Online abuse directed at women who debate feminist politics should be treated as a form of violence, claims new research published in The British Journal of Criminology.
The research – by Ruth Lewis, Michael Rowe and Clare Wiper of Northumbria University – found that most of the women they surveyed had 'experienced multiple types of abuse and almost half experienced it as a routine part of their online lives.'
The authors point to 'a continuum of online abuse ranging from concentrated, frequent, highly threatening and hateful to, at the other end of the spectrum, comparatively sporadic and less inflammatory, unpleasant, non-threatening messages.'
'At one end of the continuum,' they write, 'threats to rape and to kill were commonly reported.' One woman told them:
I was sent messages on a daily basis, sometimes several times a day, on a number of platforms telling me that I was a slut and a whore, that I’m not a real lesbian because I’ve ‘had sex’ with men, despite the fact that my only experience with and around men is as a trafficking survivor. I was called a ‘cum-whore’, a ‘bi-slut’; I was told I deserved my rapes, I was told it was ‘regret not rape’. I was told that I ‘enjoyed it’, I was told that a must have just been a horny kid (I was trafficked from the age of 5), I was told that dykes don’t like dick so I can’t be a lesbian. I was told to kill myself, I was threatened with rape, I was told I like cock, I was told I loved the taste of semen.
'As women and girls challenge patriarchy offline and online, and seek to occupy these spaces on equal terms,' the authors conclude, 'we have witnessed a "backlash" against demands for voice and space in civic engagement.'