Home > Rayne > How The Kathleen Hale Stalking Situation Affects Sex Bloggers

How The Kathleen Hale Stalking Situation Affects Sex Bloggers

October 24th, 2014

Ian Sane / Flickr

Ian Sane / Flickr

I was going to ignore Kathleen Hale’s Guardian piece because it doesn’t affect me. I don’t do many book reviews (though I’m working on three, right now), I don’t often read young adult novels, and now that I know Kathleen Hale is a psycho, I’ll never read or review one of her books, so I have nothing to worry about, right?

You’d think so, except…we haven’t had an issue exactly like this (that I’m aware) in the adult reviewing community, but a few companies have come damn close.

A representative from Pipedream once attacked an EdenFantasys reviewer (I think on the EdenFantasys website, but I can’t remember) for giving their product a critical review. EdenFantasys response (against recommendations made by its community-members-turned-staff) was to instruct reviewers to be more objective in reviews of toys they didn’t like. A few years later, GoodVibes has taken the same stance, calling critical reviews “sex negative” because they don’t take into consideration other people’s bodies, which, to me, sounds more like “your experience only matters if it makes us money” than concern for a person who doesn’t cum like a critical reviewer, but that’s just me.

Shiri Zinn has threatened and harassed reviewers and non-reviewers for multiple reasons, most of which include (but are not limited to) making critical comments and/or writing critical reviews about her shitty Cupcake Vibrator. She’s managed to talk such a big game that even mainstream publications that reviewed the toy (which shall remain nameless) “kept it classy” in their reviews, and avoided words like “orgasm” and “masturbation” to pander to Shiri’s “brand” of…chaste female stimulation. With a cupcake. I’m really not sure how this makes sense to anyone.

The founder and staff of CatalystCon stand accused of bullying and banning people who take issue with some of their beliefs and behavior, and blocking opposing views instead of discussing them, despite claiming to be about embracing different opinions. They’ve also been accused of attempting to ruin careers of people they don’t like, and actively endeavoring to get any person or group who publicly disagrees with them blackballed from other sex positive gatherings and groups. When they receive critical comments, they regularly discredit the commentor’s opinion, publicly referring to the comments as “hate mail”. This has effectively silenced many sex bloggers, sex workers, domestic abuse and sexual assault survivors, and even a few adult companies in the sex pozzie crowd who agree with the sentiment of CatalystCon, but would like to see the conference and its leaders be more open to discussion, criticism, and change.

And then there’s EdenFantasys, who publicly banned a “negative” reviewer with no real explanation and completely disrespected and abused employees before manufacturing reasons to fire them. Then they stole “money” from people who worked for it1. And then, when EdenFantasys members expressed their outrage at what is obviously business as usual for EdenFantasys, someone at the company (it’s unclear if it was the owner or someone else on the staff) cyberstalked the dissenters, stole images that identified the dissenters from their social media profiles, and posted the images and the dissenters’ real names on their EdenFantasys profiles without permission…all of which violated their privacy policy, and could have won EdenFantasys employees federal cyberbullying charges.

(There have been others. These are the ones that come to mind. If you’ve had a similar issue with one of these companies, or a company I haven’t mentioned here, feel free to leave it in comments, or email me at rayneATinsatiabledesireDOTcom so I can add your story to this post and maintain your anonymity.)

But what Kathleen Hale did goes above and beyond all of this (except, perhaps, the abuse EdenFantasys employees endured, but that’s another issue entirely, and is only mentioned here to exhibit the company’s long standing reputation for being assholes).

In her Guardian piece, Hale describes becoming obsessed with an “infamous Internet bully” book blogger named Blythe Harris who had given her a “one star review2” on GoodReads, a social site that allows readers to connect with their favorite authors and people who enjoy similar books. She then proceeded to stalk the woman online.

Hale was asked to do an interview with a book club Harris was involved with, and used the interview as an excuse to gain the blogger’s address. Naturally, as soon as she had that, Hale looked the house up and found out that the owner of record was not Harris. From there, she began cyberstalking the owner of record.

Eventually, Hale visited the home of who she thought was the woman behind the blogger bashing her book, unannounced and uninvited. She left without speaking to anyone, and left a book called A Short Guide To A Happy Life on the step.

Hale resumed cyberstalking the home owner and Harris. On the advice of Nev Schulman from Catfish, she called the home owner at work. Twice.

Then, via the Guardian, Hale outed Harris to the entire Internet for using a pseudonym without Harris’s permission.

And Hale sees nothing wrong with her behavior.

This is made even more scary by the fact that Kathleen Hale writes young adult novels, and the woman whose home she visited has teenagers. What if Harris had turned out to be a minor? What if one of the home owner’s teenagers had answered the door?

Now that her story is on the internet, and people are furious, Kathleen Hale is calling what she did “confronting a troll/catfish” and insisting that people who are bothered by it “didnโ€™t read the piece” and “have little-to-no understanding of journalism.” Because, of course, she did nothing wrong. Cyberstalking someone, shadily gaining their home address, showing up at their house, then publicly outing them is totally just journalism, and not at all abusive behavior, as long as you and those you complain to think the person is unlikeable.

Uhm…what?

Some journalists, up-and-coming authors, and even some well known authors are talking about how Hale had the right to “stand up for herself.” Some people are arguing that because the reviewer behaved shadily (she used a pseudonym and is rumored to have destroyed careers of authors who responded to her “abusive” behavior of writing critical reviews, though the only evidence Hale provides for this is a conversation with an anonymous source), she deserves to be stalked; that she needs to be shown that the people she’s criticizing are people.

Frankly, I’m more than a little bothered by this. If we’re okaying this behavior in mainstream society, there’s no way an adult reviewer will be protected.

The Internet, and specifically social media, has opened all of us up to interactions and opinions we never would have encountered without it. Rather than just hearing the rumors spread about them, people in the public eye now have to face their accusers, in a manner of speaking, and prove themselves worthy of the attention they receive. Which is a joke, if I’m to be honest, but it is what it is. And it doesn’t give any of us, regardless of social status, the right to hunt down the people who criticize us online, show up at their houses, or harass them at work.

If Hale was concerned for her safety, or felt Harris was defaming her or her work, she had three far less creepy options.

1. Ignore Harris.
2. Defame Harris back.
3. Sue Harris.

Instead, Hale chose to stalk Harris and then out Harris for using an assumed identity. And all the while, Hale is claiming she has no idea why anyone would use an assumed identity to review books.

I dunno, Kathleen. Maybe so they don’t have to deal with obsessive authors showing up on their doorstep unannounced, and calling them repeatedly at their place of business? I mean, I’m just spitballing, here, but do you think that might have something to do with it?

I did read the piece. Word for word. Incredulous the entire way. And I think the real problem is that Hale doesn’t understand journalism (or catfishing3, for that matter).

Stalking and journalism are not the same thing. Journalists can be sued and/or charged with criminal harassment (and have been) if they overstep their bounds. And what Hale did was, unequivocally, stalking, not journalism.

I’m completely and utterly mindblown that, after giving the entire World Wide Web all the information police would need for an arrest, Hale has not been arrested for what she did. I can only imagine that the blogger chose not to press charges, which is certainly her right.

I use a pseudonym for many reasons, not the least of which being to protect me from the people I moved to New York to escape. But there are others, like preserving my husband’s job, and protecting my children from reading about my sex life if they Google my real name. You best believe that if someone stalks and outs me, I will press charges.

And I guess that’s all I have to say about that.

1. Many people who discussed the “Pointspocalypse” were reviewers only, and only discussed the affect this had on reviewers. This caused those not affected by the points debacle to poopoo it off. “Well, EdenFantasys is having money trouble, and they did leave themselves a loophole in the agreement. Besides, reviewers were paid with the toy they reviewed. How much payment do they want?” However, the affect went much deeper than that. At least three programs that did not involve receiving a free toy in exchange for services were paid for in points, essentially making points into currency and the people involved into freelancers. SexIs Social (a program which paid community members in points for content) and both editing programs (one for reviews and one for SexIs Social) were paid for in points. Many of the program members saved the points they made for things like Christmas, or luxury toys they wanted but couldn’t afford. Some members had thousands of points accrued as payment for their services when EdenFantasys decided to change their agreement, only allowing points to go toward 15% of an order. This means freelance writers and editors were shafted out of hundreds (and, in some cases, thousands) of dollars in payment for goods and services.
2. It turns out there was no actual review. The blogger was simply updating her status on GoodReads as she read the book.
3. Hale and others keep calling this situation “catfishing”. This term is incorrect. A “catfish” is someone who pretends to be someone they’re not on the Internet in order to date someone who wouldn’t normally go out with them. If “Blythe Harris” is, in fact, a pseudonym, that’s not the same thing. Pseudonyms are used to protect the identity of someone, for whatever reason, but not usually out of a desire to fool people. Even well known authors use pseudonyms.

  1. thesindoll
    October 24th, 2014 at 12:08 | #1

    I… can’t even. FFS. Crazy people.

  2. Tequila Rose
    October 24th, 2014 at 12:13 | #2

    I’m really glad you wrote this article. I read about the Kathleen Hale incident and was completely appalled at how she behaved and like you, I refuse to ever buy any of her books because of her behavior. When I read the article, I didn’t give it much more thought, but you’re right. If an author can do this to a book blogger, what’s stopping someone doing this to a sex blogger/sex toy reviewer? It’s scary because a serious line has been crossed and a precedent set that this kind of behavior is perfectly okay. I have heard about some of the things that has gone on with Catalyst Con but had no idea that sex toy websites have all but banned negative reviews. It’s sad to hear about any writer being mistreated like that. I think from now on I’ll be making sure to not buy from EdenFantasys anytime soon.

  3. October 24th, 2014 at 12:58 | #3

    Great post and certainly something to think about. I won’t let it influence my style of reviewing though. If some company can’t handle my honesty they can suck it. Though I’m pretty nice about things unless something is a total rip off. It’s only our opinion after all.

  4. October 24th, 2014 at 13:17 | #4

    @ dizzygirl I don’t think anyone should let it influence their style of reviewing. I think all of us reviewers, regardless of genre, need to continue making it clear to people submitting their work for review that behavior such as this is not acceptable.

    Thanks for your comment. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. October 24th, 2014 at 13:19 | #5

    @ Tequila Rose It is scary. Thank you for your comment. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. October 24th, 2014 at 13:19 | #6

    @ thesindoll I know, right? Oi!

  7. October 24th, 2014 at 18:37 | #7

    This is F**k**g insane! I knew about EdenFantasy, just not that much detail. As far as Ms. Hale, my god. Wtf?! I’m absolutely speechless with her behavior. Being a victim of cyberstalking I do not take this sort of thing lightly. However society still has faults with actual stalking laws and now add cyber into the mix-forget about it! Really makes a person think about being online as themselves or with a pseudonym.

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