Jacking in from the "You Had to Be There" Port:

Somewhere In Cyberspace -- It was the best of sites; it was the worst of sites. Meet Robert Toups and his "Babes On the WEB" page.

Toups, who has to be one of WEB's best HTML Gunslingers, holds the unique distinction as the only WEB-slinger to go from Golden Boy to Goat in a single week. "Babes" was voted "Cool Site of the Day" by Glenn Davis and a few days later was tapped as "Worst Site of the Week" by some other home brewed ratings scale, whose name escapes me at the moment.

WIRED magazine has even asked Toups to pose nude. "There's no way I'm going to allow my digital Johnson to be in Wired," he says. That would be the least of Toups worries.

His "Babes" site has become alightening rod of controversy over the last month or so. Visiting the site you'll find a list of Net "Babes" literally ranging from A-to-Z. Each "Babe" is rated on a self-deduced "Toupsie Scale" of one-to-four "Toupsies," which are actually thumbnail GIF photos of Toups himself.

A "four" on the scale puts the "Babe" at the top ratings level called "Babe-O-Rama" At the lower end of the scale is a "Babe-O-Matic," not to be confused with "Bass-O-Matic" only $19.95, not sold in stores...

What does the ratings scale mean? "Whatever you want it to," Toups says. In his "Thirty Steps To Understanding Babes of the Net" Toups writes that the terms: "[A]re not defined by any modern dictionary, it is up to the viewer to self-define these terms."

Looking up a "Babe" you'll find a link to a woman's home-page, which always includes a photo of some sort. No photo, no rating. No exception.

You'll find no commentary, outside of the arbitrary "Toupsie" scale. His site houses nothing but links to a particular woman's home page. Yet is it that hyperlink that has placed him at the center of a fiery debate and garnered him a rash of hate mail.

Woman have accused him of encouraging harassment and "electronic stalking" at worst to violating copyright and intellectual property rights, at best.

Toups says says he doesn't want to encourage any harassment or stalking. And he certainly isn't violating copyright, the former journalism student says. "These pages are placed into the public view. That act makes them public documents. I don't house any of their material locally, I just link to their home page," Toups says. "These woman retain total control over their property."

Besides, the Supreme Court has already ruled that you can't copyright directory listings in a phone book, he says. And he looks on hyperlinks as if they were directory listings.

At the bottom of it all, Toups just wants to have fun. "Being irritated by 'BABES ON THE WEB' only makes its author happy," he writes in "Thirty Steps." This is "total satire," he claims. "If people can't understand that, something is messed up in their cultural upbringing."

Even his mom approves of "Babes." And you don't want to cross Toups' mama: "My mom has seen this page and deemed it to be funny.... My mother is not one to hold back her criticisms of me. She is the epitome of a Strong Woman. She can bench press half her body weight over a hundred times and teaches Step and Slide Aerobics at least five times a week while raising an adopted child and caring for her husband."

Watch out Rosanne...

Requests to be taken off the "Babes" list are honored. Ask and your link is history. "I'm not slaving them to my page," Toups said. "But I actually have women sending me Email and asking to be listed," he said. His "love-hate" Email is running about 80-20, for-against, he said.

The National Organization of Women have waged an electronic war against his site. Nothing could please Toups more. "Ink is ink," whether it rubs off on your fingers or glows as phosphor ASCII, he says. Of the NOW counterattack he writes: "The main benefactor of this page is the National Organization of Women. A direct link is provided so disgruntled viewers can quickly access their home page which advertises membership in this organization. An individual disgruntled by 'BABES ON THE WEB' will have a chance to join a feminist organization and learn more about being disgruntled."

One woman was so upset, she launched a campaign to get Toups' service provider to cancel his account. The woman never even Emailed Toups to complain; he learned of the effort second hand (his service provider kissed off the request.) "This woman says she doesn't believe in censorship," Toups said. "It's a wonderful world isn't it?"

And in another stunning episode, a woman that railed at Toups for his "exploitation of women," was found to have filled her own home page with "pictures of her friends in see-through black bras, teddies and nude under satin sheets," he writes. "In the link to these photos is the statement that the viewer is 'to admire' them. No where on my home page is there nudity or profanity used in any form or fashion. Women are not shown in their underwear or posed sexually provocative positions for the gratification of my viewers..."

After Toups exposed the woman's double-standard, she took the photos off her home page; Toups took her off "Babes." A bizarre kind of tit-for-tat, if you will.

Get angry, get upset. You're letting him pull your chain and he loves it. He wants to stir up controversy, you see. The page is a marketing tool and a damn good one at that. He seems to relish this role.

Earlier, he spoofed the Alt.BINARIES.* "preverts" crowd, as he calls them. During Mardi Gras he poised the family dog, Rogue, in Mardi Gras beads. "This dog loves to have her picture taken and get dressed up," he said. Using an Apple Quicktake digital camera, Toups snapped a series of photos of his dog which he called "MGBITCH-IN-BEADS."

He placed them in the Alt.Binaries.Mardi-Gras group and waited.

The photos were downloaded with a frenzy.

(Small cultural note for those living on another planet: During Mardi Gras, females along Bourbon St. in New Orleans are enticed, and often comply, with drunken shouts of "show us your tits." Pictures are snapped, etc, etc. The Alt.Binaries news groups light up with uploaded GIF files.)

Then all hell broke loose. "These pud whackers started sending hate mail to me, because they went to all the trouble of downloading Rogue's pictures, only to find out this bitch is, well, really a bitch," he said.

This is only the beginning for Toups. Right now he's working on a WEB page he's going to call -- and I'm not making this up -- "Kitty Kat Cuisine" or "Kitty Kat Gourmet." The page will link to pictures of cats and then have attending recipes for how to cook and eat the cats.

"I think I've eaten just about every household pet you can imagine," Toups said. Hey! It was part of his job. Really.

Traveling throughout the Pacific Rim, where furry little animals are often called "entrees" instead of "Muffy" or "Spot," Toups partook of what was set in front of him. "To do otherwise would have been to insult my hosts and their culture," he said.

He's right. Of course, having to drink Cobra's blood or knock back Tiger Penis soup (all true) is a bit extreme, but if it nails down a multi-million contract? Well, you make the call.

Love it or hate it, "BABES" is a tremendous example of HTML gunslinging. And Toups is absolutely correct: You can't whine about intellectual property rights if your WEB page is publicly accessible. As long as he isn't taking any image or text and placing it on his own server, a hyperlink to any public page is well within the law.

No harm. No foul. Just a lot of excellent HTML eye-candy and a hell of a good story.

Meeks out...

Mistakes happen. We aren't proud of them. We are sorry.

CyberWire Dispatch Corrections:

  1. The National Organization of Women (NOW) has not "waged an electronic war" on the "Babes On The WEB" site, nor has any NOW official or representative ever conveyed any negative remarks or comments to the site's originator. Dispatch deeply regrets the error.
  2. The correct name is "Worst of the Web" by Mirsky.
  3. Robert Toups said it was "societal imprinting, " not "cultural upbringing," that causes people to misconstrue the satire of his "Babes" WEB site.
  4. And finally, due to overwhelming requests, the URL for the "Babes" WEB site is: http://www.tyrell.net/~robtoups/BABE.html

Copyright © 1995 CyberWire Dispatch / Brock N. Meeks <brock@well.com>