I'd love to hear you weigh in on the case of Jason Fortuny, the person who posted an ad on Craigslist posing as a woman looking for a dom male, and then posted all of the responses, including the pictures some men sent him. As a person who receives voluminous amounts of damaging and embarrassing e-mail from people who count on your discretion, I thought you might have an interesting perspective.
It's a sad state of affairs that of the commentary about this so far, all of the articles have gone out of their way to condemn the victims of this breach of privacy for not just being careless about their privacy, but also for engaging in BDSM in the first place. The tone is generally, "What Mr. Fortuny did was wrong, even though those sick fucks probably had it coming."
First, a little reassurance for the folks who write to me: You can count on my discretion. I don't share your e-mails with anyone; when I bring in a guest expert, he or she only gets to see the body of your question -- not your name or e-mail address -- and only after I edit out identifying details. I never forward e-mails to friends, I never share pictures, and I delete all e-mails once they're six months old.
OK, on to Jason Fortuny: I've been following this fucked-up story, Chuck, and it pisses me off in so many ways that I hardly know where to begin. In what Fortuny grandly called "The Craigslist Experiment," he posed as a kinky woman and posted a sex ad with a photo, then invited "str8 brutal dom muscular" males "who like 2 give intense pain and discipline" to write and respond. Now, an experiment is a test designed to discover whether a particular theory is correct, and Fortuny's grand hypothesis basically amounted to this: Would extremely kinky men respond to a personal ad that they believed had been placed by an extremely kinky woman?
Well, what do you know -- they would and they did, and in droves. That should have been the end of this experiment, but Jason wasn't really interested in seeing what sort of response his ad would get, but in exposing and humiliating the men who replied to his ad. Fortuny not only posted their responses online, he also posted pictures he had been sent -- along with real names, work e-mails, phone numbers, physical addresses and transcripts of chats he had with some of his victims.
So what are we to make of this?
Well, it reminds us that responding to personal ads is a risky business. You just don't know to whom (a sexy sub girl?) or what (a total asshole?) you're responding. But let's not overstate the risk: Millions of people post and respond to personal ads every day (perhaps a few hundred thousand less today, thanks to Fortuny), and until now no one has ever pulled such an asshole move. Still, anyone using Internet personals should remember that people do lie, discretion is warranted, you shouldn't use your work e-mail, etc.
What strikes me as tragic about this mess is that the men who are suffering the most for the high crime of wanting to meet a kinky woman -- the men who shared their real names, numbers, places of employment -- were doing the decent, responsible thing. Women into BDSM exist, and they take out personal ads to find men who share their kinks. People like me tell submissive women (and men) to take some simple precautions before hooking up with a new person -- get his real name, get his real phone number, have your first meeting in a public place, ask him to tell you where he works, ask for references. A kinky top is asking a kinky bottom to trust him -- not to actually harm her, to respect her limits, to honor her safe word -- and a top can earn that trust by sharing his real name, phone number and other info that will allow the bottom to confirm that he is who he says he is.
That's why Fortuny's stunt pisses me off so much. It's the men that did the right thing -- again, the guys who shared their real names and phone numbers, the men who sent face pictures and not just cock shots -- who are going to suffer the most. However kinky these guys are, however naive they are (some personal ads are too good to be true, fellas), they shouldn't be punished for doing the right and honorable thing.
As for Fortuny, the sexual interests of the men he's violated so sadistically is distracting some people from the real villain in this piece. The men who responded to his ad, whatever their sexual interests, weren't doing Fortuny or anyone else any harm, and not one of them deserved this. If there's any justice on this earth, Fortuny will shortly be the subject of a similar experiment in privacy violation. Surely Fortuny, like 98 percent of all men, has some sexual interest or interests that others might find odd. I suspect pissed off BDSMers are currently hacking his home computer in an effort to find out.
As for the clenched-butt fuckwits who think these guys had it coming because they're into BDSM, I can only say this: What's on your Internet browser history, motherfuckers? Do you really have no kinks at all? Never spotted a kinky personal ad that you were tempted to respond to? Would you come off smelling like a rose if your fantasy life was spread all over the Internet? Have a little sympathy. It could've happened to you.
To ask Dan Savage a question, write to email@example.com.