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Last week, Georgetown University student newspaper The Hoya slammed a new arrival on campus. “[A] dangerous and undesired element,” sniffed the editorial; “a cancer to our community.”
What was the offending newcomer? A discriminatory professor? A crackdown on underage drinking?
Actually, it’s a Web site. On Wednesday, Sept. 10, Georgetown became one of the 412 college campuses free to air its schoolyard gossip at JuicyCampus.com. Juicy Campus, by its own description, is “the place to spill the juice about all the crazy stuff going on at your campus.” But unlike whispered rumors or folded class notes, students can gossip freely on Juicy Campus without fear of retribution. The site claims to be “totally anonymous—-no registration, login, or email verification required.”
OnSept. 19, The Hoya editorial board called for a student boycott of the site, and urged university administrators to ban the Web address from the Georgetown network. (Three days earlier, the newspaper had run a news story hailing the debut of Juicy Campus at Georgetown).
Andy Pino, Director of Media Relations at Georgetown, says it’s difficult to respond to a site that encourages anonymity. “This is a different animal,” says Pino. “I’d imagine there’s very little we can do about it, besides encouraging our students to be thoughtful about what they post online.”
For four Georgetown students whose dirty laundry has been aired on the site—-in the form of insult, flattery, satire, and neutral name-dropping—-speaking out about how to deal with being juiced will have to be justice enough.
Insult: E.g., “Biggest failure at life,” “wanna be eurotrash,” and “stinkiest pinks: whose pussy smells the worst.” Many posts of this type delve into particularly degrading territory, often of a sexual nature. Take “Hairiest Cunts,” a thread which reads, “Okay, we’ve all seen that girl who doesn’t shave. Give names so we know who to avoid.” So far, the question has elicited four responses: three criticizing the thread, and one supplying a name.
When one Georgetown sophomore logged on to Juicy Campus last week, he found a one-line post insulting his appearance—-and denigrating his significant other.In a Facebook message, the student condemned Juicy Campus: “[A]nonymously taking a shot at someone for their weight, sexuality, personality flaws, race, etc., is cowardly,” wrote the student, who wished to remain anonymous. “I’ve always lived by the ‘sticks and stones’ motto, but how can one be expected not to feel awful when an anonymous opinion is broadcasted to an entire student body.” Later, he adds, “I guess they should be proud for making people feel like shit. . . . Not only does the site need to go, the very people who ruined it need to go. They make the world a worse place to live.” After claiming that the derogatory comment written about him was “a joke” and “in good fun,” the student ends the message with a warning: “PLEASE KEEP ME ANONYMOUS. . . . or I’ll put you on juicy campus. . . . haha thanks.”
Flattery: E.g., “Cutest couple,” “Best Tits,” and “hot freshman chicks i want to bone.” Despite their ostensibly congratulatory nature, many posts of this type delve into particularly degrading territory, often of a sexual nature.
Georgetown senior Christina Capatides, 21,logged onto Juicy Campus when a friend informed her that her name had appeared on the site, in a post titled “Pussy Cat Doll.” The post reads, “whos the girl on campus that looks like the main singer from the Pussy Cat Dolls? has anyone hit that before?” In the comments, one respondent identifies Capatides by name: “you mean christina capatides?? too bad she’s taken slick.”
Capatides says she has no idea who posted her name, and that she’s never before been compared to the girl group’s frontwoman, Nicole Scherzinger. “I thought it was a little shocking at first that my name was on it,” says Capatides of the throwaway celebrity comparison. “While it was complimentary . . . there are a lot of things on there that are hurtful. This time around, it’s a positive thing; next time, who knows.”
Though other responses to the Pussycat Doll thread include “she’s got big bewbs” and “dang. I’d nut all over her face in a heartbeat,” Capatides says she’s not bothered by the lewd comments, which she says are “not directed” at her. “As somebody else responded, ‘No, I don’t think it’s Christina, but she is hot,” explains Capatides.
The incidental name drop, though, has Capatides hooked. “My friends check it religiously these days . . . I check it more, to see what’s been written about me,” she says.Though Capatides doesn’t condone the negative posts on the site, she says that Juicy Campus’ appeal is too strong to resist. “I think everybody sort of has those reservations, but it’s just too interesting to hear about people you know on there,” she says. “People think it’s fascinating. It’s like a real-life version of Gossip Girl.”
Satire: E.g., “Hottest Frenchman?” and “Premarital Handholding.” Some satirical posts mock the site’s conventions or campus culture; others, like “Bust nuts in ya curl,” lifted from a song by rapper E-40, are simply nonsense. One of the most pervasive forms of satire on the Georgetown site is a tactic called “Holtrolling.” Georgetown student blog Vox Populi describes the phenomenon:
Someone named Steve Holt (presumably not the real one) has been repeating that name all over the site. He/she tricks people into thinking they’re getting something “juicy”, then gives them the proverbial Holtroll. This makes reading Juicy Campus frustrating, as almost every thread is a Holtroll.
Georgetown senior Tom Hutton conceived his Juicy joke shortly after reading the Hoya coverage of Juicy Campus. “It was a spur-of-the-moment thing,” says Hutton. “It didn’t involve any sort of high-level thinking.” On Sept. 19, Hutton posted the thread, his first and only Juicy Campus contribution. It read: “Sean Baumann: Great Body or Greatest Body?”
Hutton, 22, explains the posting. “Sean’s a good friend of mine, and I just felt that by posting such a ludicrous thing—-“does he have a great body, or the greatest body?”—-he wouldn’t be offended by it. I thought that everyone would laugh at it because it’s funny, not because it was making fun of him,” says Hutton.
Hutton mediated the impact of the anonymous post by informing Baumann of the prank beforehand. “I joked about making the posting, and he said, ‘Yeah, go ahead. It will be funny,’” says Hutton.
Baumann, a 21-year-old Georgetown senior, voiced indifference to the post and its initial responses, which read, “Yeah, I agree. Greatest Body!” and “greatest-est.” Says Baumann, “I didn’t think anything of it, really. It’s just a joke. I don’t really care.” When informed of more recent comments on the post, one reading “i heard he’s gay” and another “tiniest penis . . . so small,” Baumann voiced concern at the site’s negative trends. “I really don’t like it because it gives us a bad rep,” says Baumann. “I think there are a lot of things that are being said that aren’t good for the community. I’ve heard some terrible things,” he says, adding, “Mine’s funny; I’m not taking that personally.”
Hutton predicts that, as time goes on, Juicy Campus pranksters like himself will tire of the medium. “It was cool for a week, and now it’s just a Facebook that’s full of trash talk and slander,” says Hutton. “It’s going to lose its luster after a few months. It’s only going to be a site for slander, and it’s not going to have any of those funny jokes on it, like mine.”
Neutral: In this Juicy Campus convention, the poster simply lists a student’s name and instructs respondents to “discuss.”
Last week, Juicy Campus visitors were asked to discuss Kaleta Blaffer, a 20-year-old sophomore; as of today, the post had 16 replies and had been viewed over 600 times. Most discussion of Blaffer concerned her hair. One commenter called Blaffer’s hairdo “full of secrets,” while others raised questions. “What’s with the blowout?” asked one. “Did she go to prom with that thing on her head?” queried another. In response, the thread experienced a surge of Blaffer defenders: “do you all really have nothing more interesting to discuss than kaleta’s hair?” one commenter wrote, adding: “also, it’s clear that none of you have seen her recently!”
Blaffer discovered the post when tipped off to the Web site by a friend. “I’m kind of relieved that mine was just about my hair. I got off lucky,” she says. Though Blaffer says her “personal policy” is to never post on the site, she says she’s returned to Juicy Campus regularly since discovering her very own thread. “I want to see what was being written about me,” says Blaffer, who indicates that the coiffure comments were not entirely out of line. “I have a lot of volume,” she says.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery.