Is receiving messages from pimps. For example, I just received the following message on Skype:
European and American women are too arrogant for you? Are you looking for a sweet lady that will be caring and understanding? Then you came to the right place- here you can find a Russian lady that will love you with all her heart. Can’t find a queen to rule your heart? How about beautiful Russian ladies that have royal blood and royal look? Here you can find hundreds of portfolios of these fine women of any age for every taste. Please excuse us if you are not interested.
I am not interested, it’s true, but should I excuse you if I find this message a violation of my privacy? Then there are the people who claim to be following me on Twitter, a great many of whom also turn out to be sex professionals. Those of you who are my Facebook friends may recall that this is not the only kind of advertising that repels me, but there is a theme: any ad that assumes something about my body I find offensive. This is a fairly large category, I’m afraid: ads that assume I am wrinkled, fat, not fat but morbidly concerned about my weight anyway, have yellow teeth are all boundary-crossing from my point of view. On Facebook, you can remove your gender entirely, which I have done: the IQ of the ads goes way up. I am now invited to participate in political campaigns, participate in intellectual events and buy books.
Shows you what Facebook thinks of women, no?
Yahoo mail, on the other hand, gives me only two choices: male and female. So I switched to male. Sidebar ads where stomach fat pulsated in and out were suddenly replaced by muscle building products that will kill me, financial instruments that will bankrupt me and concerns about my — errr, male member (which I do not have, so these ads are of considerably less concern than the ones that suggest conventional forms of female body anxiety.)
But the messages from sex professionals bother me, I would have to say, because it seems like a remarkably impersonal marketing format for that particular product. In addition, solicitations like the one above play to the crassest forms of sexism, articulating non-American women as more “naturally gendered” — pliable, obedient, and not “ruined” by feminism. While I don’t think regulation of speech is the answer, I wish these services would allow each user, and each advertiser, to register. Thus one could choose to be contacted, or not, by sex professionals, as one could in any other media.