Anonymous Assaults

Patrick Brown ruminates on the bizarre world of internet voyeurism and its relation to sexism:

[Film theorist Laura Mulvey] argues that simply looking is a pleasurable experience, and the cinema affords this pleasure by providing an atmosphere in which men are free to look at women, for as long as they please and with clear intent. She says, “At the extreme, it can become fixated into a perversion, producing obsessive voyeurs and Peeping Toms, whose only sexual satisfaction can come from watching, in an active controlling sense, an objectified other.”

On the internet, this seems to be compounded. We’re free to look with impunity, and in some cases, we are free to anonymously harass, as well.

Of course, it is sometimes pleasurable to be looked at, as well. While the internet indulges both of these impulses to look at and to be looked at it seems clear to me that we have once again forced the women more often into the latter role.

Despite the great leveling effect that the web has had on the media it’s given a voice to millions of people who would otherwise largely be silent we are still creating a system of “sexual imbalance,” in Mulvey’s terms.  This is most acute where the female image actually appears on fashion blogs, personal blogging platforms like Tumblr, and of course pornography but it is present, more or less, throughout the net. In fact, I’ve often found that what provokes the anonymous assaults, more often than not, are not pictures of women but arguments made by them.