Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Oct 10, 2013

A weekly chat about the best ways to kill time online. Our Web Hostess, Monica Hesse, sifts the Internet so you don't have to, searching for meaning, manners and the next great meme.

Afternoon, everyone, and thanks for stopping by. The government is shut down. The chat is not! Apologies for the absence last week. I was delirious with the flu and didn't even realize what day it was until I'd already missed the chat.

Do any of you have tales from the furlough? Suggestions for how to pass time when you're either passing time at home or the lonely essential employee in your office?

What we were going to talk about last week -- pre-flu -- were a few stories of people behaving atrociously (or not) online.


The first is a story that many of you probably saw circulate, about the woman who went on a virtual rampage after a man she'd been on a few dates with sent her a breakup text. Read the texts and the history of their relationship here, and then come back and share. Do you find her response to the situation to be: 100% repugnant? 100% admirable? Some percentage in between? Please share the percentage breakdown, and why.

The second topic of discussion:

This email, composed by a Georiga Tech student, and circulated to his fellow fraternity brothers. The goald of the email was to help his brothers score at parties. Please read the full text, and attempt to divorce yourself from preconceived notions you might already have heard relating to the email or its contents.


Next, please compare the fraternity email to this infamous email from last year, sent by a University of Maryland sorority sister, which accused her sisters of being socially incompetent at parties.


Which email do you find more shocking? More offensive? And why?

I give you what I consider a perfect description of the shutdown: what brought down Margaret Thatcher in 1991 -- a poll tax proposal that the Sunday Times' Robert Harris thundered was "a fatheaded, boneheaded, dunderheaded, blunderheaded, muttonheaded, knuckleheaded, chuckleheaded, puddingheaded, jobbernowled wash-out of a cockup."


I still feel like I'm missing something after reading that post because she goes from him maybe coming on too strong with the wine weekend date plans to spewing paragraphs of how her birthday was "ruined" when she got a very polite brush off, in which she was complimented! Maybe it's because I'm way older than 26 without having any books published, but yikes! Sorry you didn't get to reject the "sloppily drunk" guy before he rejected you after one date, but I don't get where the vitriol is coming from. That's before she gets his boss involved!

I think you (we? The universe?) might be missing some nuance here. She's not actually saying that her party was ruined because he brushed her off. She's mocking him for thinking that her party would be ruined by his brush off. i.e -- she's not mad that he doesn't want to see her. She's mad that he thinks so highly of himself as to believe that she'll be wounded by him no longer wanting to see her. Right?

The section where they overlap can be labeled: Prioritizing guys' egos and genitals.

That's what's really fascinating, isn't it? The guy's email is all about  how males can get what they want out of the night. The girl's email is all about...how to make sure males get what they want. She goes so far as to say that if her sorority sisters are having a good time talking to each other, that's not enough. They need to be talking to the boys.

100% repugnant. Period. The guy dodged a bullet here. Sorry, but this does everything to reinforce negative stereotypes of millennials.

Does it reinforce stereotypes about millennials? Or just glass bowls?

and I don't understand how anyone could feel otherwise.

I'm waiting to see if anyone here does. I'm also wondering if people would feel differently if she hadn't contacted the boss. Is that the final escalation too far?

The UMd e-mailer just made a total ass of herself and offended her sorority sisters. The GTech one actually encourages rape.

This is why I was asking people to try to read the email divorced of anything they had heard about the letter. I think it's interesting that he uses the word "rape" twice. The first time, it's a directive: "DON'T RAPE." The second time, he's signing off: "Yours in rapebait." 


The heinous "rapebait" phrase is what people seem to have latched onto -- it negates the first directed. If he had left the R-word out of the letter entirely, and it had just been a letter about grinding on girls, would it have been so offensive? How much does the r-word play into our disgust?

I liked the juxtaposition of what she likely thought was a sarcastic and disaffected "obviously I am but a 'girl,' hysterical with emotions..." with "I was still so agitated 10 hours later that I had to leave opera rehearsal early."


Also, it's worth mentioning that the "two published books" she felt the strange need to bring up in her text message are both self-published and sound like clinical studies in narcissism. A description of one:


"When Quin Woodward Pu—a straight-A Asian-American extrovert from Georgia with a penchant for vodka, designer shoes, and older men—receives her acceptance letter from Johns Hopkins Medical School, she is forced to make a decision between giving up her hard-partying, man-eating ways and continuing her fabulous VIP lifestyle and pursuing a more glitzy and glamorous career. Type A+ is the memoir of her transition from MCAT-teaching pre-med free clinic volunteer to directionless, yet fabulous and resourceful, freelance writer."

It is a tad ironic, that in a response striving to come across as, "Don't worry about me, bub, I'm too cool for you anyway," she instead comes across as insecure. Which made me feel sorry for her more than anything else.

My opinions on the discussion topics (I am a 33-year-old woman): 1) I find her response 100% repugnant. OK, he could have at least *called* her instead of texting her, but he was polite, honest, and did not lead her on or jerk her around or "infantilize" her as she claims. I think what I find most repugnant about it, though, is that I had a very similar reaction to being dumped by someone I saw for about four months, back when I was 27 - I went bats--- crazy at a party, which is where he did it, and I'd been drinking too much. and it was just embarrassing and bad. So, I probably judge her as "repugnant" because it makes me think of my own such behavior.


2) I find the fraternity email more offensive, because it goes rather out of its way to tell the brothers to avoid being "rapey" while offering them advice to achieve exactly that end; also, they backpedal and claim that it was okay to send because it was only originally intended for a handful of people. Nope, not cool. But I find the sorority email more shocking because I can't believe there are actual girls in the world who write/talk like that, and will probably make more money than me one day. /snark

Your self-reflexive cringing it noted. Who among us has not witnessed a member of a younger generation behave badly and immediately felt embarrassed -- not only for them, but for our younger selves who once behaved in such a way?

but by acting like a spoiled brat and dragging him through the very public mud, she's proving that she did care and her feelings were hurt. And he was just being overly polite in the text brush off -- if he hadn't been solicitous she would've been pissed he wasn't. He was in a no-win situation. You can't beat crazy, you just have to try to stay a step ahead of it.

It's all so complicated, isn't it?

Good lord. My first DC boyfriend had a binder full of gross pick up artist articles on how to escalate and what to demand from dates. It was disgusting. He had a rule that he had to hold hands with a gal on the first date or there wouldn't be a second date. And now he's married and I'm living with my parents. I have nothing to say about that.

I do: His poor, poor wife.

The guy's boss is probably going to ask his employee if he should call the police since he's being stalked by a nutcase.

Now, question: If you were the man in question, would you want people to know? Would you wear being the recipient of such a thing as a badge of honor? Or would you be embarrassed to have been involved at all?

When did people start writing year 2000-whatever as 2k..? Ew.

I don't think people *do* do that, actually.

It's called projection, isn't it, where you accuse someone else of doing what you are doing?


Am I the only one who mentally read this in the voice of Harry Potter's Uncle Vernon?

Oh, no -- Uncle Vernon never would have been creative enough to come up with such a glorious string of insults.

this has been going on in some form or another since the beginning of higher education. Heck, since the beginning of male adolescence/young adulthood. Anyone who doesn't think this is how young dudes, in college or out, talk when they get together is incredibly naive. #Porky's

See, I don't think it would surprise peple to know these types of correspondence circulated in the days of Porkys. I do think that we expect people in general to be more enlightened regarding gender issues, and treatment of women. The same way a boss calling his secretary "Sweetie" or patting her on the butt might have been acceptable in 1955, but would be an immediate sexual harassment charge now.

Reading that Phi Kappa Tau e-mail made me cringe -- and I'm a guy. It seemed like a really bad, ham-handed rip-off of Neil "Style" Strauss or David DeAngelo (two well-known "seduction" gurus), but without the "science" involved. Oy.

Or was it a rip-off of the sorority email? That's what I kept wondering -- if the dude was trying to achieve the same over-the-top notereity that the UMD student had just the year before.

I hear it in John Cleese's voice, myself, and I bet I'm not alone.

I hear it in Meryl Streep-doing-Maggie Thatcher's voice.

I remember when the sorority email exploded all over, and it was kind of shocking, but I still laughed and thought, "wow, guess we know who got the placebo." I couldn't imagine too many of her sorority sisters taking her seriously. The other one isn't just kind of horrifying. Besides all the obvious behind it - the rape, the objectifying, the getting girls drunk so they're more pliable even if rape doesn't ultimately happen - the total disregard for the un-horrible frat boys got to me. Specifically, the ones who realize women are actual people, or the ones who don't want to take advantage of others even if it means the other guys think they're lame, or the ones who don't like acting fake and interested, or the gay ones. Cuz no, of course every frat guy is exactly the same and wants nothing more than to get in a hot chick's pants. And then I was privately amused by the frat letters - the first one is the equivalent of our F, so their frat is abbreviated "FKD."

I agree with all of this, I think. On the whole, I think that the fraternity email was "worse" than the sorority email. Still, I think I was more shocked by the sorority email, if only because we have grown to "expect" this from sleazy males -- but women? I'd still like to think that women would be looking out for each other, rather than throwing each other directly into the arms of the sleazy males.


To recap:

Frat email = more offensive.

Sorority email = more shocking.


In my opinion.

I think it's important to note the directive used in the letter, "if anything ever fails, go get more alcohol." In the previous paragraph, he says "no raping," but the alcohol directive seems to contradict that entirely by implying that if one is unable to obtain consent through one's "game," one should instead incapacitate the object of one's dubious affections with alcohol. This leads me to one of two conclusions - either, first, by saying "no raping," the author is only paying lip service to the concept that rape is bad without believing it himself, or second, that he simply does not understand that a person who is too incapacitated by alcohol or other substances is incapable of giving consent, and intercourse with that person is rape. Both of these conclusions are extremely problematic. Further, the letter does not, even in the absence of the signature, limit itself to mere "grinding on girls." The goals enumerated in the author's "seven Es" paragraph include "excavation" and "ejaculation," indicating penetrative intercourse. Between the alcohol directive and "seven Es," this would read as extremely offensive to me, even without the signature.

Thanks. I can't remember -- maybe someone can refresh my memory -- does he specifically say that the males should be plying the girls with alcohol while the males don't drink? Or is it possible he's implying that alcohol should be used as a general social lubricant: i.e. "Men, you go drink more, too."

Not that this changes the outcome, but it would be an interesting to know the motive.

Wow. No, WOW. These are both horrifying. I think the first is somewhat less so -- yes, she is completely in the wrong, between the disproportionate anger for a reasonably polite blowoff (look, I get that -- been there, been led-on (the way-too-soon wine weekend planning points to a sweep-off-the-feet approach that I've seen from the wrong end), and been irate about it) and the off-the-charts inappropriateness of contacting his boss. (OTOH, old man, you play in the 20-something pool, you accept a higher risk of immaturity -- and you use your work device for communication, you risk this kind of blowback. So not much sympathy here.) But the Georgia Tech thing -- yikes! Newsflash, skippy: intentionally getting your target really drunk actually IS rapey. (Also, what makes this reprobate any kind of expert on women? "If she starts putting her hair over her ear, THAT MEANS SHE WANTS A KISS. Therefore, try to give her a kiss on the cheek." Um, I do this all the time. IT JUST MEANS MY HAIR IS IN MY EYES OR TICKLING MY FACE IN AN ANNOYING WAY. Criminy.)

The knowledge that putting one's hair over one's ear signifies wanting a kiss would come as a surprise to many, many human beings.

I wrote the Porky's comment. See, I guess I'm just cynical, but I don't expect much of anything from people, especially when they think they're only talking to their peers (see: Romney and the 47%). Of course, I do believe we've made progress in our attitudes and behaviors, but I also read enough online comments (including here on this site!) that show the old prejudices and insults are very much alive and well.


I know we're all sick of this, but have you seen the one with the contruction workers? Priceless. 

I think we all needed this break.

It sickens me but it doesn't surprise me. And I definitely don't think it says something about men in general, but it does say something about frat boys. That's why I never dated any when I was in college. I always went for the nerdy guys and I always will.

In defense: I know some lovely nerdy guys who were also in fraternities, and some lovely non-nerdy guys who were in fraternities because they believed in community service, or had a harder time making friends, or wanted to live off campus, or any number of other reasons.

Did I miss the part where she shares how she thinks someone should break things off after one date? 'Cause that text seems just about right to me. Would she prefer he just suddenly cease communicating with her?

You raise a good question: What would have been the "proper" protocol?

Me? I guess I would say that if you have another date specifically planned, and you now dislike the other person strongly enough not to go on it, then you should cancel by phone, or by email, not by text. But that's just one opinion.

UGH UGH UGH I've heard this one brought up multiple times as a sure-fire indicator of attraction. As someone who is not currently looking for romancin' but IS enduring the long haul of the center-part-to-side-part hair transition, this bit of "common knowledge" makes me want to enter seclusion until that one lock that keeps "seductively" falling over my eye, Veronica Lake-style, finally learns how to behave.


I think she was 100% in the wrong and I think that guy dodged a giant, crazy bullet. I recently received a break-up text from someone I went on three dates with (two of which were all day long outings) and while I would have preferred an email, he was at least polite and clear about his wishes. Did it suck? Yes, I liked him a lot and thought things were going well. Did it ever occur to me to post his name and messages publicly and send him a nasty, bltchy, immature response? NO. She makes herself look like the baby here.


home sick with creeping crud in my lungs and bored. trying to figure out what to stream on netflix (no cable or hulu or anything). seen orange is the new... already. not interested in house of cards. already rewatched freaks & geeks. really wish six feet under was on streaming... suggestions?

Do you watch Parks & Recreation? It's just what I would be in the mood for if I were sick.

Sorority girls used to, and probably many still do, express the feelings of the infamous e-mailer but in far more socially acceptable ways. Snide little put-downs, or the "we're only trying to help you" kind of demeaning.

"We're only trying to help you feel bad about yourself."

the thought that only men in fraternities act like that when they are 18 is ridiculous. I know everyone hates fraternities, but they do not have a monopoly on badly behaving college students.

Yes, this.

(Sorry, guys -- technical difficulties. I just got kicked off and had to reboot).

yes, I do. have seen them all already but it maybe time to rewatch. thanks!

What are you in the mood for? Let us help you.

Mindy Project! No idea if it's on Netflix or not though.


Talk about a First World Problem.

(She is joking. She is playing off of the idea that she is a Delicate Lady).

discuss. I think it's so bizarre. Like he was trying to take a selfie and had it on video instead of pic? but then why send? Regardless, i like the animal recreations.

I can't believe I forgot to bring up Starbucks Drake Hands.

""A striking new study found that reading literary fiction --  as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction -- leads people to perform better on tests that measure empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence." 

Eh, I think this is just another version of the endless fat vs. carbs debate. In a few years, there will be another equally valid "study" proving that we all become better people by reading pulp sci-fi.

If you like sci-fi, "Firefly" is excellent. If you like British period pieces, "Downton Abbey." And I love the Agatha Miss Marple (the Joan Hickson version)--very gentle and period. And you know, I really got into "All Things Bright and Beautiful" when I was pregnant. If you like modern spy stuff, "Burn Notice" is really entertaining. (Upon looking this over, my list is a bit random...)

Random is what we need, I think, since we didn't have a huge amount to go on.

Arrested Development! (The original three seasons are much better than the fourth, but even sub-par AD is still better than most shows.)


Is anyone else wondering what would happen if those two got together? 

I'm not entirely convinced that they're not the same person.

I want to know Father Cupcake's view on this. Or does he teach English composition rather than English literature?

He would think it was -such- baloney. Every John Grisham novel I've ever read was given to me by Father Cupcake.

The most terrifying thing about that "Drake Hands" video is that he's clearly doing this because he's under the impression that it's "cute."

I think that' s a theme of the chat: having a gaping wide gap between how you come across, and how you believe you come across.

I'm sorta in the mood for something really trashy & nobrainer. Like... the original Beverly Hills 90210 trashy. Or retro 80s tv like Small Wonder or Silver Spoons. Quantum Leap. The sort of thing I watched when home sick growing up. Not a movie. And thanks but no on Mindy project- tried to get into it when it started and it really grates on me. I think Parks&Rec may do the trick despite being none of those things... it's been a while since I've seen the early seasons.

What you need is "Sliders," the mid 1990s TV show about time travel. But I don't think it's availabe on Netflix. Pity.

It's after 3, and I have to scoot. Everyone behave yourself online until next week, okay? GSTQ.

In This Chat
Monica Hesse
Monica Hesse is a staff writer for the Post Style section. She frequently writes about culture, the Web and the intersection of the two.

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