I discovered that in a truly disturbing way. I gave a shout-out to somebody who had been googling all kinds of odd things about me. I mentioned him by initials since I didn't think everybody in the world had to know who I was talking to - just this odd googler. Well I shouldn't have bothered, since Andrew Bellware revealed his identity for me on his blog.
Since I monetized my blogs, I like to keep track of what's what with web statistics - if you posted a link to playbill.com, for example, you like to see if it causes lots of people to visit your site. So I check the stats pretty frequently. And when your name keeps popping up over and over in search strings, you tend to take notice - especially when it's your name and some odd stuff, like "love letters."
Now people have googled some odd things about me before in the past - my name + "debt" was one of the creepiest - but I never felt the need to make an issue out of it, except that this odd googler was visiting my site pretty much daily, sometimes several times a day. Now I had only met this person once, and had nothing against him. So I thought it was a bit obsessive - even if he was doing it on behalf of Andrew Bellware's grudge against me.
When the googler responded to my message by googling a bunch of bizarre things with my name in the mix, I was not surprised. And when he apparently got a bunch of his friends into the game (judging by the mix of IP addresses) I was not surprised - lots of people can't stand alone, they have to have backup from their group.
What did surprise me, because I am apparently not nearly as cynical as I thought I was, was the creepy sexual turn the google searches took. These people knew I could read their search strings, and several of them wrote descriptions of sexual assault against me.
I really should NOT have been surprised. This kind of behavior has happened plenty on the Internet. One of the most famous cases was the attacks against game blogger Kathy Sierra. Her case was more extreme than mine, but it is truly creepy the way these men feel the need to make the issue sexual. I mean, it's already pretty ridiculous that they feel the need to gang up against me, considering I've done nothing against them - but that's groupthink dynamics for you. But there's no reason why it has to turn into a sexual thing other than pure misogyny.
As the author of the article A Chilling Effect says:
I know that I am far from alone. Any woman journalist who speaks out steadfastly and strongly against war, violence, imperialism, militarism, nationalism, capitalism, pornography, prostitution, who writes as a feminist or as a human rights advocate, can expect to be harassed and attacked online and offline. In general, she will be attacked not only for her specific views and perspective, but in ways that are distinctly sexist. Her appearance will be mocked or denigrated, she will be described as a man-hater, her writings, activism and life's work will be dismissed and trivialized, she will be called shrill and strident, or she will be threatened in ways that are sexual.
As I said, my case is not this extreme - but it's clearly along the same lines of sexualized violence.
Bellware did not like the fact that I, along with the anonymous blogger of "Nudity Required, No Pay" (and many other female actors I've heard from) consider him an exploiter for offering no pay for acting work, particularly that involving nudity. And so he considers anything fair to use against me.
But none of that is nearly as creepy as these google strings. I don't think that the google strings are illegal, and lots of Internet stuff is too new to have been considered in court. In any case, I have the records and more importantly, Sitemeter has the records in its data archives, should they need to be reviewed. Those who typed the hardcore google strings are not always immediately identifiable, but it's not that hard to figure out identities, sooner or later.
Susan Brownmiller, the author of "Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape" is a Facebook friend of mine and we've chatted a bit. I am going to run this incident by her and see what she thinks.