Note: This story includes some graphic descriptions.
Every woman who has ventured online is well aware of the perils. Sheltered by anonymity, sexual predators thrive on the Internet, where sending vulgar missives rarely has consequences.
Most women cope by promptly deleting these inappropriate messages and trying to forget about them. Mia Matsumiya, a professional violinist based in Los Angeles, chose to save them.
For the past 10 years, Matsumiya has collected over 1,000 obscene communications she’s received in a folder called “creepiness.” Now she’s sharing them all with the world, on a tongue-in-cheek Instagram account aptly named @perv_magnet.
According to Buzzfeed, Matsumiya gained a following after she started blogging about her band performances in 2003. Since then, she’s received a seemingly endless torrent of sexually aggressive messages on Facebook, MySpace, OkCupid and other sites.
The public product of this attention is part modern art piece, part depressing reflection of what Internet users will say behind the safety of a screen.
“Five years ago, I wanted to make a coffee table book out of all these f—ed up messages,” Matsumiya told Newsworthy. “I thought they were hilarious, anthropologically interesting and would make an entertaining but disturbing read.”
Despite the dark, explicitly obscene and downright threatening material in Matsumiya’s collection — several messages include references to rape and other forms of bodily harm — she approaches the screenshots on Instagram with humor.
One message prompted her to say, “Please someone get me my Purell.” On an Instagram post showing a Facebook message that reads, “use crest and you’ll be alright….can i tie you up and brush your teeth?” Matsumiya’s caption read, “This is so offensive. I only use Colgate.”
Some of the messages are too vulgar to be published here.
Many of the messages make reference to Matsumiya’s race. “Being 4’9″, Asian American and a musical performer has sort of been a nightmare combination when it comes to harassment,” she told the Huffington Post. “It seems to attract an insane amount of unacceptable, predatory behavior.”
Though Matsumiya said she is largely desensitized to the tenor of these messages, she became frightened when she discovered that one of the men who sent her frequent messages had been arrested for stalking another Asian woman.
When the police found him at a public library, she told Buzzfeed, the man had a hard drive containing photos of Matsumiya and hundreds of pages of stories in which he fantasized about stalking and raping her.
Matsumiya told Dazed Digital that at one point, the harassment became so severe she stayed in Japan for six months, “barely using the Internet” until she felt safe enough to return to the U.S.
Since the inaugural @perv_magnet post went up four weeks ago, Matsumiya’s Instagram account has garnered over 26,000 followers. Many of the commenters are supportive of her project, with some women exchanging horror stories of what — or rather, who — they have encountered online.
On the other hand, others might as well be featured on the Instagram account themselves.
A commenter wrote in response to one post, “in some of these guys defense you are a 5 foot tall Asian whom [sic] is pretty hot I don’t have fetishes Per se but I think everyman would be attracted to you.”
“The biggest critics are the ones who believe that I’m bragging about how many ‘compliments’ I receive,” Matsumiya told Dazed. “Have they read these messages? They’re so dehumanizing, degrading and aggressive. I’m guessing these might be the same guys who actually send these messages.”
According to Newsworthy, “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn suggested that Matsumiya simply repost some of the comments and keep the Instagram going “in an infinite loop.”
Considering the state of the Internet, it’s indeed hard to imagine Matsumiya running out of material anytime soon.