vouchergate

That 'Blowjob' Viral Video Is Making Me Question Everything About Myself

Can I even trust my own ears?
February 6, 2018, 7:55am
Screengrab courtesy Aneta Baker, ear via Simon James/ Flickr CC License

It's the kind of video that makes you stop, rewind, and hit play over and over again. A woman, annoyed that a Bali hotel won't refund her for a night she didn't stay there, is speaking to a male staff member on what appears to be a smartphone video recorded on the sly. In the video, the man is offering her a refund, as long as she can give him something in return.

"So you want me to give you what?" she asks.

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"Blowjob," the man responds.

Or did he say "voucher"? Some people, including the woman who recorded it, Aneta Baker, say he said "blowjob." Others swear they heard "voucher." And that, my friends, is how you end up with 2018's first #TheDress moment.

The video continues for another eight and a half minutes, but it's really that one part, right there nine seconds in that the entire fight hinges on. Did he say "blowjob," or "voucher"? I honestly listened to this thing so many times and I still can't tell. Sometimes I'm sure it's "blowjob," and other times it sounds so much like "voucher" that I think everyone on team blowjob has to be nuts.

Baker repeatedly says the phrase "blowjob," on the video, and each time the man just nods nervously and says "yes." Now, I've been in Indonesia long enough to know this could mean one of two things: either he is actually asking her to give him a blowjob or he is feeling nervous because of the confrontational tone of the conversation and he's just trying to move it along as fast as possible. Is his face the nervous look of a sexual deviant, or an uncomfortable hotel worker confused by the conversation?

Some background might help here: Baker writes on the (now viral) Facebook post that she started to record the hotel workers after he told her that he could give her a refund if she gave him something in return.

"'But what would I give him' were his exact words…" she wrote. "To which I responded with, "how about a smile and some gratitude" to which he asked, 'how about a…. *something inappropriate*'"

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So, according to her retelling of the events, it seems like team blowjob probably has the correct interpretation here. The guy was also allegedly fired over the whole thing, adding further credence to Baker's story. But then why are people so divided? If you think back to the debate over the whole #TheDress controversy, we learned that what colors we saw all depended on how our brains were wired to process colors.

Then there's the fact that the audio quality in this video isn't exactly the best. When you need to strain to hear what's being said, it can leave you questioning your own inherent biases. In a time of #MeToo and the consent debate surrounding the Aziz Ansari controversy, we have yet another video showing shitty men doing shitty things. So it's no surprise the video was already viewed more than 3 million times. But why do some people swear he's saying "voucher"?

Our brains are also susceptible to mishearing things, especially if someone tells us in advance what is being said. Remember all those "satanic" messages in old rock songs? If someone tells you this is what's being said, then you are more likely to hear exactly that.

But thankfully we live in a time of cheap and easy-to-use audio software. I dropped the video into Adobe Audition and, with my extremely loose understanding of how the software works—I make videos, not podcasts—I tried to clean it up as much as I could.

I leveled out the different volumes and then cranked it all as high as it could go. Then I hit play again. And again. And again. I was treating this like it was the Zapruder film ("back and to the left"), rewinding it in a near-endless loop. I listened to how he starts the word, how his intonation kind of goes up in pitch and vibrates like a "V" but also hums like a "B."

And in the end, I reached the conclusion that I have no fucking idea here. I asked everyone in the office, and their responses further muddied the waters, with some saying it was definitely
"voucher," others "blowjob," and others arguing that it wasn't even the man who said the word at all (you don't see his face on-camera when he says it).

Just scroll down and hit play yourself. What is it? If you hear "blowjob" does it mean you're some SJW looking for a fight online? If you hear "voucher," are you some kind of sexist pig? And what about if you hear both of them? Are you somehow split down the middle?

I have no answers here, aside from the fact that it can't be both "voucher" and "blowjob." Listen below see where you fall on all of this.