Spam network: Hold on to your networks!

I get, as most folks do, a lot of spam in my inbox. A lot of spam.

And, as most folks who follow my blog know, I dedicate some time to tracking down that spam, especially when it involves hacked Web sites.

Lately, I’ve been getting a tremendous amount of spam that all looks pretty similar. It usually offers phony lose-weight-quick products, miracle hair regrowers, and other health and beauty scams, and the emails all tend to look pretty much the same. Here’s an example:

Pretty bog-standard stuff.

These emails invariably contain URLs that are either hacked sites or sites that have no content at all on the home page. The hacked sites are straightforward; the spammers hack the site, put in a new subdirectory, and put an index file that redirects to another site. The sites that have no content on their top level are a puzzler; it’s not clear if the spammers are setting up these sites themselves, using fake or stolen credit card information, or are hacking into sites that have been reserved and configured for hosting but have never had any content placed in them.

Where it gets interesting is in what happens after that.

Clicking on the URL in a spam email takes you to the hacked or blank site, and leads to a redirector. The redirector leads to another, and another, and another, and another, until you finally end up at the spam site. The chain of events looks like this:

The first stop on the chain is, a URL shortener used by Hootsuite, the social media company that lets you manage multiple Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media accounts.

Hootsuite is a large, rapidly-growing company that is filled with bright, ambitious programmers who appear to know very little about security and nothing at all about abuse prevention. I wrote a blog post a while ago with a flowchart of Web 2.0 startups; Hootsuite appears to be somewhere in the early stages of the Loss of Innocence part of the chart, having not yet keyed into the fact that their URL shortener is becoming popular with malware droppers and spammers. (The poor naive dears are still so innocent, they have no mechanism at all for reporting spam! I predict that’s going to bite them in the ass in an ugly way, soon.)

After that, things get more interesting.

click here for technical stuff!

It’s finally happening!

For years, I’ve been on-again, off-again working on a book on polyamory.

It’s been discouraging, in that all the publishers I’ve talked to want me to make it a personal memoir, and that’s not what I want to write. The project has been languishing for a while, by which I mean for several years, lost beneath the shuffle of More Important Matters.

It has finally, at long last, been resurrected. My sweetie Eve and I have started working on a new book, one that combines her ideas about polyamory and mine. It’s going to be a monster–it’s looking to shape up as a 500-page hands-on guide for folks who want to explore polyamory, chock full of problem-solving ideas, hints and tips.

We’ve launched a new blog which will contain progress notes, ideas and essays that don’t fit into the Web site More Than Two but also don’t make it into the book, and more.

We’re going to crowdfund this project; to get around the small but nevertheless still niggling issue that publishers want a different book from the one we want to write, we’re launching a full-fledged publishing imprint to go along with it.

If you’d like to know more, check out the blog and keep watching this space!

Some thoughts on rape culture

A couple of days ago, someone on a (closed) Facebook group I belong to posted a link to a blog post about rape culture.

And, predictably, one of the first comments to that link was along the lines of “this is just another attempt to say that male sexuality is bad.”

It doesn’t even really matter where the linked blog post is (though if you’re interested, it’s here); the “you’re just demonizing men” reaction comes up on any conversation I’ve ever seen about rape culture, as sure as night follows day. And it’s annoying.

It seems to me that if that’s your take-away from discussions about rape culture, you aren’t paying attention.

Male sexuality is not inherently evil, and acknowledging that rape culture is a thing isn’t the same as “demonizing male sexuality.” This seems obvious to me, yet it’s a persistent trope: saying that we have a culture that normalizes, trivializes, and to a large extent even excuses sexual violence is conflated with demonizing male sexuality, as if, I don’t know, male sexuality were somehow inextricably tied to rape or something.

I personally have never met any women who believe that male sexuality is tied to rape, though I keep hearing from other men about that’s what “feminists think”.

When I see a trope become that deeply embedded in a conversation about something, I tend to wonder who it benefits. I definitely think there are men who benefit from this trope. There are some men who want to conflate “discussing the cultural component of sexual violence” with “demonizing all male sexuality.” These men want you to read articles like the blog post that led to all this and respond with “you’re saying men are evil! You’re saying all men are rapists!” That’s the interpretation they want you to have.

There are two kinds of men who want you to have that response: rapists, and men who want power over women.

Not all men are rapists.

There is, for some people, a knee-jerk response to any conversation about rape culture that goes “You just think all men are rapists!” That isn’t what this (and articles like it) say. What they say is that women have to act like all men are potentially rapists, because rapists don’t wear a special hat or have a special handshake or anything.

A strange man is probably not a rapist, but he might be. Since there’s no telltale signal that lets you tell a rapist from a not-rapist, women have to assume that a stranger could potentially be a rapist, simply out of self-preservation. A common analogy here is that not every strange dog will bite you, but it’s usually a good idea not to approach every strange dog you see with reckless abandon–because some of them might bite you, and you have no way of telling which.

Rapists and men who want power over women are quite pleased when people deflect conversations about rape culture with “you’re just saying male sexuality is evil,” because it shuts down conversation about the reality of rape culture…and that suits them just fine. It allows things to continue on exactly as they are–which is to say, allows society to continue blaming victims of rape for their own attacks (“did you see what she was wearing??!), allows rape victims who come forward to continue being disbelieved, allows the courts to continue under-prosecuting rape.

All of this serves the needs of men who rape and men who want to control women, and the only side effect (other than the fact that, y’know, women are marginalized) is that some men are treated like they might possibly be a rapist.

You’re a guy, and you don’t like it? You don’t like the idea that women who don’t know you might respond as though you are a potential rapist, even though that’s something you would never, ever, do? Do something about it! Do something to make our society less welcoming to rapists. Don’t trivialize rape. Don’t whine “but what about false accusations?” when women talk about how claims of rape are rarely taken seriously. Don’t treat tape as a punch line.

Look, this is not rocket science. If you’re a guy, you have a disproportionate amount of power, even if you personally don’t feel like it’s true. It’s not enough to say “Well, I’m not a rapist, and I don’t trivialize rape, so I don’t like it when women treat me like I might be a rapist!” You have to do more. You have to stand up to the people around you who do trivialize rape. You have to stand up to people who are rapists–yes, I’m talking to you, and yes, statistically, unless you live as a hermit in a one-room cabin in Montana you probably know at least one rapist in your social circle. Even if you don’t know who he is.

You don’t like the implications of discussing rape culture? Don’t dismiss those discussions; that doesn’t serve anyone except rapists. Do something about it.

Onyx 3.6 is now available!

After great feats of hard labor deep underground in the data mines, I have used my mighty hammer and anvil to forge a new version of Onyx, the Game of Sexual Exploration: version 3.6!

This new version fixes some minor bugs in 3.5, but more importantly, it retools things under the hood for improved compatibility with Windows 7 and 8, and versions of Mac OS X beyond 10.8.

Onyx is a free download for Mac, Windows, and Linux. It’s a fun, sexy party game for 2-6 players you’re close to, or would like to be. Explore new sexual activities, spice up your life, get closer to the people you know, and who knows? Maybe even find true happiness!