And another thing...

The blogosphere is still not over the urge to define, out, educate about, and try to guard against creepdom. Fucking good. You have no idea how much time I spend telling people to not be idiots and if they don't want to be around someone, don't be. If you want to dig around deep inside your head and figure out why they're creepy, more power to you, but you should do it far, far away from the person who provoked that feeling.

I do most of my modeling business online. This means I do a lot of vetting of photographers sight-unseen, while we're still corresponding via email. There are some things you can get from writing and some things you can't, although the list of things you can get is a lot longer than most people realize. I tend to solve ciphers and cryptograms pretty much just by looking at them, and when people boggle, I tell them I'm cheating: I know that whatever it is, it was invented by someone with a human brain, and human brains all work in some pretty standard (or standardly non-standard) ways. If I know where the ciphertext is from, I know what the composer's native language is to a pretty high degree of certainty, and if it's part of a game, I know that it's intended to be breakable. Plus I'm familiar with most of the historically common encryption techniques, and the basic math and linguistics I need to apply them. I actually know a huge amount of what's going on, even if I don't yet know what the decrypted text says.

Online interactions are a lot like that. I've done this a while, and I know what the standard protocol is for a photographer contacting a model or vice versa, for negotiating payment or trade for work, and for how the people in this kind of business relationship are supposed to treat each other. If the 'tog I'm talking to deviates from the normal pattern, it sends up a flag, just like if I start unscrambling ciphertext and it turns out to look like gibberish instead of language, I know I'm on the wrong track.

One of the big red flags, strangely enough, is getting told "you're beautiful". You'd think this is polite erring on the side of flattering, but you'd be wrong. It's deeply out of place. See, I work on indie sites like OneModelPlace and Model Mayhem. Though some of the models are actually signed to non-exclusive talent agencies also, OMP and MM are self-managed sites, which means that the models are responsible for putting up and tending their own profiles. Every woman on there is fully aware that she is considered attractive enough by a large enough segment of the population to get hired for modeling work -- otherwise, she wouldn't be there in the first place. Beauty-wise, the place is a remarkably level playing field. What makes the difference is skill, experience, and whether the kind of beautiful you are is what the photographer or designer envisioned for the project they're doing.

Getting a response of "hi, I want to work with you, you're very beautiful," therefore, is not meaningful in a business negotiation sense. What is it for, then? It's a form of artificial goodwill. It's also rather a bad sign. The photographer is starting out by A. trying to give me something that B. I didn't ask for, which C. he imagines that I want, although D. he's not imagining very accurately. In a way it's a sort of a threat, or a weapon: I'm making a show of being nice and obliging, you have to be nice and obliging in return or you'll be rude and in the wrong.

It's insidious. It's basic psychology. It's also a common scam, in other areas of life. Typically what happens is a skeezeball somewhere ships a box of office supplies to some other business, waits until they've gotten it and have probably started using it, then sends a horribly inflated bill for whatever they shipped over. Under US law, you are obligated neither to pay for nor return unsolicited merchandise that has been shipped specifically to you, but the scammers take advantage of the fact that most people feel kind of dishonest just taking stuff and waving goodbye, even if they didn't ask for it.

I am old enough, experienced enough, and just plain rude enough that I don't fall for it. I had a 'tog a couple of months ago show me proofs and then withhold the retouched versions, telling me, "I'll help you out, but you have to help me out too." He wanted me to get into a car with him alone and drive out of state to another studio for another shoot. My answer was HELL to the NO on that one, and I will never, ever work with him again. Photographs are not valuable enough to spend time alone with someone who uses tactics like that.

In the wider world, people, particularly women, who are the targets of this sort of creeping are often ignored when they complain, or told that it's so sweet that he thinks you're pretty and you shouldn't bitch about that just because he's awkward. It's also the main point of the creeper accusation that, "You'd like it if I looked like a movie star!", implying that it's wrong and hypocritical to respond differently to advances from people you like and advances from people who make your skin crawl. This pisses me off to no end. Not that the modeling community is at all perfect in the way they deal with creepy fuckers, but this particular sort of victim-shaming does not fly at all within it. Anyone who even thought about saying, "Oh, come on. Take it as a compliment!" would probably have a very well-dressed and photogenic lynching in their future. Not to mention well-documented -- the creepy fuckers tend to make the legit 'togs see red, if only because it makes their lives and livelihood much more difficult.

Another reminder that it's mah berfday soon. Allons-y!