Stop Textualizing Me - Social Week

ADDITIONAL CONTRIBUTORS Sophia Polin

By Sophia Polin

Photo courtesy of Intel Free Press.

Straight White Boys Texting really couldn’t fail. When it launched in January, it already had a massive core audience identified: anyone who’s ever received a tactless come-on from a man via technology. You know, the majority of women living in the developed world.

Huffington Post called it “The Tumblr of Our Time.” Complex.com credited it for “showcasing all the lame texts you shouldn’t send.” Overall, everyone was, and is, excited about it.

The blog explicitly says that the submissions do not necessarily need to come from straight white men. They just have to engender the “straight white boy text.” Usually they include a lewd non-sequitur or an extreme textual fumble followed 12 hours later with “stupid autocorrect.”

I was previously unaware that straight white guys were notoriously bad texters. Suggestiveness is one thing. The artlessness exhibited on SWBT, however, is just shameful.

The difference between suggestive and shameful is an important one. Some commenters think that SWBT unduly blurs the lines. Granted, many of these commenters seem to be straight white men indignantly preaching some iteration of the “#notallmen” argument. Some of these are very eloquent, and at least give the illusion of liberal-mindedness:

“[T]he title of your blog is a little unfair, I’m sure plenty of straight white boys are to blame for this kind of texting, and some are funny, but your title breeds contempt of ‘straight white boys’ before they have even participated in any of these ridiculous conversations.”

Very true. But the blog isn’t called “All Straight White Boys Texting.” It’s just for laughs. In this case, says the curator–and I think many of us can agree–some trite generalizing is acceptable.

But one anonymous commenter–who specifies that he is not straight, presumably to distance himself from the rest of the naysayers–raises an interesting point. He says:

“Gay guy here–isn’t some of this going into the slut-shaming territory? Grindr (and I would assume Tinder) is not a place to find a soul mate… Many people, myself included, are there for sex/ts. Sometimes I’m looking for dick immediately and that’s not a problem. I get where it gets creepy and gross after someone said no, but a few of these post are people’s just initial engagement on ‘sex apps’. It’s not creepy, it’s sex-positive. Let’s see more posts of actual patheticness.”

The curator of the blog responded saying that she agrees. Standard straightforward texts or dating site messages are not posted to the blog because “that’s what the app is for.”

For the benefit of those who’ve tuned in late: sex-positivity is the endorsement of safe sex with an emphasis on communicated consent. But “Anonymous” and the curator of the blog both assume that a user’s presence on a dating app is synonymous with consent. If that were true, SWBT would probably receive half the volume of its current submissions. It seems that the humor in these texts comes as much from the sender’s audacity in violating the poster as it does from “actual patheticness.”

Sex-positivity on the internet is great. Social media has become an essential part of sexual expression. It enables supportive communities based on sexuality–Autostraddle and queerty, to drop a couple big names–to exist on a large scale. Apps like Grindr and Tinder bring what was historically the most private aspect of life into the public. The building blocks of revolution are definitely there. But why, then, do we “need” something like SWBT to call attention to the missteps?

It all comes down to an uncomfortable question. Is sex-positivity on the internet exclusive?

Is it meant for everyone, or is it for people whose sexual expression has long been undermined by white men? (As a disclaimer, I’d endorse both.) If it was for everyone, we wouldn’t be so casual about stigmatizing the sexual expression of an entire demographic of people. Even if many of the individuals belonging to that demographic really deserved it.

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