1\. Some people took my commission De-bimbofication and (I assume) posted it to social media along with some sexist variation of “women should spend more time reading, less time primping” or “once you start reading, you grow principles”, as if being smart and being sexy are mutually exclusive. They were leaving similar comments on the image itself, forcing me to keep replying “Nope. I’m not saying that. There is no message. Women should be free to dress and act any way they want.”
Most of my artwork is obviously sexual, so people can dismiss it without reading too much into it. I suspect that, because De-bimbofication isn’t clearly identifiable as “porn”, people assumed it must be some sort of social commentary.
2. Other people saw those first social media posts and called out the misogyny in what they assumed was its statement (just like I’d been doing in the comments). nell-fallcard (thanks!) brought this to my attention just as things started getting nasty. She tried to support me against people making harsh assumptions about who I am without bothering to check the image’s origin or context. I couldn’t stand up for myself on Facebook, since it would mean connecting this account to my real life identity (something I’m not yet comfortable with) so I created a Twitter account to try and handle things there. It was tough. I was trying to understand their point of view and present my own side only to be met with mockery and derision. A few people, to their credit, actually treated me like a human being, leading to some interesting conversations. They helped me comprehend what was happening. For a while, it felt like I was alone fighting a huge, faceless, angry mob. If you ever find yourself attacking someone you’ve never met on the internet, please consider that they’re also a real person, with feelings. It’s easy to forget that.
Around this time, I got an email from a Buzzfeed editor, asking for a short interview.
3. Bimbofication is, undeniably, a sexist fantasy. I was very conflicted about this. In everyday life, I like to consider myself a feminist. Can I support feminism and women’s rights while harboring sexist fantasies? What if I create work that caters to others’ sexist fantasies? After all, we don’t choose what turns us on. I believe erotic art is a way to indulge sexist fantasies safely and harmlessly. However, its nature as porn needs to be clear. In the end, that’s what caused the outrage: outside its context, people mistook a sexist, fetishistic fantasy for a statement about the real world. It’s also the reason I apologized; not for creating the image, but for unintentionally offending with its statement.
Until the Buzzfeed article was published, I was freaking out. I barely slept that first night. I realized that the stream of hatred could actually go on for days, with new people constantly discovering the image and being outraged. I also worried about Buzzfeed’s portrayal. Would they present my side fairly and help de-escalate or would they fan the flames? I considered telling my audience what was going on but I worried they might go into attack mode and fighting fire with fire could make things even worse. Thankfully, the Buzzfeed article confirmed what I was saying all along (“it’s sexist, but it’s just porn”) finally allowing me to relax (and sleep).
Once the Buzzfeed article went live, and especially after I was featured on the Philip DeFranco Show the outrage died down. Most of the comments had become positive messages of support. Thank you all! I hate it when people say “I can’t answer you all individually, so I’ll thank you en masse” because it sounds super pretentious but it’d honestly take days to go through all the messages. Know that I read every single one and every single positive thought means a lot to me!
4. Finally, now it seems we’ve come full circle. People are outraged about the outrage. They say “People are too sensitive! There’s nothing wrong with drawing a slutty woman being cleansed by literacy!” which just brings us back to the beginning.
To clarify: the image IS sexist. My work IS sexist. If that turns you on, then great! Enjoy fapping! It’s meant to be a fantasy! But if you use my work to justify your behavior and real-world beliefs, you might want to do some soul-searching.
tl;dr Patriarchy sucks.