The Sex Crime That Isn’t a Crime: On Revenge Porn

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You’ve probably heard about the recent theft and the following distribution of many celebrities’ (including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Kirsten Dunst) private nude photos. You may have heard the hacking referred to as a “scandal,” although the term “scandal” generally means the celebrity has done something wrong. There’s nothing morally wrong about taking nude photos. It’s 2014, people, women can have sex if they want and take sexy photos if they wish. A debate has been sparked over whether or not the theft is the women’s fault for daring to take a photo of their nude bodies to share with a trusted loved-one. It’s not. It never is. It never will be. Maybe the real scandal is that there are scumbags out there that would look at a naked picture of a woman without her consent. Sadly, however, there are plenty of such scumbags, with a 2013 study by McAfee stating that 13% of adults have had their personal content leaked to others without their permission. When it happens to celebrities, it becomes the topic of bar conversations and poorly-worded headlines. When it happens to regular women, however, it’s called revenge porn, and it’s a sex crime that alarmingly is not always a crime.

What Is Revenge Porn?

There are whole websites devoted to revenge porn. Many other porn websites having a section devoted to it. Men will submit photos and often contact information to websites that distribute them. Revenge porn is generally ex-lovers or ex-friends posting consensually-taken photos or videos of women (and occasionally men) without their consent. Sometimes it is videos taken without the victims’ knowledge. In this case, it can be even harder to prosecute because American copyright laws protect whoever actually took the photo or video. There’s even a trend of “creep shots”: men following unsuspecting women around in public to try and take sexualized photos of them and then post them online. You’ve heard of boys hiding under staircases to take up-the-skirt photos? Well, there’s a wide audience for them. In whatever form, it is a form of sexual abuse. The woman in question did not consent to have her naked photo or video distributed. Anyone who looks at revenge porn is doing so without consent. The only one who can give you permission to look at a naked body is the person whose body it is. 

The Consequences

jennifer lawrence victim of revenge porn
Photos of Jennifer Lawrence like these are the only
ones you should be looking at.

While her leaked photos probably won’t affect Jennifer Lawrence’s impressive career, for the average woman, the effects can be devastating. Not only does a victim have to live with the knowledge that random men have looked at her naked body without her permission, but often her job can be in danger. She can be harassed via social media, by phone, or even in person, and “in the past couple of years several are known to have killed themselves.” The problem is that it can be nearly impossible to get the photos off the internet, because there aren’t enough laws in place against it. If the photos were stolen, as is the case with many celebrities, it’s easier, but if it’s an angry ex-boyfriend even begging the website owners to take them down may not be enough. Sometimes laws against child pornography can help, but only if the victim was under 18 when the photos were taken. The Internet, for all its good, can be a horrible place where the violation of women easily spreads.

What can I do?

It is actually very easy to help stop revenge porn. The first thing you can do is speak up. If you ever hear a friend saying “well if you don’t want everyone to see your naked photos, don’t take them!” you can easily reply with “and if you don’t want your wallet stolen, don’t carry one! If you don’t want your house broken into, buy a million-dollar security system!” We have to try and change the public’s mindset from victim-blaming. We need to this as a violation. And make sure you don’t click on that link to Jennifer Lawrence’s nude photos. If we don’t give them the page views, maybe journalists will stop spreading the photos. Next, research your local legislation. End Revenge Porn is a campaign created by Dr. Holly Jacobs, a revenge porn victim herself, who started looking for a way to create more laws against it after “her ex’s targeted behavior forced her to change jobs, go through several email addresses, legally change her name, deactivate all of her social media accounts, cancel her attendance to professional meetings, and restrict her from publishing in her field.” If you check out their website, you can find more stories and information. Most importantly, you can find out what legislation, if any, your state has against revenge porn. Then, you can call and email your local legislators to either show your support for a pending bill, or demand a new one. And make sure to sign the website’s petition to criminalize revenge porn. They also have a global petition, if you’re located outside the U.S.

The important thing is that, whether or not you’ve ever taken a nude photo, you can still help the women who have been violated by countless men who think they have the right to view their bodies.

Resources:

National Conference of State Legislators

Endrevengeporn.org

thedailybeast.com

mcafee.com

The Economist

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