Dear A**hat: An Open Letter to Men On the Internet

I recently opened up Facebook to see that a friend of mine, Sophia Benoit, had posted a screenshot of a man who was saying some very inappropriate things in response to a joke she had posted on Twitter.

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I was angry. "When would that kind of statement EVER be appropriate to say to anyone?"

A minute later, Sophia posted another screenshot of this guy sending more inappropriate comments her way. One of Sophia's Twitter followers had interjected and told @urbanteabag to stop harassing women. His response?

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"If it leads to her bedroom, then I'm good. Very good at it."

When I saw this screenshot, I said a few choice words and nearly threw my phone across the room. I was glad when I saw Sophia cut the guy down to size publicly, in front of 16k people.

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Still, this guy kept coming with persistent harassment -- even to the point where in a response to another joke on twitter, he implied date-raping Sophia.

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Harassment is something that women experience almost daily. Buzzfeed staff writer, Grace Spelman endured persistent and terrifying harassment from former MuggleCast host, Ben Schoen.

That story can be found here.

Writer and stand-up comedian, Dani Fernandez has received numerous messages on Facebook from different men being overtly flirtatious/creepy. She posted screenshots of these messages to her public Facebook profile.

In messages to me, Dani said

I finally decided to screenshot it and share the actual message on my public Facebook. I just wanted people to know what it looked like and what we deal with on a daily basis. And that we aren't exaggerating. This is what they really say to women. And not random men either. I only add people if we have mutual friends in common. But even if it were random men on a fan page or something, it's not acceptable.

I felt bad calling them out, probably because it looks like I share my private messages and I hate that. Someone said it made me look like an attention whore. But -- by finally sharing it, I learned both men have harassed other women. One is an alcoholic who has gotten kicked out of shows but continues to come back and harass the comics, specifically one of my female friends. We had friends in common. I never would have known.

It's difficult being in stand up because we are supposed to be able to handle weirdo fans or hecklers. But this is different. This is me handling it. I wouldn't ignore a heckler. So I'm done ignoring these. Not when they are hiding behind a screen.

These are not just isolated occurrences -- this is a deep-seated belief in the mind of a man that tells him it's ok to send a sexual message to a woman without any preamble, and in most instances when the woman politely ignores, or declines -- the man comes back with an even creepier, more threatening message.

Men, we can do better. Men, we MUST do better; we must BE better.

Harassing a woman online is not a lesser evil, because it's "online" or "behind a screen." Harassing a woman online is on the same level of evil as a man that singles out a woman on the sidewalk, catcalls her, ignores her requests that he leave her alone, and continues to follow her to her car.

And when called out, you cannot use these scapegoat excuses:

"She should learn to take a compliment!"

Do you realize how offensive that statement is? A woman does not owe you thanks for your compliment. Learn the definition of a compliment, you delusional creep.

"There's nothing wrong with saying hello."

There is something terribly wrong when the way you say hello sounds like a horny cave troll greeting a potential mate.

"Women are so sensitive -- they should know people get drunk and say random shit."

No. No. No. You astonishing idiot. You don't get to write off your blatant objectification of women because you and the lads had a few beers down at the local watering hole. You didn't send that message to her because you were drunk and beer-goggled; you sent that message to her because, somewhere in the dark crevices of your f*cked up psyche, you think it's ok to subject an innocent woman to your own depravity.

To the a**hat on Twitter, to the repeat offenders on Facebook and to the catcallers in cites everywhere: Women do not exist for your pleasure. Women are not tools for you to use to get off; and you do not have the right to use them as such.

Women deserve our respect and they deserve to be treated as forces to be reckoned with - because they are. They are far more admirable than the sniveling men who hide behind screens and throw pungent words at women who they believe to be their lesser.

And men, if you see a woman being abused and harassed by a man, whether in the streets, or on the Internet- support her in calling out that creep. Say something- but please don't jump in and mansplain to a woman how she should be handling the situation.

Imagine you see a woman getting mugged and you walk up to her and say, "Honestly, you should just block him."

No. Just don't do that. Call that guy out on his shitty approach at talking to women and let her handle the situation the way she wants to handle it.

Send a message that says you won't stand for anything other than the respect that men owe women -- because they deserve our respect, not our 2 am drunk texts.