Does It Matter If It Was for Lulz or for Faps?

Content notice for consent violations of all kinds

The Sam Pepper scandal(? incident[s]? revelation[s]? trainwreck?) has been making the rounds. As I am not a YouTuber, per se, I have been mostly watching without weighing in much. I have cheered on those who are bringing his harassment and assault to light — those who aren’t him, that is, since he seems pretty adept at exposing himself (for what he is and otherwise).

In discussions specifically focused on the “prank” video that started it all, some defended Sam Pepper’s actions as “for fun” and “a joke.” I was reminded of the other times I’ve heard the “but it’s for lulz, not faps” defense.

The first time I entered an explicitly LGB space  and had my breasts groped by a male interloper. He responded to my aghast expression with “It’s okay, honey; I’m gay. Just checking if they were real. They’re nice.”

The Tumblr post by a self-described anti-feminist woman arguing that women ought to be okay with street harassment since her male friends tell her they do it to be “funny.” The lack of genuine sexual interest in the women they harass makes it okay, she thinks.

A story out of the UK where a man convicted of groping a woman’s crotch while she was out with her children saying “I didn’t know it was wrong. I was just having a laugh.”

The self-professed A-cup straight woman who harassed me for weeks about my breasts. She was shocked that I, with my double-Ds, wasn’t wearing low necklines in the workplace.

The street harassers who, when I confront them, tell me to calm down since I’m too unattractive for them to ever seriously consider anyway.

“It’s just a joke” is never an excuse for anything in the first place, but I’m fascinated by this notion that, as long as something is not done for prurient interest, it’s excusable. That if the perpetrators are not looking to get off, they get away with it and are off the hook. That if the ending ejaculation releases breath via laughter rather than sexual fluids via an orgasm, everything is fine.

As Miri points out

When I am being sexually assaulted, I don’t care what the person assaulting me truly deeply believes about this encounter and what it means to them and how they feel about it in their heart of hearts. I am being sexually assaulted. I would like them to stop sexually assaulting me now.

A lack of sexual intent or interest does not render consent violations any less violating.

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Does It Matter If It Was for Lulz or for Faps?
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13 thoughts on “Does It Matter If It Was for Lulz or for Faps?

  1. 1

    I’ve always felt that it’s the lack of sexual interest that makes it harassment. Otherwise it’s poorly done flirting (and also possibly harassment).

      1. OK, true enough. It’s just that I’ve always found it odd when people try to excuse sexual harassment by claiming a lack of sexual intent, when that would just leave harassment. In some ways it even makes it worse as you can’t even fall back on the “I’m just socially awkward” excuse, you’re just being a jerk.

  2. 2

    First of all, I am a big fan of your writing. Thank you. I remember when this issue first occurred to me; it was after a minor brouhaha in 2006 (I am SO old) in which Isaac Mizrahi inappropriately touched Scarlett Johansson on a red carpet (here – http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/video/video-scarlett-johansson-golden-globes-71647 ). I was in law school at the time, which meant I was thinking a lot about intent and its relationship to how we judge actions. Classically, in criminal law, the intended effect of an action is of no concern; rather, it’s the intent to do the action that matters. Thus, Mr. Mizrahi, who I believe thought he was being ‘cute,’ or some such, would be just as guilty as I would be if I grabbed Ms. Johansson for prurient purposes. Lulz vs. faps doesn’t, and shouldn’t matter. This also has a distinct effect on the modern phenomenon of hate crime laws, but to be honest, I am still working through my thoughts on those.

  3. 3

    In Australia we have an issue with “coward punches” – the offender runs up behind someone and punches them in the pack of the head. Sometimes the victim dies. But the important thing is that it’s often done for the lols.

    I haven’t heard anyone claim that there’s no case to answer because of that last detail. Or that there’s a huge difference between someone who does it for laughs and someone who does it because they like punching people.

    Why sexual assault would be diff… oh, wait, it’s “the women issue”, isn’t it?

    1. 3.1

      That’s going to have a minimum ten year sentence soon, iirc. Too many people have died from those punches. Wherever they’re hit, people fall to the ground, usually on cement, and that’s it, either dead or severely brain damaged, their lives ruined.

  4. 4

    This post reminds me of an Ellen DeGeneres comedy sketch where she says something about (iirc) how people use ‘joking’ or ‘kidding’ as if that negates everything they have said or done leading up to that. Person a: “Hey, nice haircut, did you pay for that? What? I’m just kidding.” Person b: “Really? Then you don’t understand how a joke works, if you did, we would both be laughing.”

  5. 5

    *Borg voice*
    Intent is irrelevant.
    *Borg voice off*
    Seriously, though: Intent isn’t magic. Just because your intentions
    aren’t (in your limited perspective) harmful, doesn’t follow that your actions
    automatically cause no harm.
    Whether or not something constitutes harm is best decided by the person
    suffering said harm, rather than by the person causing it.
    Eldrige Cleaver wrote in “Soul on Ice” about how black men should rape
    white girls and women as a way of fighting back against oppression at the hands of white men.I don’t think I have to explain to anyone why that idea is 50 shades of fucked up. Just because fighting oppression is a worthy cause doesn’t make rape
    acceptable. And just because “fun” (it’s only fun when both parties are having any)
    is nice, doesn’t make harrassment nice.

  6. 6

    Yeah, the ‘just kidding’ thing is… guh. I’ve taken to telling people, “You can’t do sexual harassment humor.” When I’m accused of violating their frozen peaches, I go all grammar pedant. “I didn’t say you may not use sexual harassment or rape as the basis of a joke–I am not claiming that authority over your right to speech. I’m saying that a joke must produce a humorous effect in order to qualify as such. You cannot tell such a joke, because you lack the talent, in the same way I lack the athletic talent to run a four-minute mile.”

  7. 7

    I think what stands out to me about the intent excuse is that they’re saying you’re not important enough to them to matter and so that magically transfers over to you because they don’t care about you. So even their most casually indifferent thoughts on your feelings should trump your actual feelings on the matter. Which makes no sense to me.

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