article

12.03.10

How to Get Revenge Online

Forget slashing tires. You can trick a cheating ex into thinking he has an STD… or worse. Lucy Knight on the strange, and often murky, market for cybervengeance.

Vengeance is generally very personal. There’s the jilted lover who slashes an ex’s tires in the middle of the night; or the disgruntled employee who sneaks toilet water into his or her boss' tea. That said, it doesn’t mean you couldn’t use a little help posting elephant droppings, or tricking an ex into thinking s/he has an STD.

Lucky for those who don’t believe that “revenge is a dish best served cold,” it seems that it has never been easier, with the Internet offering a variety of services to exact some payback.

"Alex," the founder of www.crabrevenge.com, says he doesn't have any morals or ethics and so doesn't feel any twinge when sending off packages of pubic lice to customers. Notably, he says, nine out of 10 of them are women. “We get both hilarious and heart-warming feedback from our customers. One female customer told us that we saved her marriage by successfully taming her philandering husband. She was so thankful that she sent us a tip and a very expensive case of Champagne.”  

The political philosopher, Sonia Kruks says, “Revenge is now seen as barbaric, as a desire that, in this day and age, we should be civilized enough to overcome.” You'd think that. What about the four women in Wisconsin who glued a man's penis to his stomach after it was discovered he was cheating on all of them? They no doubt felt a twinge of satisfaction but it could only have been momentary. They were all charged with variations of sexual assault and false imprisonment. Not exactly a great result for them.  

What do the people at www.getrevengeonyourex.com think of that? Is it worth the effort to see someone else suffer? “I can understand the anger involved,” says Dan, who founded the site along with his partner, Nick. “By using our site, our customers are not doing anything criminal. We've found that in using humor, albeit slightly twisted, they can look back and laugh. These other women will go to jail,” said Dan.

Still, Dan is very aware that it is a “fringe” service. The two men started the company after several years of helping friends get revenge—advertising sexual services, and takeaways with ex's phone numbers. And when Nick's reputation (he had been cheated on by his wife) started to spread, the two decided to go online. Nick believes that they are genuinely helping the victims of relationship breakdowns to regain emotional control.

Of those regaining control, about 83 percent are women—a lot of angry women. For Dan, this wasn't surprising as “men can be pretty nasty.” The anonymous SMS is by far the most popular service on the site. For $3 to $4 people are able to write what they like and it'll be sent from a pay-as-you-go SIM, somewhere in the world. “We do have a filter in place and maybe once a month, out of 100 texts a day, we'll get one that we have to destroy due to its content.” There is no worry that what they are doing is in any way wrong. “We are just a piece in their jigsaw of revenge. It's not about being vindictive. We think what we do is funny, but we know it's not everyone's cup of tea.”  

One customer wrote thanking the team for their work on her cheating ex-boyfriend. He was informed by his “local [health] clinic” that he had an STD and he needed to inform his sexual partners. This was the avenger's response: “Steve has just left my flat in absolute pieces. He's totally convinced he's got Chlamydia […] he was crying and so apologetic. Thank you thank you thank you.”  

“There is something exhilarating, deliciously primal about payback.”

Will O'Hara, founder of www.liarscheatsandbastards.com, (LCB) says that for many of the people that use his site, it is a way of venting their anger. He started the site three years ago after his daughter had discovered that her new boyfriend was cheating on her. “When she stood there and said, 'He's nothing but a lying, cheating, bastard,' I thought, mmm, we might have something here. I did a lot of asking around and it was clear that when anyone had been dumped or cheated on they wanted an outlet.” O'Hara's site, which has up to 7,000 registered users, allows people to post a photo of anyone, from a cheating lover to a business, accompanied by the tale of what they did wrong. There are two sides to every story though, right? LCB says that they do present the subject's side of the story, if they get in touch.

For some though, a tale on one website just isn't enough, there needs to be emotional as well as physical harm. As Ellis Cose writes in his book Bone to Pick, “There is something exhilarating, deliciously primal about payback.”