“I Call Bullshit” Man: the Superhero none of us deserve

Image by the truly super Stuart F Taylor

Billy was an ordinary boy. He lived in an ordinary house, in an ordinary street, and every day he’d go out and play with his ordinary friends. Billy had a happy life.

But one day, as Billy’s friends took it in turns to swap brags about how cool their houses were and which level they’d reached on the latest Xbox game, Billy was struck by a bolt of lightning. Turning him from an ordinary, everyday boy into…

I-Call-Bullshit Man!

Now, in his superhero guise, Billy wanders the twisting corridors of the internet, shedding what he thinks is light into anything he perceives to be darkness. In comments and on Twitter he pops up, shouting that oft-heard phrase:

“I call bullshit!”

If someone has an anecdote to share, I-Call-Bullshit Man is usually nearby. Letting everyone know that this story sounds a bit far-fetched to his ears. This situation certainly wouldn’t happen to him, so he’s just not buying it.

“Bullshit,” he types, like a brave and noble warrior. “I. Call. Bullshit.”

Should you wish to meet Billy, you must set up the equivalent of the bat-signal. Perhaps you write a fairly personal blog post, detailing an episode of sex you had this one time. If you’re lucky he’ll turn up, to rage into the abyss about the fact that your experience doesn’t come close to matching his own. Perhaps he’ll arrive on Twitter, telling you that the quote you wrote from your teenage diary couldn’t possibly be real, because you used a word that he wouldn’t have at thirteen. Maybe he’s lurking here now, in the comments on this post, ready to point out that the author of it simply has to be a man, because women never write about sex, and anyway, if the author really is a woman then she needs to get on and prove it.

But wait! You do not vanquish I-Call-Bullshit man with proof! Proof is not his Kryptonite, it is his sustenance.

Make no mistake, our extraordinary hero doesn’t seek truth in the same way as the eager scientist does: Googling for Snopes links when someone posts something factually dodgy or medically impossible. No: he’s not after the kind of proof that shows 2+2=4, he is after the proof that makes you dance and sing to his own tune. I-Call-Bullshit Man is the advanced version of those guys on forums back in the noughties, who’d tell you to prove you were a girl with a picture of your tits, or prove you liked sex by wanking him off. You can’t battle him with proof, and nor should you try, because truly there’s no way to demonstrate that your personal stories are true other than to invite him into them: via photos, video, or actually sucking his angry internet dick.

This author has met I-Call-Bullshit man many times before. In the examples above, in my email inbox, in comments and tweets and facebook posts. His most common refrain is “you’re probably a man, aren’t you?” but it takes other forms too – often boiling down to one simple yet irrelevant statement: “I don’t believe you.”

Each new story, each experience, each tiny moment of joy: for you it’s either fun or not, believable or not, enjoyable or not. You can sift and decide and just leave if it doesn’t work for you. But I-Call-Bullshit Man is not the same as you or I: it actually hurts him to see other people enjoy experiences that he lacks the imagination to conceive of as possible. I-Call-Bullshit man cannot survive while other people’s ‘lies’ go unchallenged – while fun is being had without him.

I am sad for I-Call-Bullshit man. Not because he doesn’t believe me: his blustering disbelief can’t erase the experience from my life, or pluck the memories from inside my head. I’m sad because I-Call-Bullshit man is really only Billy: melancholy about other people’s happiness and keener to squash it than enjoy it.

If I want to make him feel better, I could try to offer him the ‘proof’ he craves, but that will never make him happy. It will only cause him to redouble his efforts: ask “is that really a picture of you, though?” or “how do I know you didn’t get this from somewhere else?” I’m sad for Billy because no amount of proof will ever slake his thirst: he doesn’t want you to prove it, he wants to be right. He wants this thing – whatever it is – to never have happened. To you and I this story might just be another anecdote about fisting, or a half-remembered threesome that didn’t go as planned. But to him each new slice of life represents another mission in the ongoing war against Lies. Another reason for him to don his Cape of Truth, sit at the Keyboard of Veracity, and hammer out that fateful, vital phrase:

I. Call. Bullshit.


  • RichardP says:

    Well all the references to Classic superhero Captain Marvel just prove that you must be a man, after all no woman would have knowledge of comic book trivia! I denounce thee as a fraud and a dissembler! Begone vile harlot and sully this world no more!

    On a side note I find it sad that I have to acknowledge my own sarcasm because there are some wankers out there who post comments like that and mean it. Also with hindsight I should have typed it with caps lock on.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Yes to caps lock. Things are always more effective in caps lock. Also, I got a couple of replies to this post on Twitter that used similar sarcasm, and so I have decided that if I were to have a superpower, I’d like it to be ‘the ability to tell if people are joking on the internet’ – thanks for making it clear =)

  • Hobo says:

    I’d just like to call bullshit because Karl Pilkington already had the idea for “Bullshit Man” four years ago, although his take was a lot more positive. The drawing even looks exactly like him. BULLSHIT.


  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    Next time you get one of those emails from a guy asking “You’re a man, aren’t you?”, you should reply “Yes” and send him a dick pic. That’s obviously what he really wants.

  • RB says:

    If I was to play EXTREME devil’s advocate I’d say that there’s an obvious/annoying history of men pretending to be women on the internet, writing about otherwise unexplored issues; Gay Girl in Damascus was a big one, so that could increase the level of cynicism about. But that even being said, the whole ‘GOTN must be a man, hurrhurr’ is such a bloody lazy assumption given the links to other blogs and sex education/product resources, the contact with other bloggers, the appearances at Eroticon, just bloody everything. Like you say, there’s no desire for actual proof for Captain Bullshit – just the smug satisfaction in a pointless victory.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Yep, both very good points. I think with the former I’d be really careful about assuming someone’s gender because I never have a clue what’s going on inside someone’s head. I might be tempted to say something if the person was really obviously dishonest and doing a lot of harm by it, but as a blanket rule I try to assume nothing. And I’d be SO embarrassed to actually say anything. I don’t get why people who ask this stuff are so happy to just splurge it out.

    • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

      That’s true, it does sometimes happen (though not to the extent the trolls would have you believe). I do remember a blog I used to read which claimed to be a woman about her sex life, but just seemed too implausible to be true… actually to be fair, I have no way of knowing if was really a woman or a man who wrote it, but either way I’m pretty sure that it was describing someone’s fantasies rather than things that really happened. Still, I didn’t send an angry email going ‘You fake!’ or anything like that. I just stopped reading.

      In the end, what does it matter? If it’s not harming anybody, who cares who someone on the Internet really is? The content of a blog matters more than who’s behind it. With the one I referred to above, the reason I gave up on it wasn’t due to the fakery so much as that it had just got boring.

      In GOTN’s case, if she somehow turned out not to be a woman – well, I would be very surprised, given the things you mention. Talk about an elaborate deception! But as long as the blog continued to be enjoyable, I’d keep reading. That’s all that really matters.

      • Girl on the net says:

        Yeah, if I were a bloke I’d also have to be a millionaire, because I reckon I’d have had to hire a woman to pose for the photos on my site, be on-hand to answer journalist phone calls, meet editors, and do all my radio interviews as well. It’d cost a fucking fortune!

  • kingofbumworld says:

    Are you sure its just men who call bullshit? Im sure a lot of women use male pseudonyms online? I do. (Sorry). My experience is that i get heard more with a man’s name. Feminists also behave as if a challenging comment from a man is more valid and worthy of a response than the same comment from a woman. Not to digress from your overall point, its a good one. I havn’t called bullshit on you before. But IMO this isn’t a gender specific issue. Plenty of women are bigoted and ignorant of other women’s experiences.

    • Girl on the net says:


      I didn’t say it was a gender-specific issue. I simply made my superhero a man, as the majority of famous superheroes are. Tell it to Marvel, and the patriarchy.

      • Billy says:

        ‘The patriarchy’ as a concept is not a real thing. It’s as nebulous as the ‘Holy Ghost’, and holds about as much water as phrenology. ‘The patriarchy’ is this fantastically hilarious boogey-man that can be blamed for everything, from women not wanting to go into STEM fields to ‘why isn’t there a female Dr Who’?

        I call bullshit on ‘the patriarchy’.

      • Kingofbumworld says:

        Fair point. I didn’t find the tone of the article was quite as indifferent to gender as you obviously reason. Thanks for the clarification. I just meant I don’t think its a patriarchal issue. Unlike the superhero problem. Yes, Marvel sucks.

      • Vida says:

        I dunno, I read your book, and at no point did I think, hey, this sounds totally unrelatable, a woman would never think that/think like that. It didn’t occur to me. And I wouldn’t say our thought processes are particularly similar- but I’m still pretty sure I know how women think/feel better than random Captain I Call Bullshits might.

  • I was going to make a comment, but my cock needed attention. Sorry.

  • Anonymous 4982 says:

    this is a great post. you are great. not that you need validation from randoms on the interwebs.
    i call bullshit on everythign!

  • I Just Wanna Be God says:

    I think it puts the onus on the wrong person, too. It’s your blog, whether certain readers believe it or not is their own problem, not anyone else’s. You shouldn’t need to prove anything, and they ought to know that. A blogger’s role is not to individually appease every member of their audience, no more than a filmmaker’s or a musician’s. And if you know to be true whatever it is that they’re doubting, it’s their loss. Nobody asked them, and nobody else should give a piss what they believe.

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