There’s something wrong with #PigGate and it isn’t bestiality

Grace Murray 21 September 2015

Today has been a glorious day to be on Twitter. From 'Snoutrage' to 'Bae of Pigs' to 'David Hameron', #PigGate will go down in history as one of the most entertaining things ever to happen to a sitting Prime Minister. No one could claim that the British public have taken the allegations that the leader of this country once got busy with a dead farm animal as anything more than a hilarious scandal to brighten up a grey Monday afternoon. Even the Daily Mail has failed to provide sufficient outrage: the comments section of the initial story yields much more amusement than criticism.

David Cameron is declining to comment on the allegations, but it no longer matters whether or not they're true. Twitter had a field day, and now the party is over – #PigGate has stopped trending, and the amused public have returned to getting on with life.

I'm not complaining about the media's blasé treatment of the allegations – Cameron's membership of the Bullingdon Club is nothing new, so I personally couldn't care less what he did or didn't do to a dead pig several decades ago. But #PigGate begs the question: what if David Cameron wasn't a middle-class cisgender, heterosexual white man? If this kind of allegation had been made about anyone with a less rock-solid background of privilege and entitled 'respectability', would their reputation have survived quite so well?

Soon after the story broke, Louise Mensch, author and former Conservative MP, published a few tweets – essentially calling the story rubbish and irrelevant even if it were true. She has been receiving cyber abuse ever since. The theme is largely the same: tweets sexualising her, comparing having sex with her to having sex with a pig, and insinuating that she herself would like nothing more than to have sex with a dead farm animal.

I'm sure several people have trolled Cameron in the same way – but nothing like on the same scale. Mensch's initial tweets were perhaps questionable, but she has received no allegations of abusing dead livestock, and she isn't in charge of the entire country.

So why has she received relentless, vicious abuse while Cameron has suffered nothing more than ridicule and terrible pig puns?

So far her abuse has been blamed it on the fact that she is a woman who dared to speak her mind. This is definitely a factor, but I think there's something else, something much bigger than a one-day scandal about the Prime Minister and a pig: women are easier to troll.  Remember what happened with #GamerGate. A man caught up in a porcine sex scandal is ridiculed, while a woman is sexualised, because women are easier to sexualise. One need look no further than the difference between a 'slut' and a 'lad' to see that a woman must be more careful with her reputation – which is perhaps why Cameron having sex with a pig would be a bit of banter, but when the accusation is levelled at Mensch it is intended to sting.

Humanity can be pretty terrible, and Twitter is admittedly a good place to find the dregs of it. But if you ever get accused of sexual acts with a pig, you sure as hell better hope that you're a man.