On Friday afternoon, Gawker published a long profile of a Reddit moderator who went by Violentacrez. A Texas programmer in real life, Violentacrez has helped shape Reddit’s norms, mentoring and writing documentation for moderators, scrubbing the site for patently illegal content, but also helping establish some of its most distasteful subsections, some openly racist, and others devoted to posting and discussion of sexualized images of very young women taken or republished without their consent. It’s very, very ugly behavior, and Violentacrez, who became a Reddit star, represents the outer limit of speech Reddit will defend. Reddit subsections have responded to the profile by collectively banning links from Gawker sites. But whatever your opinion of publishing Violentacrez’s real identity, the profile and the conversation around it have furthered discussions about a range of misogynistic behaviors, from the belief that men are entitled to images of women, even those obtained invasively, to the idea that men have a more valid right to protection of their identities or to sexual gratification than women have to be free of harassment or to name harassing behavior for what it is.
In the midst of the discussion of the Gawker piece, New Yorker television critic and friend of this blog Emily Nussbaum tweeted “The whole Gawker/Reddit expose is reminding me how thoughtful & prescient Buffy Season 6 was about exactly this type of geek misogyny.” It’s a brilliant observation, and I’d take it a step further. The sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in which the titular demon hunter and her friends find themselves harassed by three young men, Jonathan Levinson, Andrew Wells, and Warren Mears, who call themselves The Trio. These characters are each an important example of three different and damaging kinds of views men can have of women, and what toxic and tragic things can come to pass when those different worldviews are conflated and intermingled.
When we meet Jonathan Levinson, the member of the Trio who has the longest history with Buffy and her friends, he seems awfully like some of the men on Reddit and elsewhere who express profound yearning for emotional and sexual connection with women (in particular), but are afraid such connections are permanently beyond their grasp. His failed high school relationships, which take place on the periphery of Buffy’s adventures, read like a litany of stereotypical complaints about the true motivations of women. There’s the reincarnated Inca princess who wants him for his life-force rather than his person. Cordelia Chase, a popular and beautiful girl, uses him to get over her own feelings of rejection with little regard for Jonathan’s emotions. Later, he has a date to prom who apparently doesn’t last. Jonathan struggles with suicidal impulses that Buffy initially mistakes for murderousness, an indicator of his profound self-hatred. And while Jonathan recovers enough to want to live, to honor Buffy for protecting him and other students at prom, he remains profoundly alienated and insecure.