Facebook ‘friends’ can pimp you out for kicks

Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
The Punch /
May 20, 2011 /

Link to original unavailable /

In one of the earliest scenes in The Social Network, the nerds are shown using the net to rank the hotness of women at their university. That nerds are still using Facebook for these very same purposes a decade on should surprise few.

In recent days a private Facebook group has been exposed as trading in images of women. Of pilfering snaps from the pages of friends, of reposting them, of ranking the women like cuts of meat. In a surprising twist, a group which clearly demonstrates no ethics apparently has a code of conduct for members including a mandate to never discuss the group, a rule I daresay imposed for fear of outing oneself as a geek, a letch and as a perv rather than to preserve any Stonecutter secrets.

This scandal, while hardly surprising, raises a host of issues for the rest of us pertaining to privacy, to trust and to ethics.

Ours is not a particularly sympathetic society. As the need for the slutwalking movement highlights, there are people in society who, alarmingly, continue to believe that avoiding sexual violence is in the hands of women. That women need to take responsibility for their dress, for their seductive wiles, for their flirtatiousness because men, apparently are dolts rendered submissive to carnal wants. Malarkey of course, but it’s a story too often repeated.

Society’s lack of sympathy means that women who’ve just woken up today and realised that there’s a fair chance that their beach snaps are now helping nerds with their seed spilling exploits, aren’t viewed as victims but rather as naïve twits at best and as idiots at worst.

Naiveté and idiocy of course, do play a part here.

When a woman uploads a photo of herself onto Facebook – no matter how much or how little she has on – she needs to be aware that judgment will occur. Whether it’s the compliments of genuine friends, the envious scorn of school-chums not spoken to in fifteen years or a rating out of ten by some jerk rapidly making his way through a pump back of hand cream, the image is going to be critiqued.

No, this isn’t fair, it isn’t right and no it doesn’t make the schmucks involved any less the bastards that they are, but Facebook shows us both the extent as well as the gross limitations of the control we have over our own images.

The second we post an image online, we’ve lose control of it. Regardless of how tight our security settings, by putting the photo out into the public domain we’re either naively trusting that our hundred or so BFFs would never dream of betraying us, else, we need to accept that of course it’ll happen. And the less you have on, the more arched your back, the more cleavage on display and the more likely it’ll be traded. Ours is a culture that likes illicit images, even better if they’re images we shouldn’t possess and most certainly shouldn’t pass on.

If it’s a photo we don’t want wanked over, don’t want mocked and don’t want reposted, we shouldn’t upload it in the first place.

Easier said than done, of course. In a Zeitgeist that contends that our lives are meaningless if we don’t have a presence online, in a culture that tells women that their intrinsic value is how good they look in a bikini, withholding snapshots is rarely our default position.

The alternative however, is far more revolting.

The men in this scandal have clearly done the wrong thing. They’ve taken possession of images that aren’t theirs and participated in a club created solely to sexualise and objectify women. Surprise, surprise, they’re creeps. The wrong of the women however, isn’t that they’ve posted the pictures, but rather is their naïve expectations that Facebook friends bear any semblance to those flesh and blood friends who usually resist the temptation to pimp you out for kicks. Fortunately.

© Lauren Rosewarne