Why you should care
Because a desire to have sex, in aggregate, can be absolutely relentless.
I was just finishing up three years of production on a documentary about the world’s best prank phone caller, Longmont Potion Castle. I had the idea to “go method” to gain insight into the processes of Longmont and started pranking people via text. I posted the screenshots of my pranks to Instagram and it took off.
I primarily got my numbers from Craigslist, and eventually I began asking followers to send me numbers. They obliged. People sent numbers of their partners, their asshole landlords, co-workers and friends. As time went on and the numbers rolled in, I started to notice a trend: I was all-too-frequently receiving requests from women asking me to mess with men who had been rude, harassing and abusive.
I knew that women were often bothered by men looking for sex, but the scope of this harassment shocked me. Grocery stores, laundromats, at work, at the gym, in parking lots … the harassment was far from limited to nightclubs. No, it’s commonplace for servers to get unprompted numbers from their tables, scrawled on receipts left behind.
Worse yet, when they DO get numbers, they say crude things, they stalk, they beg for nudes. They are positively oblivious to the fact that this is predatory behavior. I was getting more and more numbers and hearing more and more horror stories. So, I put a call out on my Instagram, this time with my personal phone number attached.
“Are you being harassed by aggressive men trying to get your ‘digits’ or whatever? Give them my number. Or, do you work with the public and someone gave you their number? Please send it my way and I’ll mess with them. Be safe.”
The numbers poured in. I started getting texts from strangers. Some normal, all with a slightly flirtatious tone. My modus operandi usually involves me reciprocating interest, stringing them along and ultimately revealing wild, over-the-top statements about myself to scare them off.
I’m partial to telling them “I” love to smoke “jib,” and that I suffer from chronic diarrhea (lovingly referred to as “d-sauce”). These men invariably end up calling me something to the tune of “disgusting whore” and block my number. It has become formulaic, almost. All of them were the same. None of them were surprising.
Recently, however, I engaged in a prank text exchange with a guy that left me seriously freaked out. I was no longer dealing with a mere Thirsty Boy. I was dealing with a pimp.
The business card in the photo read “Cathouse Owner.”
“Some dude gave me this card in line at Wendy’s. He was adamant I take it,” came the message on Instagram, which included the photo of the card. Included on the card was a phone number and an Instagram handle. “I think this guy was offering to pimp me out.”
I was intrigued and got right to work texting him. He texted me back. He asked if I was “ready to party,” and I confirmed. This is where things took a turn for the worse.
“Are you ready to sell your pussy for Daddy?” he asked me.
I was awestruck. I had dealt with some weirdos but nothing like this. He also revealed that he had a “street team” out there “recruiting females.” So it wasn’t Mr. Cathouse himself who forced the card upon the young woman at Wendy’s, but it was his consigliere. Begrudgingly, I continued our conversation and had him meet “me” in various locations I never intended to show up at. Much to his growing ire.
“Where you at, girl, where you at?” he texted me. I could sense his impatience. The longer it went on, the more the exchange left me feeling gross and dark, and I couldn’t shake the feeling. I had to do something.
I googled “human trafficking reporting [city name]” and found an organization called The National Human Trafficking Hotline, an organization that “connects victims and survivors of sex and labor trafficking with services and supports to get help and stay safe.” I called the 24/7 hotline and, after about a 30-minute wait, I got to speak to someone. I told her what was up, and she took down quite a bit of information, like the guy’s phone number, the address he had given me, and all the details of how this woman in Wendy’s was given the card.
The woman at the hotline informed me that they MIGHT turn over the information to the police, but that their mandate was not to involve the law. It was to provide support and safety to victims. She asserted that contacting law enforcement sometimes put victims in danger, so they had a team that reviewed information on a case-by-case basis and made a decision from there. She told me the police may contact me. As of this writing, they have not. I thanked the woman for her time and hung up.
I still felt kind of helpless and wished I could do more, but I trusted the hotline and hoped this guy would at least be put out of business. I then did something I don’t normally do with my texts: I broke character. I pulled up our conversation and wrote, “You’re human garbage. I hope when you go to jail, someone pimps your ass out for a 10-cent cup of toilet wine.” He didn’t respond.
I’m still pranking, though. Waking up to “Good morning, beautiful” is now part of my daily routine. It’s become tiresome, but I persist for a reason. To say that this long-winded social experiment has opened my matriarchal eye would be an understatement. I have a wife and two daughters. Misogyny is not some foreign concept to me. I’ve experienced firsthand the difficulties they face daily.
But, I find that when I’m subjected to the harassment, as they are, I no longer just glance at the actions of men through the lens of a woman: I’ve become the woman myself. Make no mistake: If I could assign this experiment to every man on the planet and subject them to the hostile environment they create for women, I believe the world would begin to operate on a slightly more balanced, more humane level.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this means nothing. Maybe I’m just having fun. But maybe, just maybe it could make a difference somehow.