How One Woman Fought Back Against Her Online Harassers

(Photo: Facebook/Instagram) 

Mia Matsumiya is a professional violinist.

And now, she’s also a semi-pro Instagrammer.

Under her handle @perv_magnet, Matsumiya is publishing Instagram screenshots of the countless obscene messages she has gotten on social media, many of which are not only graphic and sexual, but contain threats of rape and other forms of violence. 

In an interview with Huffington Post, Matsumiya said, “Being 4’9”, Asian American and a musical performer has sort of been a nightmare combination when it comes to harassment. It seems to attract an insane amount of unacceptable, predatory behavior.”

We have embedded some of the messages sent to Matsumiya in this story, but please note that most were too offensive to publish, so for the full effect visit @perv_magnet.

But Matsumiya’s situation brings to mind another question: Why do people feel like they can act this way online? 

“When someone leaves a comment on a website, they are distant in time and space from the person who wrote the initial article or post,” Art Markman, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, tells Yahoo Health.

“On sites in which the comments are anonymous, they are also socially distant from the writer. This distance helps people think about others more abstractly. So, they don’t really focus on the object of the comments as a real human being having real human reactions,” says Markman. “This distance gives people license to say things that they would never say to someone face-to-face where they would have to deal with their reaction to the comments as well as their immediate feedback about what they had said.”

And sometimes those secret thoughts normally inhibited by in-person communication can take a turn for the dangerous. One man who had sent Matusmiya messages was eventually arrested, at which time police discovered a hard drive full of not only photos of her, but stories penned by her harasser in which he detailed his fantasies of stalking and raping her.

Since launching her @perv_magnet account, Matsumiya now faces a fresh deluge of negative comments online — many from men who are explicit in telling Matusmiya that they don’t know what she is complaining about.

Said one @perv_magnet commenter, “in some of these guys defense you are a 5 foot tall Asian whom [sic] is pretty hot I don’t have fetishes Per se but I think everyman would be attracted to you.”

Many commenters, however, are women who are using the comments section of the account as an outlet for solidarity and support after having encountered similar behavior online themselves.

And, Markman says, that’s a very good thing, providing the social support to calm, assuage, and validate one another’s experiences.

The reason so many of those experiences, unfortunately, exist?

“There isn’t a social norm for getting into arguments in public, which tempers people’s reactions. As a result, fights rarely break out in public places,” Markman says. “When someone reads a post on the internet, though, they are often alone and there is a social norm for people to make nasty comments. That combination leads people to be more likely to say offensive things in comments.”

“I didn’t deserve to be treated this way and neither did other women,” Matsumiya told Buzzfeed News. “I decided I needed to do something about it, so I created the Instagram account…. I want these messages to demonstrate the crazy, awful, and unacceptable things women receive online.”

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