When Someone Is Wrong On The Internet

This is now happening so often I feel I should take some time to clarify: I am a psychologist, specialised in sexology. Talking about sexuality and writing about sexuality, educating others and providing help is my job. It’s what I do for a living. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy talking about sexuality in my free time or that I’m unwilling to provide information without payment, but when you’re asking me to give my opinion as a professional, you’re asking me to do work for you. And if you don’t intend to pay me for my service, you’re asking me to work for free.

wrongontheinternetI get regular mentions on Facebook when someone I don’t know says something silly about sex work. “There’s no such thing as truly voluntary prostitution!” this person will say, and one of my acquaintances will comment with “Marijke Vonk” and I’m supposed to show up and explain why they are wrong. Just my name, usually, not even a sentence or two to explain why they’re dragging me into this. I don’t care if this random person I don’t know and who has no influence on my life holds an incorrect opinion, I really don’t. If you want to explain why they’re wrong, do it yourself. A while back someone posted “why do some women not like their vagina’s?” and I was mentioned in a comment by someone I’ve never talked to. “You’re a sexologist Marijke, I’m sure you have an opinion on this?”.

If you’re asking me to give my professional opinion on something, you’re asking me to do work. If there’s a topic on Fetlife about research or sexology and you think my knowledge would be relevant in that topic, and you’re asking me to write a whole post explaining the subject, you’re asking me to do work. Unpaid work.

fixcomputerIt’s like asking your friend who knows a lot about computers to help your cousin’s co-worker’s friend fix theirs. It’s one thing to ask your friend to help you, but when someone you hardly know posts on Twitter that their software is giving an error, you should’t post “hey Emily Smith, you’re good with computers! Go help this dude I don’t know fix theirs!”. Asking your friends to do unpaid work for you is sometimes problematic but can be okay, if you’re my friend you can ask me. I’ll even help your mom. But there’s a limit.

I’m willing to do work for free if I think you or your group are doing great things, I give lectures for students for free, I do voluntary work in my local kink scene, I’m not a greedy person. I’ll argue people who are wrong on the internet if I think that conversation would be educational for me, or if I think they have political influence and it’d be a form of activism. Sometimes I hang out on Fetlife because it’s fun.

But don’t mention me on Facebook, just dropping my name in some comment so I’ll come over and do unpaid work. Don’t email me telling me to contribute to a discussion just because you think my knowledge would be relevant. Offer to pay for my work, or leave me out of it.

 

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