When a Starbucks barista named Brody sent an unsolicited video selfie to a woman who had come in for coffee, it’s unlikely that he thought he was about to become an internet meme. But when LA-based model Piper Kennedy uploaded the vid, which shows Brody stroking his face sensuously to a backing track of Drake’s ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’, Starbucksdrakehands spawned hilarious imitations the world over, all of which are well worth checking out if you have a spare half an hour and want to piss yourself laughing. There’s something joyful about the fact that people are coming together to mock Brody’s arrogance - and although some have argued that the punishment is cruel and unusual, you get the sense from watching the video that, once the embarrassment wears off, Brody might not mind the attention. Plus, as one Gawker commenter pointed out, ‘the amount of distilled douche in this video makes it public domain by virtue of its very existence.’
Starbucksdrakehands is another story in what is becoming quite a long line of stories about people who publicly shame those guilty of committing relationship crimes via the internet. Earlier this year, a man named Trevor sent a woman an unsolicited picture of his penis, only to be informed that she had forwarded the image to his mother. Last month, a Washington DC based writer’s attempt to publicly shame a guy who had broken up with her via text message backfired because her response was so vicious and nonsensical (she has a CONDO! How could anyone break up with her?) that, in the end, she came off worse. And let’s not forget Melissa Stetten live-tweeting married actor Brian Presley’s alleged attempt to come onto her during a flight (‘Brian has a wedding ring. I ask him how his wife is, he just wears the ring because he likes it. Right Brian.’)
As a means of ‘calling out’ bad, tasteless, or, in Brody’s case, hilariously-lacking-in-self-awareness behaviour, public embarrassment is very effective. Just as a bit of low level bullying can sometimes perform a useful social function, pointing and laughing at these varying forms of relationship idiocy is another way of sending the message ‘no no, this isn’t okay.’ Whether you think sending someone’s mum a picture of their penis is a step too far is another matter, but it’s at the very least comforting to know that women who are sick of being texted unsolicitied dick pics are taking a stand. Technology makes your general human twattishness much less easy to keep a secret: there’s nowhere to hide in a text, photograph or email, especially not if you have your cock out, so you have to be prepared for the fact that there might be a record of that moment for all eternity. What was intended for ‘her eyes only’ could end up with its very own dedicated YouTube, Twitter account and associated merchandise.
The power play in these situations is also a factor worth noting. When a man sends a woman a picture of his penis without her asking for one, he is attempting to exert control over her, whether he’s consciously aware of it or not. It’s like flashing a woman in a park: the flasher is not giving her any choice in the matter, she has to look at his penis. Arguably, sending the picture to the sender’s mother and making the whole thing public isn’t that big a leap from the act of posting naked pictures of your ex online for all to see, otherwise known as revenge porn. Except when you think about it a little bit harder, in both situations it’s the woman who is being controlled. Revenge porn victim Holly Jacobs stated this explicitly in The Guardian this week, saying: ‘He did it for control. He did it for revenge. He did it for whatever reasons perpetrators normally have for stalking, harassing, and violating others.’ A look at the kind of websites that post these pictures is a distressing experience: pictures of absolutely normal, everyday women, naked or topless and usually smiling at the man taking the photograph because she likes, trusts, and in some cases loves him, with captions such as ‘slut’, ‘loves to bang anyone’ and ‘cheating whore prostitute.’ It’s incredibly grim viewing.
Of course, there’s a world of difference between choosing to make Brady’s mock-worthy video selfie public and publishing some naked pictures of your ex: with the latter, there’s an element of trust in the making of that consensual image, a trust which disappears when an image, video or text that was intended to be private is made generally available. But when it comes to unsolicited images, there was never any trust there in the first place. The moral of the story is clear: don’t send people creepy, strange or explicit things that they haven’t asked for, and assume that they will stay private. And if you’re on the receiving end and do decide to put the thing online, maybe examine your motivations for doing so first, even if only for five minutes in between cackles of glee.
And lastly, if you really must get naked, for Chrissake make sure your face isn’t in the photo.