To begin with, I think it’s clear to most people that emailing random strangers to offer them money (or anything else) in exchange for sexual favors is a very bad idea. It is just as bad as sending unsolicited nude photos. It is just as bad as contacting people to threaten, insult, or otherwise make them feel unsafe, for any reason. In fact, all of those things fall under the category of “do not do this for any fucking reason, okay?”
It’s safe to say that I’ve gotten my fair share of the last type of emails and comments. Though I don’t seek to antagonize anyone, there are issues for which I will stand up and make my opinion clear. Doing so has occasionally gotten me the unwanted attention of trolls, sexists, white supremacists, and other folks whose desperately-insecure need to control everyone around them is bigger than their IQs. That isn’t my fault, since I’ve never gone out of my way to contact anyone and force my opinion on them. I’ve never searched our anyone’s email address and sent them threatening messages. I’ve never done anything which might cause someone to fear for their life, to contact the police, or removed themselves from the Internet or other public spaces out of fear of me.
But others have done so to me. I’ve kept the smaller, occasional stuff to myself, and shared only when the burden of it got to be too large for me to handle. I think that’s how most folks deal with harassment. We hear about it when there’s a surge in attacks against them, but there are little aggressions they carry alone. It gets tiring to talk about this stuff, after a while.
The last few weeks, I’ve gotten harassment of the other sort. Someone I don’t know and have never interacted with has been sending unsolicited emails describing his* sexual fantasies and asking that I join him. He’s offered money, dinner; he’s been polite, then apologized for contacting me, then emailed again, describing his kink in greater detail (classic obsessive behavior). He isn’t sending these to my private email accounts – he’s sending them to my professional, editing email account. He’s sending them to my work space.
I haven’t, not once, responded. He hasn’t stopped.
I share everything he’s sent with another person, so there’s record of the messages and escalation, and another human I know in real life to share what I’m dealing with. But other than that, I’ve been too uncomfortable to even go into my email. (If I owe you emails, I’m so sorry. I’m not ignoring you, I promise.) This person is reading my blog and Twitter; he’s mentioned going back through several month’s worth. He’s asked me to meet him in person, so he has a good sense of where I live, and has made it clear he can get to me.
All because he thinks I seem approachable.
And the truth is, I want my fans to appreciate my work. I love to hear what people think of my writing. As a freelancer, I’m always open to new work, and have to be accessible to clients. As a person who needs support to get through college and keep writing, I know I have to share a little more of my life then maybe other people do, in order to give something back to everyone who’s helping me. I am an introvert who rarely talks about her child, boyfriend, or personal life online because I want as much privacy as possible, but I accept that I have to let the world in more than I’d like.
I accept all of this. THAT DOES NOT MEAN YOU CAN INSERT YOURSELF INTO MY LIFE WITHOUT MY PERMISSION, OR TAKE SOMETHING AWAY FROM ME. That’s what harassment does. All forms of it. Even the most politely worded requests for something you weren’t permitted to have invade the other person’s space, comfort zone.
This person who’s emailed me… I didn’t publicly share their contact info and particulars of their admittedly-unusual kink because I don’t want to get into a conversation about what’s too weird, as if more vanilla forms of solicitation are somehow okay. (They’re not.) It isn’t the kink that’s the issue. And I’m hoping this person will realize what they did wrong, never contact me again. I’ve already spent so much more time on them than I should have been forced to give up.
And in time – time I couldn’t afford to lose and potential work I couldn’t afford to miss – I’ll get over being afraid to check my email. I’ll get back to work. I’ll move on from what this person took from me.
It won’t be today.
* They identified themselves as “a guy” so that’s what I’m going with.