Updated: Jul 14
I've been writing on the internet for over ten years. In that time, I can't tell you how many editors at dumpster fire websites like The Frisky and xoJane have tried to come for me for calling out their bullshit.
Sarah and I frequently discuss Medium's misogyny problem on the podcast. In our latest episode, we talking about this piece of hot garbage by "Matilda Swinney" (I'll get to why her name is in quotes in a minute. Editor's note: since publication of this post Matilda has since changed her Medium profile name to Amber Cezanne. That's not suspicious at all.)
My Teacher Punished Me for Being a Bad Girl
The accompanying photo of the story is this:
Photo credit: Garin Chadwick
When I first read the post, I saw no mention of the protagonist's age. Upon reading the comments, I noticed someone - a dude, because of course - compare the story to Lolita.
Apparently, I missed the line where she says:
I was a late bloomer. My whole class had finished with puberty a year or so ago. We were all 18 after all. But, for some unknown reason, my boobs were only just growing.
I don't remember seeing it, probably because everything about this story, including the photo, is written with the intention of conjuring up the image of a young (read: underage) school girl. Just because you add a throwaway line confirming that the girl isn't underage doesn't make the story about a student being coerced into having sex with her much older headmaster any less disgusting. In fact, I wasn't the only person to feel this way. Here's another comment:
Can’t say that I like that very much. I thought we had overcome such things. This is rape, misuse of influence and other elements that we don’t want. I am not a puritan. Of course there can be sexual relationships between teacher and student, but not like this
Because I found the story offensive, I sent a Tweet to Medium and cc'd the only editor I knew.
What ensued was three editors, two of which weren't even tagged, re-enacting Lord of The Flies.
When someone uses technically in this context, that's often an unspoken admission that the act in question is questionable. I replied and pointed out the comments, both of which support my original claim that the story was disturbing and appeared to be about an underage girl.
I honestly don't know why the other two editor's got involved, especially after I explained why I tagged Jessica Lovejoy. In any case, they swarmed like editors of these publications tend to do. That's not what bothered me. Been there, done that. Here's what bothered me:
First, I used to teach blow job classes. It's how I started my whole career as a writer and business owner. So, I'm clearly not uptight or a prude. Implying that I am is just a way to try and shame me for having an opinion on this story. And then we have the "bully" accusation. Again, this is not my first rodeo. I've been called a bully before, and it's another way women try and silence other women for calling them out on their bullshit. In this case, what I'm calling out is a clear-cut case of unenthusiastic consent being framed as erotic. I shouldn't have to defend why I found that story unsettling. The editors focused on the fact I mistakenly read the post believing the woman was under age likely because the over-arching complaint - that they are defending thinly-veiled rape porn - was undeniable.
Whether the protagonist of the story is 18 or not isn't the point. It's a man in power using his influence to get a woman to have sex with him. Full stop. I shouldn't be surprised that editors of Medium defended it given the utter shit they publish on a regular basis trashing women.
With that rant out of the way, here's where things get interesting:
is associated with this person
A Google search of him pulled up this (Scroll down to About the Venue and the Teachers -Amber Cezanne was formerly Tilly "Matilda" Swinney on Medium.)
I'm not sure how they're connected, but they clearly are. They're both fitness trainers who, apparently, also write erotica. Their posts mirror each other's. Here's three examples I found.
(NOTE: Since publication of this post, the above article was deleted. Again, NOT SUSPICIOUS AT ALL.) https://medium.com/sexography/i-asked-my-boyfriend-to-rape-me-fde4352fa7a0 https://medium.com/sexography/how-to-approach-the-rape-fantasy-as-a-man-5037a03daf3a
Do I think the erotic stories told are true? No. Of course not. That's not my complaint. I couldn't give less of a fuck if someone earns money writing manufactured erotica, with two exceptions:
It profits off the exploitation or abuse of women or involves unenthusiastic consent
It's written by a dude posing as a woman
This story ticks off both boxes. I can't say for sure what is going on there, but if I were a ton-foil hat type of person (and I am) I'd put money down that a man wrote that post. The last time I suspected a viral xoJane article was a fake, it turned out not only was I right, but that there were numerous accounts just like the xoJane article all over the internet.
As one writer friend put it, "Medium is The Wild West." It allows anyone to post whatever they want. Unless, of course, it's an uniformed piece of hot trash that makes them look bad. In those cases, they'll take the story down. To be clear, I don't care if people read or write erotica. I've dabbled in it myself. However, if you're going to allow NSFW content on your platform, take some responsibility for what goes live.
ETA: The fact that Swinney aka Amber Cezanne has made the effort to change her online identity and remove anything that connects the online persona Tilly Swinney/Matilda Swinney to Steve Halsall should be enough for Medium to investigate. This information has been passed along to them. As of Jul 15th, nothing has been done.