A Man Asked A Woman For A Jar Of Saliva And She Turned It Into A Lesson About Freelancing

“These can be employed in any negotiation, not just transactions related to jars of spit.”

Emi Gennis is a 32-year-old cartoonist from Columbus, Ohio.

Last week, she shared to Twitter an exchange with an unidentified man, who she said had been sending inappropriate sexual messages for some time.

Today's very special edition of Being A Woman On The Internet:

“I connected with him on a social networking site over the summer and we started chatting. Our conversations got a little flirty and sexual in a totally mutual and consensual way, but then he quickly started messaging me more and more, like all of the time,” Gennis told BuzzFeed News. “I told him he was making me uncomfortable, and that sometimes people who are this overly-enthusiastic when expressing affection/desire also turn out to be similarly zealous in their aggression, should something go wrong and they end up feeling slighted. I said this might make some people, women in particular, concerned and pointed to some domestic violence statistics. I’m an educator; sometimes I can’t help myself.”

Gennis said she asked the man not to take it personally, but he replied aggressively. He later apologized but continued to send her sexually explicit messages on and off for months.

Gennis has previously been vocal about consent and harassment online — earlier this year, she and a group of other artists were sued by a comics publisher for accusing him of sexual assault. The case is ongoing.

Then over Thanksgiving, the man asked her for a jar of saliva.

I'm gonna turn this into a teaching moment, and take this opportunity to outline a few basic client negotiation strategies for students & other early career artists who might be interested. These can be employed in any negotiation, not just transactions related to jars of spit. https://t.co/5a6k8uCqM4

“My first reaction to this request was to laugh out loud, only because of the sheer absurdity at the idea that I had shut him down so thoroughly and yet he somehow still decided this might be a reasonable request,” she said.

Instead of blocking the man or simply not replying, Gennis decided to turn the request into a “teaching moment” for freelancers.

First, because I'm not well informed on industry standard prices for this...uh, item...I want the client to set the anchor price (the initial price offer). I don't want to run the risk of naming a price that's too low and getting underpaid. https://t.co/qHNcBHZjW0

She proceeded to negotiate with the man as if he were one of her clients.

Break down your prices so the client knows exactly what they're paying for, and doesn't feel like you're just setting the price at some arbitrary number. Make sure they understand the amount of work they're asking you to do and how much that costs. Transparency is key. https://t.co/ot1Q70Smms

“I offered him two pricing options as though I were negotiating with any other client, purely to amuse myself,” she said. “I figure he would either: A - Agree to pay me a whole lot for my spit, which honestly probably wouldn’t take much effort for me to produce, and who doesn’t need some extra cash around the holidays? Or B - Decide I was making this way too complicated/expensive and not worth the effort, and stop talking to me.”

Instead, he began negotiating back.

Give the client multiple options. This has the dual benefit of allowing you to set the terms, but also allow the client to feel like they're in control. Everybody wins. In this case, I offered a flat rate or an hourly fee. https://t.co/sZu1apV318

“I’d decided to stay home over Thanksgiving to get work done, and I was doing everything in my power to procrastinate, so I decided to just continue negotiating with him,” she said.

“I teach comics and illustration students at a college, and part of that is making sure my students are prepared to take on all the business aspects of being a professional artist. I thought this might be a fun way of demonstrating negotiating strategies that students who follow me on twitter might find both amusing and educational.”

The exchange went back and forth for a while, with Gennis laying out options and her fees.

Any agreement should outline the exact use for the work in question. This could include a license for usages for a specific time period/format/audience. Your price should increase for any usage of your work that could potentially generate profit for the client. https://t.co/OhbnRlYqek

All deadlines should be clearly stated. If the client is asking for a quick turnaround, charge a higher price for that inconvenience to you. Here I have again presented the client with options. https://t.co/bJnBsQh3zu

“Eventually, I think he figured out I was mostly just messing with him and he stopped responding to me,” she said.

[At this point in the conversation, he stopped talking to me. Honestly I'm surprised it went on for as long as it did.]

Despite the agreement not going through, Gennis’s thread resonated with people. Since being posted, it’s been retweeted over a thousand times.

@imemi @my2k It’s like this was written as a a well-executed sitcom joke, except it’s real life and the actor doesn’t know that he’s a creep

This is gross but also worth a read for freelancers. For real, good info here despite the premise. https://t.co/88FE0x0ojT

This is brilliant, read all of it. https://t.co/Ul4WbkGKuo

Gennis said the reactions have mostly been positive, and credits the amazing advice she’s received while working freelance.

A Very Useful Example of Freelance Negotiations. ~AND a great example of turning internet harassment into a hilarious and useful teaching moment~ https://t.co/66UtzH1eB8

“I have to credit Katie Lane, a badass lawyer and advocate for creative people who has all kinds of useful information for freelancers on her website. I’ve learned so much from her and it’s made me much more effective and confident in dealing with the business side of being a professional artist.”

A master class in negotiating rates. https://t.co/MtoydIq1Ba

okay if you haven't seeing this thread it is an AMAZING lesson in negotiating. Also, dudes, stop being creepy. https://t.co/9fnPjEaDAb

She also said that many people have said that she should have blocked the man ages ago; she disagrees.

“Sure, I could have blocked him. But I have the right to talk to or not talk to whomever I want. It’s not my obligation or responsibility to refuse to engage with dudes who are being gross, it’s their responsibility to not be gross,” she said.

She added that she had a real problem with the number of people focused on the spit element of the conversation.

“He’s a creep because he continued to send me sexual messages after being asked to stop. The spit thing on its own isn’t the gross or creepy part. I’m sure there are plenty of polite, respectful ways to make that request.

“Spit isn’t even all that gross or unusual in the grand scheme of sexual kinks. A few people in the comments have even suggested I should have sent him some concoction containing things like lye or superglue, which strikes me as a way, way disproportionate response. It seems unwarranted to escalate an unwanted sexual advance via text into IRL physical violence.”

So in summary — pay your freelancers, and no kink-shaming.

As this is getting a fair amount of attention, I want to add: this guy is a creep because, as suggested by the 1st tweet, he'd been sending me repeated sexual messages (for months) despite requests to stop. A spit request is fine if asked respectfully. Let's not kink shame here.

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