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[UPDATED] Today In “Women Don’t Owe You Shit”: Former Harry Potter Podcaster Harasses Journalist After Romantic Rejection

If you’re a dude who can’t understand why rejecting a romantic proposal is sometimes  terrifying for women (and not in the “I’m scared of how awkward this might be” sense, but the “I’m scared for my imminent physical safety” kind of terror), here’s a pretty self-explanatory example.

In a story broken yesterday by Daily Dot, Buzzfeed writer and infamous Tinder Ghost Grace Spelman revealed the messages she’s received recently from MuggleCast cast member and co-founder Ben Schoen. Spelman followed Schoen when she was in her teens, but started to receive harassing messages from him recently after she told the former podcaster that she had a boyfriend.

Spelman explained to The Daily Dot, “My first reaction when I saw he messaged me was like, ‘Oh, isn’t this funny. I first contacted him because I was a fan of his podcast and now he’s contacting me because he likes my Twitter!‘ Because truly his first message was normal and nice, so I didn’t feel threatened at all.”

When Spelman didn’t answer several subsequent tweets from Schoen, he then reached out to her on Facebook, where she revealed that she had a boyfriend:

Spelman blocked Schoen on Facebook and Twitter, but he continued to tweet at her, including a message threatening to jeopardize her career:

From Schoen’s first message, to the time he sent his email, 10 days had passed.

Obviously these aggressions would be unacceptable from anyone, but they’re particularly disconcerting coming from one of the founders of a feminist blog. Incredibly, in addition to his work on MuggleCast and, Schoen is also the co-founder of Feminspire.

Screenshot 2015-08-18 at 12.30.26 PM

Rhiannon Payne, who co-founded the site with Schoen (her partner at the time), told The Daily Dot: “Ben Schoen helped me launch the site in 2012 using his skills and expertise in digital media and built the site from a technical standpoint at a time when I had limited contacts in that space and not a lot of knowledge in regards to the online media landscape.”

Payne has since left the site and the relationship

[…] due to the toll that the situation was taking on my mental health and I avoid communication with him.”

When I stepped down I agreed to give him recommendations and guidance to help keep the site dedicated to its original mission, but those were ignored and I have since stopped trying. I have not kept up with what he has been doing because frankly, the entire situation is a painful one.

MuggleCast creator Andrew Sims also publicly distanced himself from Schoen:

We reached out to Schoen earlier today for comment at the email he specified, but have yet to hear back. He did, however, address the situation over Twitter:

Schoen later sent The Daily Dot this email in response to request for statement:

I have done more for the cause of advancing women’s rights than any of the people who are criticizing me. This so-called crisis is manufactured by Ms. Spelman as a way to increase her profile as a social justice warrior. I grew up without a father and I spent years protecting my mother from scummy men and dealing with all of the difficulties that come with not having a male role model. Am I rough around the edges? Sure. Am I a predator? Absolutely not. If you read the email I sent Ms. Spelman it was not threatening and was filled with apologies. I even offered to connect her with people who could help her career. I had no interest in continuing contact with her afterwards since I was offended by the manner in which she ended our interaction. I represent no threat to her and her painting me into a villain and sending all of her sycophants after me is incredibly disappointing and immature. My attorney tells me I have a case already but I’m not going to go that route unless Ms. Spelman continues to attempt to unjustly tarnish my image.

Spelman, who has since been privately messaged by women who say they’ve had similar interactions with Schoen, hopes that speaking up will serve as a warning to his younger fans:

Of course, the responsibility for helping women avoid creeps shouldn’t have to fall on the shoulders of the harassed. Our culture in general doesn’t sufficiently condemn men who react with hostility when rejected, and Internet culture might be even more lax; it’s telling that I’m sure this article will receive several comments from men who see Schoen’s behavior as “disrespectful, sure, but hardly harassment.”

The entitlement Schoen demonstrated isn’t specific only to him; and while it’s still abusive when it takes place online, it can be deadly when it manifests in an IRL situation. Schoen reached out, unsolicited, to a woman on the Internet; she told him she had a boyfriend; and he used that polite dismissal as an excuse to threaten her career, question her integrity, and hurl gendered insults.

UPDATE: Schoen has responded via email to our request for comment:

I don’t truly believe that Grace ever felt threatened. There is a prevailing sentiment out there that all men are predators and don’t know how to approach women without being creepy. She layered my correspondences with her in such a way as to feed into this sentiment. She’s a very smart woman and she knew exactly what she was doing.

In total I had something like 3-5 correspondences with Grace. I have been receiving death threats, insults saying my mother deserved to be a homeless teen and basically anything else you can think of. I never threatened Grace or came anywhere near doing so. After several cordial interactions with her I made a joke about marrying her in a DRIVE THRU. It was a joke and sure it may have been a lame one, I’ll concede that. After interacting with her very cordially I was shocked when she suddenly disappeared from my Facebook friends list. I was upset so I sent her some angry tweets to let off a little steam. Twitter is a public forum so anyone who says that is harassment needs to stop “harassing” me on my twitter feed.

Okay I hope you’re still with me here. So I sent her some tweets when I was angry. Afterwards I realized I had went too far so I decided to write her an email apologizing. Everyone has tried to twist my apology into being some veiled threat when that simply was not the case. I felt bad for telling Grace her followers were because she had a good looking profile pic so I emailed her to apologize and that’s what landed us here. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Schoer then sent us a second email that he agreed to us publishing:

Your article is printing a flat out lie. I never threatened her career. She started posting private emails and I said I would let her bosses know as that is against the policy of many media companies.

(via The Cut)

—Please make note of The Mary Sue’s general comment policy.—

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