“Every girl has a porn star/stripper fantasy” and “Feminists are annoying, not attractive"—these are just two of the tweets sent out by the widely popular Confessions page, one of the most successful and controversial campus blogs these days, run by a student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
UW Madison Confessions is comprised of a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, and a website managed by student David Hookstead, who runs the site independently of the school. Hookstead declined to be quoted for this article, and a University of Wisconsin spokesperson said the school did not wish to comment on Confessions, beyond that the university is aware that it exists.
Confessions specializes in anonymous posts from the 40,000-strong student body, along the lines of: “I often wonder what it would be like to be like Miley Cyrus’s parents. Then I remember why I wear a condom.” “Welcome Week? More like Blackout Week.” “My idea of a perfect day includes a naked girl in my bed, lots of weed, and many movies.” “Sometimes, actually all the time, I wish I wasn’t so smart. Guys don’t like girls who are smarter than them.” “I had to drop out of my foreign language class because the sexual tension between my TA and myself was inexcusable. She clearly wanted sex.” “I roofied myself last night. I don’t remember a thing.”
And finally: “To all the Coastie Bitches (e.g. any stuck up skank): When a gentleman holds a door open for you do NOT walk through it with your nose in the air like the door is supposed to be held open for you. If you do it again; watch your heels. You don’t have to say thank you but you could at least feign a grateful look.” (To those out of the loop on Wisconsin-speak, “Coastie” here refers to people from the East Coast.)
Confessions has spread like wildfire at Madison since it launched in February—and it was even mentioned by The New York Times last month as the nation’s largest campus gossip blog, with an estimated 50,000 weekly views. According to the site, its “mission is to provide students with an anonymous way to vent their confessions while entertaining the world and showing them the amazing vibe of Madison, all on one page.” Madison, the state capital, is the home of the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin system. The Madison satellite alone has more than 29,000 undergraduates and 9,000 graduate students—and the city has often been called the ultimate college town in addition to being named the second-best city in the country for recent college grads by The Daily Beast in 2010.
Drawing off of this vast reservoir of collegiate goings-on, Hookstead's site has been ruffing feathers since its launch. Despite Confessions’ almost instant popularity, the school asked that the page not feature its logo, since it is not affiliated with the university, according to The Badger Herald, the student newspaper.
Although the posts on sex, drinking, and marijuana immediately draw attention (even though they’re fairly run-of-the-mill for most college students), some on campus feel that Hookstead, who boasts of being politically conservative, specifically picks posts that make women look bad.
“I think it’s clear there was another agenda happening,” said Rachel Hahn, a junior at Madison.
Beyond the routine posts that often celebrate women drinking too much, throwing themselves at men, or cheating on their boyfriends (to be fair, there are plenty of posts about men throwing themselves at women as well), Confessions ran afoul of many women on campus back in April, when it began posting jokes that many saw as condoning date rape. Groups on campus such as Preventing Assault, Victim Empowerment (PAVE) said students had begun to complain about victim blaming in the comments. For his part, Hookstead told Madison’s NBC15 in April that he has blocked people who have “crossed a line with us,” but he said he likes that Confessions has become “its own little debate table,” and he is not going to “restrict [posters’] access unless they’re using it in a criminal way.”
Hookstead's critics, ike Hahn, say that the posts seem to be “promoting a rape culture right now—and it’s not funny.”
Hookstead’s own Twitter feed is also well known around campus. Some of Hookstead’s tweets include ones like, “All of these feminist women need to stop harassing me. Society doesn’t owe you anything or need change from you. Read a history book”; “Worst/funniest pickup line I’ve ever heard: ‘How do I know we’re going to have sex tonight? I’m stronger than you’”; “I bet that caveman was like ‘I’ll teach my wife how to talk, what could possibly go wrong?’” and “All single ladies, stop saying you just give up and get a cat. If no man wants you, don’t force an innocent cat to live with you.” (He did clarify that the last tweet was “meant to be comedic.”)
War on women in Middle East: Pouring acid on women or killing them. War on women in the US: Pay for your own condoms. The injustice!— David Hookstead (@dhookstead) August 17, 2013
Hookstead has been called out before for his views, with one student posting an “open letter” to him on the blog Searching for Peter Parker that called Hookstead "disrespectful to women.” Hookstead’s reputation eventually even caught the attention of Jezebel, which dubbed him “Donald Drumpf-in-training.”
Hookstead has tweeted about “a small group of whack jobs” and “crazy women” who want to get him “expelled” from school, calling “feminists” the “most intolerant people alive.”
But Hahn, who said she and her friends have tried to engage Hookstead into talking about why his comments are hurtful, says that all she really wants is “to have this Confessions page under a different management or not associated with UW.”
“How it happened or not, he has a certain following of people, and I don’t want UW Madison represented this way,” Hahn said.