I must admit, reading about “Spotted” in the news once again came as no surprise to me. Sadly, it seems everyday a new wave of internet indecency or nastiness becomes part of the norm.
And, make no mistake, the materials posted upon “Spotted” are particularly grotesque. But, I still have to question; aren’t such materials in many ways merely an expression of freedom, and of being human?
In truth, it is completely normal and part of everyday life – men and women will look at, talk about, fantasise about and trade lewd comments/pictures of the opposite sex. They don’t need the internet for this either.
So, I have to ask – how far is too far on the internet?
And, has “Spotted” reached, breached and exceeded the limits?
For those of you who don’t know what ‘Spotted’ is, allow me to provide you with some shockingly foul-mouthed quotes which illustrates it clearly (warning – profanities follow);
“That blonde haired girl who just walked into the 2nd floor of the library is fucking banging” – ‘Spotted: Reading University Library’ (3718 likes).
“To the dirty skank… for gods sake buy some new leggings!! jesus christ! i can see your minge!” [sic] – ‘Spotted: Swansea University Campus’ (2407 likes).
“To the girl talking about harry potter. i think your arse might be a horcrux, im gonna have to destroy it tonight” – ‘Spotted: Kent Uni Library’ (4209 likes).
These comments are typical examples of what “Spotted” has to offer. Male university students and their velvet tongues, produce one disgusting comment after another, and it is shrugged off as a type of compliment that their female peers should enjoy receiving.
“Spotted” pages are in fact part of the Facebook family. They are pages that encourage students to write comments and messages about their peers, which are published anonymously by page administrators. Many of the pages target specific universities (each page supposedly run by a student at that institution), with hundreds of different pages appearing on Facebook. Many of the pages have been liked thousands of times.
The “about” sections of most of the pages innocent enough, they encourage students to share funny incidents, grievances or secret crushes, but the reality is very different. Many of the pages consist of heavily sexualised and offensive comments about students’ appearance and sexuality, and female students are targeted with particularly misogynistic comments.
“To the stuck up slut who looked at me as if I’d just slipped a finger up her grandma…“ –‘Spotted: University of Portsmouth Library’ (7460 likes).
Some posts include images, seemingly uploaded without the subjects’ knowledge or consent.
A current post on the ‘Spotted: University of Essex’ page (3955 likes) shows a young woman sitting at a computer, apparently unaware of the fact that her underwear is exposed above the waistband of her trousers, or of the fact that she is being photographed from behind. The caption on the photograph reads: “Nice bit a crack in the reading room.” [sic]
Another picture featuring a female student, again taken from behind and apparently without consent, appears on the “Spotted: Coventry University” page (4097 likes), captioned: “Asian girls and their asses though.” Several of the posts nastily blend racism with sexism.
A post appearing on the ‘Spotted: Hotty in Hartley Library’ page (3493 likes), displays a picture of a female student from behind, and asks fellow students to identify her so the poster “can get on that”.
Many posts inform female students what their male peers would like to do to them, or are doing while watching them:
“To the girl on the c+ floor with the red toshiba laptop… i was sitting next to you a few hours ago. I literally couldn’t take my hand out of my pants the whole time.” [sic]
“To the hot girl sitting opposite me on level 3, do you mind if I have a cheeky danger wank whilst looking at you?“
“To the sexy brunette on the 4th floor, will you be my girlfrien? I didn’t add the D because you’ll get that later.”
Others veer from sexual objectification towards bullying:
“To the girl in the floor 4 toilets, you’re not Niagara falls, at some point you’ve gotta stop flowing.”
“The fat bird standing by the printers on the first floor. Don’t want to shag, but could really do with a cuddle.”
Is it all in good fun??
A National Union of Students study reveals that 68% of female students experience sexual harassment during their time at university, and one in seven are seriously physically or sexually assaulted. These statistics actually shocked me; I didn’t know this was the case, and I doubt many female students (current or future) would know either.
So, how harmless are such pages if they feed into a wider student culture which increasingly treats young women as sexual prey?
And, do such pages merely demonstrate, and ensure that sexual harassment infiltrates every part of the academic arena to the point that there are no limits?
I then wonder;
Does “Spotted” encapsulate a new culture of objectification, harassment and misogyny?
How can this freedom of speech be curtailed, or, should it be?
Is “Spotted” just boys being boys or is it more sinister than that?
If you or your daughter were on the receiving end of such grotesque comments, how would you react?
All I can say;
I am thankful “Spotted” didn’t exist when I was a student. It was daunting enough entering the new environment of a large university, leaving home, being frightened, unsure and anxious over everything. I certainly wouldn’t have appreciated contending with this form of bullying and harassment too.
“Spotted” is childish, dangerous, aggressive, soul destroying and cowardly; not the best way to demonstrate what a UK university education can teach you.
Perhaps, a little less lady spotting and a little more studying wouldn’t go amiss.