Harmless fun? The pitfalls of ‘Rate My Shag’ culture

It’s time to reassess how ‘fun’ some facebook pages really are, writes Jem Collins.

facebook-on-laptop-rate-my-shag

During the last month, social networks have witnessed an explosion of “Rate A Shag” pages, where users are actively encouraged to rate their partners’ performance for all to see.  As one page for the University of Kent, now banned, asked: “Have any stories about your conquests? A ‘mistake’ you need to get off your chest? Or just want to give credit where its due for a job well done? Well here is your chance!”

It’s simple: just send a private message with the full name of your unsuspecting partner, a rating out of ten and any other notes you wish to add. What could be simpler? The page admins will even keep your name anonymous to spare any unwanted embarrassment. Don’t worry about feeling guilty for divulging private information either – it’s only “bantz, a bit of harmless fun” one student explains to me. Except sexual humiliation simply isn’t funny.

Whether you see sex as part of a long-term loving relationship or simply a recreational activity to fill time on a Sunday afternoon, there’s no denying that it’s one of the most intimate acts possible between two humans. It leaves us almost entirely exposed; and not just in terms of flesh on show. Making love, bonking, getting jiggy with it… Whatever you call it and whatever the circumstances surrounding it, sex is unquestionably an agreement of privacy and trust between two people. It leaves us at our most emotionally vulnerable and, for the most part, what happens in the bedroom should stay in the bedroom.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t talk about sex; on the contrary. Frank and open discussions about intercourse and its implications provide a clear benefit to society. Malicious online shaming, however, does not. One student I spoke to about such pages was aghast. “It’s absolutely disgusting. Firstly there’s no way to prove that somebody has ever spoken to or seen a person, let alone slept with them, and even then it’s a vindictive way of verbally abusing someone.”

Indeed, the whole system is inherently biased towards abuse. Protecting the name of the writer offers a further cloak of cyber anonymity and a clear opportunity for misuse. Of course we should all be free to be as liberal as we like when discussing our own sex lives – but not at the cost of someone else’s dignity.

And sexual humiliation can have devastating consequences. Charities and police forces alike have reported countless calls from “hysterical” teenagers, upset at rumours posted anonymously online. One 22 year old told the BBC she was even approached at work following an online “slut shaming”. She said: “There was a boy who had the webpage up and pointed at me and said, ‘Oh, so if I gave you twenty quid what would you do for me? My main worry was that my dad saw it. The moment he would have seen my name and the word sex by it, I knew that it would have cause uproar. He would fly me to the rest of the family in [the middle east]. It would be all over. I would never see England again and that would be how I’d live.” The girl even said she considered taking her own life.

While the main bulk of sites linked to universities have been shut down, the problem is far from gone. Copycat sites spring up in seconds and the Facebook staff themselves admit they’re having trouble keeping on top of the problem.  Perhaps more worrying, however, is the internet culture that is creating and feeding these sites and millions others like them.

The web may offer countless opportunities, but its very nature distances us from real life and morality. In the cyber world we’re all one step removed from our own identities – we can be whoever we want to be and do whatever we want to do – and crucially we’re one step removed from the consequences of our actions. The internet doesn’t come with tangible faces, voices or feelings, leading to a dangerous breeding ground of abuse, cruelty and humiliation that’s all too tangible for the victims.

So before you press enter on that “hilarious” picture of the weird looking guy to the “Spotted in _____” page, or reveal all on last night’s encounter, stop and think for a second. Would you really drag someone up on stage in front of millions of people to yell that they are crap in bed? Didn’t think so.

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“I shall not eat until victory has been won”: 60-year-old ATOS victim declares hunger strike

George Rolph, a sufferer of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is currently one week into a 60-day hunger strike aimed at ending the Government’s contract with ATOS.

george rolph hunger strike

Four hours ago, the protester wrote: “I can expect to live for around 60 days without food. That should be enough time to mobilise a huge protest to get ATOS stopped and to demand retribution for the needless deaths that have already happened.”

In the statement published on his facebook wall, Rolph, 60, explained how his life had been transformed beyond recognition by ATOS and how the company has done the same to “thousands of people” who are now dying.  The statement has currently been shared 180 times.

Rolph had been assessed three times with the result in his favour on each instance. On the fourth occasion  however, ATOS deemed him fit to work.

“There was no sense or logic to it” he said. “If I passed three times and nothing had changed, why had I failed on the forth occasion? This smelt of a whim. Someone at the assessment centre had made a decision that I was going to fail in order to meet their target. They met their target.”

After seeking help for his condition, his only aid came in the form of a list of books which his local library could not afford to order in, many costing £60 or more each. He was unable to afford any of the books on the list.

Eventually, he was determined to attempt working from home, but was forced to quit after three weeks due to his worsening condition. Upon leaving this job, he was living below the poverty line, with bailiffs knocking and no means to live.

“When my last pay cheque ran out I sat in a house with no power and no food wondering if I would starve or freeze to death first. Finally I went to a local church and began to beg. I had never felt so degraded in my life.”

“I used to read reports in the media of people living a life of luxury on the dole and wonder how they managed it. I never read about what it is really like.”

Rolph previously worked helping men who were victims of domestic abuse, but when his mental health caused erratic sleeping patterns, among other symptoms of PTSD, it became impossible to hold down a job. He reiterated  “I wanted to work but I could not do so… the doctor made that decision when he gave me the sick note to take to the DWP [Department of Work and Pensions].”

Rolph’s facebook wall has seen a flurry of supportive messages from friends and strangers, many of whom claim to also have been unfairly persecuted by ATOS doctors. Today alone, 23 well-wishers have thanked the protester for his courage, as well as his decision to begin drinking water again. “Please remember, you are more valuable to us alive than dead” wrote one backer.

The London-born protester hopes that this hunger strike will spur others into raising their voices loud enough for the government to hear. “I beg you. Help me to win it so we can help those who cannot help themselves” he wrote.

George Rolph’s supporters claim the Conservative Party, Department for Work and Pensions, and ATOS have so far refused to comment.