Enough is Enough: Toni Storm Situation Highlights Shaming, Exploitation and Harrassment of Women on Social Media

Women on social media have dealt with random, creepy messages from various people ever since social media began. In the past, IMPACT Knockout and indie star Jordynne Grace turned her unfortunate receipts into two books, DMs Of A Female Indy Wrestler, sharing the worst of what she received. Ten percent of the proceeds of these sales are donated to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National network. In the wake of the recent events involving fellow wrestler, Toni Storm, many female wrestlers, and women, in general, are standing together to say enough is enough. Grace announced on Twitter on January 5th that she was closing her direct messages (DMs) to the public on all forms of social media. Now, the only ones who will be able to message the young IMPACT Wrestling Knockout are those she follows across the various platforms.

Just after 2019 began, Toni Storm’s new year was rocked in an unexpected way. She found personal photographs and a video that were sexual in nature had been displayed across the Internet without her consent. Shortly thereafter, the Mae Young Classic winner deleted both her Twitter and Instagram accounts. Sadly, Toni is not the first WWE superstar to have this disgusting invasion of privacy happen to her. Fellow female wrestlers such as Paige, Charlotte Flair, Zelina Vega, JoJo Offerman, Danielle Moinet (fka Summer Rae) and Ruby Riott have suffered similar situations. Paige’s situation is perhaps the most like Toni’s as both had videos shared without their consent. Paige, as well as many other people, expressed her support for Toni by sharing a message followed by the hashtag #WeSupportToni.

Paige has shared that in the wake of the sharing of her own private videos that she contemplated suicide. It also contributed to her eating disorder, which Paige has referred to as “stress-induced anorexia”. In an interview with former WWE ring announcer Lillian Garcia on Garcia’s Chasing Glory podcast, Paige said that she “was so sad to the point I was contemplating suicide. I was on the floor, I was so low. I got so skinny I ended up collapsing with exhaustion in hospital in England.” So many people shared the hashtag in support of Toni, that it was trending on Twitter in the United Kingdom. It’s unknown at this time if Toni is aware of her vast support across the social media that she’s had to leave behind. Unfortunately, in addition to all the amazing support, there has been victim-blaming and ridicule as well. As with the Paige leak, jokes have been made at Toni’s expense and many who blame her for this happening.

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: It is not Toni’s fault for having private photos or a video. Whoever decided to purposefully break into Toni’s personal life and share these is at fault. This is also unfortunately not unique to Paige or Toni’s situations. It pops up in anyone’s life who has been sexually harassed or violated or has had their personal property like photos shared without their consent. And as evidenced by the recent #MeToo movement, it happens to a huge number of women. Sentences like “Well, she shouldn’t have taken those photos,” “She shouldn’t have dressed that way,” and “She should’ve known better,” pop up frequently.

This is a problem that’s bigger than wrestling, that’s bigger than just women and is a problem across society globally. Sexuality is a huge taboo across many cultures. However, a human being’s humanness and their worth are not determined or influenced by their sexuality. We are all equally worthy of being treated with dignity and respect. This stands regardless of if they choose to participate in anything related to sex, or if they dress in a provocative manner. We are free to make those choices for ourselves and no one else, regardless if others would choose them for themselves. This can be difficult for people to accept because they aren’t comfortable with certain choices for themselves.

As stated earlier though, it doesn’t matter if you would choose that for you. What matters is that they made it and it’s their business. Whenever someone breaches another person’s privacy and steals items from their homes or vehicles, we don’t blame that person for having nice things. Sure, maybe they could’ve had a better lock or security system, but not because they owned the items. The same principle applies here, it’s not her (Toni, Paige, JoJo, Charlotte, etc.) fault for having these photographs or videos. That’s a choice she makes in her private life that’s not our, as the public, business. Whoever made the choice to break into someone’s private digital belongs is at fault. They then shared these images without that person’s consent. When it comes to drawing the line if a crime is committed, whether it be sex-related or just physical belongings, consent is the litmus test. If consent is given, no harm no foul. Without consent, a crime has been committed. To bring it back to the case of Toni Storm, blaming Toni for a crime someone else committed is ridiculous.

Now back to the issue of social media. The fact that people like Jordynne Grace can’t leave her DMs open as a line of communication between her and fans or promoters is also sad. To tie in with the issue of society judging people when it comes to expressing sexuality, the standard for women is a shame. The tendency is to look down upon women for their bodies, their dress and other forms of expression that indicate her sexuality. The tendency is generally not the same for men, for whatever reason. However, with the advent of social media, you can interact with people far more easily than ever before. And like with anything, some people abuse it.

It’s human nature to find other humans attractive, based on physical characteristics or personality. There’s nothing wrong with that. The problem happens is when you make unnecessary sexual comments or send sexual photos without consent. The average person does not need to know that you would enjoy engaging in sex with them. Nor do they need to see your genitals. If you connect with someone and mutual attraction is apparent, and consent is acquired, then you’re okay. However, when you send a picture of your penis to your favorite female wrestler on Twitter, that is NOT okay.

When on social media, one should be mindful of common sense and consent. When situations like Toni’s occur, the response should be support and not ridicule. Regardless of whether you agree with the existence of such things as nude photos, it’s not your decision to make for them. This person was violated and had something stolen from them. Lastly, if you need examples of what you shouldn’t send people on social media, Jordynne’s books are still available on her website.

We here at LWOPW send our support and love to Toni Storm, as well as anyone who has suffered through a similar situation.

“Be kind to one another.” – Ellen DeGeneres