I’m going to start this off with a disclaimer. Yes, I know the majority of the people who will read this are decent people. This post is not made with the intention to accuse anyone of harassment, nor to say “stop having your little bit of fun”.
So recently there was a discussion on UMD about the ethics of posting found content, and it dredged up quite a few points I feel are worth discussing here. If you’re interested in seeing them (and possibly even joining in the discussion), click the link below. Just note that there is a lot lurking beyond…
If you’re reading this, then you’ve either clicked the link on the TellyGunge main page, or followed some external link. Good on ya! Now without further ado, let’s get to the first topic.
The issue of shame
There are people out there who are straight-up scared of posting finds because of what might happen to the people involved. I would by lying if I said that I never thought “what if the person finds out about us?” whenever I post something (story or find), especially since the Fiona Bruce incident. I also find the idea that people would act like creepy, entitled gits towards anyone horrible, especially when abuse happens because for whatever reason the victim got gunged/pied/put in a bean bath/whatever for innocuous reasons, and that happens to be the git’s fetish.
At the same time, I don’t feel ashamed for liking WAM. I don’t think anyone should, especially since the creeps do not speak for the decent people. Yes, they are damaging to the community’s reputation, but from personal experience, simply being an honest WAMmer doesn’t make you a social pariah. Maybe I’m just lucky in that I know quite a few people with open minds.
Let’s also not overlook that such creepy, entitled behaviour is not unique to WAMmers – while it’s a problem in the WAM community, it’s not a problem with the WAM community. It’s a problem with awful people, some of whom are in the WAM community.
To me, nothing good is ever going to come of the community being afraid of itself. We do need to be more open about who we are, and if you are open about it without being a harasser, that’s good. We should be leading by example, showing the other WAMmers how to make the community look good, and showing the rest of the world that most of us are just normal people with an unusual turn-on. I know it will take a lot more than simply being good, open people, but it’s a good starting point. I also don’t have a problem with feeling reserved about the topic – that’s a good thing in certain circumstances, and it’s not the same thing as feeling ashamed about it.
This is the reason TellyGunge even exists, so it would be hypocritical of me to say that posting found content isn’t okay. As such, I’m not going to say that. However, this is the very subject that got UMD to even have their discussion, so it needs bringing up.
We all know what found content is – it’s any kind of photographic or video footage of a person getting messy that’s posted to a WAM site by someone not directly involved in its creation or initial distribution. Every piece of found content can be separated into three categories: civilian, celebrity and splosher. Splosher content is anything made by WAMmers, for WAMmers. Celebrity content is any kind of content that features a known media personality getting messy. Civilian content is anything that doesn’t fit either category. Each one should be approached differently.
Personally, my approach is as follows:
Splosher content: This generally doesn’t get a look-in for two main reasons. First of all, that’s not what TellyGunge is about. We’re all about the civilian and celebrity content, and a lot of people on here are either members of sites that do cater to that demand, or just don’t go on them. Second, it’s basically porn, or at least that’s how I view it. Since porn (outside of fiction) isn’t allowed by the site rules, I don’t post it. I suppose if it’s technically SFW, I don’t have a problem with other people posting it though, but then I guess that’s an invitation for producers to advertise (to which I’d refer you to the first reason I don’t post splosher content finds – those of us who care already browse other sites).
Celebrity content: When I find it, I post it. Usually, the whole idea is that it’s supposed to be circulated to generate views and thus revenue. If it’s from a news article then I post the article. We get the messy content, they get the views. That only seems fair to me.
Civilian content: If it’s available via public channels, then it’s fair game to me. I would define these as television (including catch-up/on-demand services), YouTube videos that aren’t flagged as private, and other social media outlets or web spaces intended for self-promotion. This is opposed to a web space intended for personal use.
For example, let’s take metal singer Alissa White-Gluz. Admittedly, she’d fall in the “celebrity” category, but that’s why I’m using her as an example. She has at least three Facebook pages – one for Arch Enemy (the band she’s currently in, which she shares with her bandmates and most likely their management), one for her music and public activity outside of Arch Enemy, and one for her to keep in contact with music industry contacts and personal friends. Other musicians have a similar setup, even the ones who aren’t anywhere near the level of success of her.
If Alissa wasn’t a celebrity already, I would say that stuff posted on her band’s page or her non-Arch Enemy public page would be fine. Anything that’s on her personal page would not, and neither would a link to that personal page.
I would also say that information about her would be off-limits. This would go for any civilian. While it’s still terrible behaviour, celebrities know and accept that they are going to receive messages from total weirdos. Civilians do not. Civilians also do not have the luxury of having someone to run their social media for them who can just delete the offending messages without the intended target ever reading them. At most, a first name or pseudonym would be acceptable. Contact information of any kind would also be off-limits for anyone unless the person in question is the one posting it.
“But Alissa isn’t actually a celebrity! You’re probably the only person on here who’s heard of her!” you might say. Well, that segues us to the next issue nicely.
Who counts as a “celebrity”?
First we need to declare what counts as a celebrity. To me, that should be as simple as going onto Google and putting in “define:celebrity”. This nets you with the following: a famous person, especially in entertainment or sport. Obviously in order to be famous you need fame. The definition of fame isn’t great either: the state of being known by many people. How many is “many” exactly? How are we measuring how known they are?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware of ideas of ways fame can be quantitatively be measured, but I don’t think such a method would work. Let’s say we measure fame using a number of search results. Without a certain number of results, you don’t count as a celebrity. How would one decide the number?
For a few examples, consider Tulisa, Holly Willoughby, Amy Lee, Tarja Turunen and Kirsty Gallacher. Using search results, you can establish a heirarchy of fame. Try it out if you want. You may be surprised.
When I tried it, I ended up with a result saying that Amy Lee is over 59 times more famous than Holly Willoughby. She’s about three times as famous as Tulisa, who is slightly more famous than Tarja Turunen, who is over twice as famous as Kirsty Gallacher. I don’t think anyone expected that outcome. If I was to guess why Tarja beats Kirsty, I suppose it’s because a former singer of a metal band with a global fanbase would be more popular than someone who reports on sports for an exclusively British audience. Tulisa narrowly beats Tarja because while her music (and let’s just say “other products”) only caught on in Britain and she’s unknown elsewhere, it’s got a bigger mass appeal than Tarja’s. Holly beats Tulisa, Tarja and Kirsty since she’s a general TV personality, and has worked in multiple shows for a number of years, whereas the rest are (for the most part) known for doing one thing – singing in a particular genre in two cases, and reporting on sports for the other. I’m not sure how to explain Amy soundly whalloping the everyone, though!
Still, not only would a lot of discussion be needed to decide the line, but certain people who are only famous in certain locales would need to be omitted altogether simply because their global fame isn’t high enough to cross the line, or because what they’re famous for is only a niche market. The alternative is that the bar is set too low and anyone can be justifiably be called a “celebrity” when they clearly aren’t. The five examples also suggest that there could also be anomalies within that system of measurement. Yet, without an objective measure, there’s no definitive answer of who actually counts as a celeb, and who’s a civilian. This in turn affects how we write stories about them, present our finds and discuss both.
Dealing with creeps
I’ve saved this for last since it’s the most difficult part to fix. Considering the difficulty of the celeb/civvy dichotomy, that’s saying something. Difference is, this directly affects people’s lives, whereas the dichotomy would only indirectly affect it.
We don’t want to enable the creeps, of course, and that can be curtailed to a large extent with the measures suggested in the last two parts. As for the rest, this should be as simple as reporting them and letting the moderation team on whatever site deal with it. On here it would be that simple, but thankfully we’re rather devoid of that behaviour on here. I also have full faith in the people who run places such as ECG and WAFL so… yay us?
However, I do know that it’s not that simple. Twitter’s report system is a joke. YouTube is basically devoid of human beings running things. UMD is rampant with creeps which their mods are fully aware of. It’s quite apparent that in places like that, simply being vigilant and reporting doesn’t work when it should. It doesn’t help that victims tend to delete their content rather than just block and report, but I sympathise with them when they’ve become the unwitting wank material for a bunch of strangers. On the other hand, pretty much everything is someone’s fetish, and every fetish has creeps so what can you do?
I suppose part of it is that I don’t think the creeps are technically breaking any laws. If I’m wrong on that, then these people are criminals. There are ways of finding people. I’m not saying that to make you feel scared, it’s a statement of fact. If they are criminals, they can be caught and prosecuted. The police would need to be involved. However, there’s not even a uniform set of procedures regarding the police response to online harassment across this country yet, as far as I know, so whether they’d do anything is questionable. Still, they definitely wouldn’t if they didn’t know (and if the creeps are breaking the law), and they’re at least supposed to do something.
Of course, if I’m right that the creeps aren’t breaking the law, then we have a bigger problem whereby they can be scummy and get away with it because the only people who could do something about it aren’t doing so. That is ethically negligent to me. My answer to that would be to make a space of some kind where examples of non-criminal harassment from WAMmers can be shared and published by anyone. It would have to be ran by WAMmers though, to make the point that we are not the problem, and are on the same side as the victims.
Oh, and WamChat needs some moderators. That would help a bunch.
Wrapping this up
We’re in a world where people are more open-minded about kink than ever. Fifty Shades of Grey is a successful book series about BDSM, with a film adaptation in cinemas as I’m writing this. Meanwhile, WAMmers are ashamed of what they are, and a big part of that is because of a few idiots who don’t truly represent us. We need to embrace who we are, and eschewing our worst elements will be a great step towards that. TellyGunge is a very lucky community in that we don’t seem to have many bad eggs, so we’re in a great position to lead by example. We are “the free and open blog about messy ladies” (emphasis mine) after all.
All we need to do is take a fairly common-sense approach towards our finds and stay decent. The only issue is deciding whether or not certain content is civilian or celebrity, and I’d imagine in 99% of cases it’s self-evident.
If anyone’s got anything to add, or has their own thoughts on how the WAM community can present itself as actually decent people rather than the creeps that it’s so associated with, feel free to leave a comment.