AS282: How Not To Hit On Tracey Moody

Today’s episode might be a bit of a departure but this is a very important topic to me. No matter what your views on the whole social justice divide might be, I am hoping that Tracey’s story of online harassment might make an impact. Tracey is not at all sensitive to male attention online. It’s something she’s used to in her line of work, but she has a disturbing story about when it went too far, and the response by the authorities was maybe even more appalling. Please listen. Making the internet a better place for women is very important to me and I hope this might make any small impact.

10 thoughts on “AS282: How Not To Hit On Tracey Moody”

  1. Without question a case like that should be taken seriously by cops, the guy sounds scary. As a guy if a woman was acting that way towards me I’d be worried, and I’m far less vulnerable than most women. She should have asked to speak to the cops supervisor, or gone to the police station herself.
    I’ve run a chat network for going on 20 years, and have been threatened many times. The couple of times it reached the point where I was worried about my, or my families safety I went to the police, and they were very helpful. In one case they contacted the local police where the person was from, went to his house, and made it clear they were aware of the situation so he would know, and I never heard from him again… Glad to hear Tracy was finally able to file a report.

    I wanted to add that the last time I contacted the police was around 12 years ago. Perhaps stories like hers from both men, and women have become so much more commonplace now, with the exponential growth of the internet, that police don’t take them as seriously as they once did, or just don’t have the resources to look into all but the most egregious cases. By egregious I mean those where actual threats are made. That would explain why the NYPD cop repeatedly asked if he had actually threatened her.

  2. I wanted to add another comment distinguishing between harassment, and trolling. (Something we’ve had our differences about.) I don’t think any rational person is going to argue that what happened to Tracy is acceptable, not a problem, or that it happens to men to the same degree, but what happened (including the dick pics/cringeworthy flirting) is sexual harassment, and an entirely different issue than trolling.

    Sexual harassment usually comes from people who “like”, or agree with the target of it. Trolling on the other hand is directed at people the troller dislikes, or disagrees with. Trolling as opposed to sexual harassment is equal opportunity. Men are the targets of it as much, if not more (according to many surveys), than women.

    1. I think you raise an interesting point about differentiating between trolling and sexual harassment, but I also think it’s important to recognize that these aren’t necessarily as distinct as they may seem.

      Firstly, sexual harassment tends to be divided into two categories, “quid pro quo” and “hostile work environment” (these are work-related categories, but I think the principles can be generalized). It’s commonly assumed that unwanted sexual advances, offers of career advancement in exchange for sexual favors, and punishment for rejecting sexual advances constitute sexual harassment. In addition to that, sexual harassment policy also covers intimidation or denigration based on gender/sexuality. A co-worker saying “women are too sensitive to be good negotiators” or “men are too aggressive to be good therapists” can constitute sexual harassment.

      Secondly, pursuing someone sexually doesn’t require “liking” them. I get the sense that we’re both using the word “like” loosely (i.e., some kind of approval, if only physical), but sending dick pics, making comments that reduce someone to their physical appearance, and can be motivated by narcissism, displaced frustration, sadism, etc.. Someone could sexually harass others in a way that suggests they are indifferent to them as people (e.g., flashing strangers), in ways that are meant to bolster one’s own ego by demeaning others (e.g., commenting on how unattractive a co-worker is), or in ways that depend on others being hurt (e.g., misogynists and sadists).

      Those aren’t exhaustive lists, but I think they illustrate that is a more complex issue than it may seem.

      And thirdly, it definitely needs to be noted that trolling is likewise complex. A troll may not be interested in sexually humiliating someone online because they are invested in that person, or because they get off on the idea, but potentially because it seems funny to them in whatever context they hold. To a large extent, the adoption of nazi imagery by trolls is less indicative of their political beliefs than their willingness to be offensive and irreverent. And while it may be the case, as you suggest, that trolling is equal opportunity, when trolls attack women, they tend to use deliberately misogynistic phrases and imagery in ways that they likely assume to be ironic.

      More to that point, while I trust that you have seen survey data, it should be noted that self-reporting can only yield so much data, and crucially, it needs to be examined what the function of the trolling was in these instances. As an example, men may be trolled in online video games for being bad while women may be trolled for being present, or for excelling. If everyone is trolled, but the function of the trolling is to police different behaviors, then it doesn’t necessarily make it unbiased.

      Most importantly though, it’s worth considering what perspective we take when we have these conversations. It seems like we tend to assume perfect knowledge as observers when we try to parse these experiences. While there may be some use to determining whether a harasser is motivated by attraction vs. contempt, we need to recognize that the experiences may be indistinguishable from the perspective of their target.

  3. Hey Thomas,

    I was a bit diappointed about this episode.
    While Tracy’s story was interesting and showed a real creep, you mixed this idiot in with other forms of “online harassment”. This guy spammed her but was not sexual in any way.

    I think Tracy herself pointed out, that the marriage request are by middle eastern men. They are probably looking for a ticket to the USA. Who can blame them?

    Neither sexual messages, posts about her appearance or dick pics were really discussed.

    I also feel that you and Tracy have grossly overestimated the likelihood of this random guy doing anything illegal. I assume this fear is triggered by bad reporting, making this seem commonplace. The dangerous stalker of a (real) celebrity is already rare. These cases are most often ex boy-/girlfriends.
    Instead of feeding this fearfrenzy it would have been helpful to support Tracy while keeping the facts straight. This was not a dangerous situation.

    Therefore I think you did a bad job of highlighting what women experience online. I’d love to hear a discussion of online catcalling, dick pics and all the ways of attention that women might not like.

    If I may suggest a reason why this happend. As with the episode regarding Andrew and David (you were in the right) your normally extraordinary critical and sceptical thinking abilities seem to be weakend when your friends are affected. That’s not a bad trait to have, but if you drag it to the podcast please take extra care.

    Love your podcast, sorry I had to write about the one bad episode in a sea of great ones!

    Cheers

  4. The experiences Tracey shared had red flags waving almost from the start and while I agree that statistically the chances of this creepo actually doing anything physically harmful are likely low, just the fact that he felt so entitled to her attention seems psychopathic.

    One thing that was said in passing was that the police always check the ex-SO/spouse (usually male) when any threat or actual harm is done. I’m sure this is true and true because these people often turn out to be the perpetrators. An interesting subject for a future podcast might be a conversation with a psychologist as to why people (again, probably mostly male) turn to violence toward the person they say they want to be with. I guess I can somewhat understand this sort of reaction to rejection if a relationship exists and one of the parties cheats on the other but, in a case where the people don’t even know each other and it is just an obsession on the part of one person, what has to be broken in that person to go from obsession to harm? This could also speak to the sense of entitlement that people feel toward celebrities sometimes and, timely, how some celebrities feel entitled to favor (or favors) from certain members of the public (Mr. Trump comes to mind).

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