boulder pushed off a cliff, as depicted in cartoons. Like Wile E Coyote, the sexual jibes knock the stuffing out of you, you are flattened, crushed but spring back into shape pretty quickly, ready to carry on. There is a comic element to men who are obviously so sexually inadequate and insecure that they seek to project the contents of their twisted fantasies onto you, and though desperately unpleasant to read, I wonder if it’s the emotional equivalent of a safety valve, perhaps that’s how they get their jollies, dishing out sexual abuse in a purely anonymous fashion. The worry is always that they won’t be able to keep their fantasies in perspective. If describing how they would like to commit sodomy or other vile acts (I confess to having to reach for the dictionary on occasion, not understanding what noodles had to do with anything) means that I save someone else from receiving the filth, who is less able to take it, that’s all well and good. I’ve set up a pretty effective spam filter in any event, which means that I’m no longer subject to it on a daily basis.
I wonder whether or not I might be hardened to it by my time spent as cabin crew? I remember once a customer filled out a comments card with the following immortal phrase:
“I thought that air hostesses were supposed to be good looking but that Caroline is a complete dog”
My manager suggested that I didn’t submit the card to head office, and checked I was alright, but I was happy to let it go through. The passengers on that particular route were known to be an unruly bunch (Ibiza charter, taking off at midnight on a Friday & Saturday night, giving the young revellers the opportunity to spend all night in the airport pub) and I wanted management to see the level the grief that the crew was subjected to.
I remember recording the following on a flight report, after an incident which had culminated in the Spanish police (who incidentally take no nonsense whatsoever, on they charge with batons aplenty) coming on board to arrest an unruly passenger.
“I asked the passenger if he could put his shoes on for take off , as he was sat next to the exits in an ABP seat. He replied in the negative and told me to get f*cked. I politely explained that if he didn’t put his shoes on, I would need to move him due to safety regulations, but that he could take his shoes off again immediately after take-off. The rule was, I said, for his own safety, whereupon he kicked me in the face and said “suck my toe b*tch”.
Ironically one female commenter felt the need to make the following comment in relation to my post. I have tried to respond, but the New Statesman seems to have a problem with its comments facilities.
I wouldn’t wish for one of your children to turn out to be gay – their sexual orientation will be what it will be, and with a homophobic parent like yourself, a child who’s lesbian or gay will have a much unhappier adolescence than any child should have. But it’s possible, if you love your child, that your love for your lesbian or gay child might just change you so that you were no longer homophobic.
Or less so, anyway.
So, surprise surprise, I am “homophobic”. Yawn. She has clear and concrete evidence that I wish to inflict hurt, harm and hatred upon people with same sex attraction as well having a deep-seated terror.
She knows exactly what my reaction will be if my childen express any tendencies towards same-sex attraction when they are younger. I suspect the reality is that my attitude would be infinitely more open-minded and compassionate than hers. For the record I will be encouraging my children to abstain from sexual activity until they are married and I will try my hardest to prevent them from engaging in any underage sexual relationships regardless of sexual orientation.
Furthermore if any of my children profess to having a crush on another woman, I wouldn’t encourage them to jump to any conclusions about what their sexual preferences might be, as my understanding is that adolescence is often a time of conflicting sexual feelings and emotions. I certainly wouldn’t be in any rush to pigeon hole them into any particular category, because there is a lot more that defines us as people than our sexual preferences. I would encourage them to wait until they are older and have had more general life experience before jumping to any hasty conclusions or doing something that they may later regret.
I would not tell adolescents who thought they might be gay, that they were evil, but would advise about not allowing oneself to be driven by or indulge sexual feelings. I would encourage my children to wait until adulthood before coming to any conclusions and hopefully, if they share my faith, help them to find ways of finding comfort and support. If they reject my faith, they will still be my children and I will still love, support them and be there for them, even if I cannot condone or sanction the decisions they make as adults. Pretty standard parenting stuff all in all.
But no, if I really loved them, I would change my attitude. Sexual satisfaction and romantic relationships are the only path to happiness. Encouraging appropriate sexual behaviour will deny adolescents of their rights to be happy which may only be found via sexual relationships and sexual confidence.
It’s possible that I don’t love my children, and even if I do that won’t be enough and I’ll still have this abhorrent attitude that needs to change. Who said tolerance was dead and who said that the only kind of damaging comments were threats of sexual violence? And just about everyone missed the point that homosexuality was being used as a weapon in the threat to which I referred. Ouch.