The Real Risks of Revenge Porn.

Via on Oct 3, 2013
(Photo: Pinterest)
(Photo: Pinterest)

When I was 16 and in the flush of what I thought was love with my first “real boyfriend,” we thought it would be fun to take some Polaroid pictures of each other in various states of undress.

He was the first boy I had ever had sex with. I stopped at my panties with my hands covering my breasts, whereas he stripped completely.

Like most Polaroids, the pin-sharp lighting from the flash was harsh and we looked decidedly grey in hue.

However, I can remember the glee we felt that we had done something very, very naughty. Before he left, I told him I wanted to burn the pictures. He was against it, but eventually relented and the pictures went up in smoke.

A few months later, we broke up and I found out my former Prince Charming had a very mean, vengeful side to him that I never realized was there. (To give you a brief summary, the guy stalked me for several months and threatened more than once to kill my cat.)

Nevertheless, I thanked God over and over that I had the sense to burn those pictures. I knew that I had I not, he would have showed them to his friends and anyone else who would look at them in an attempt to humiliate me.

Fast forward 20 years later and many girls and women are finding themselves in exactly that situation, only instead of being humiliated just in front of their friends and family, they are being humiliated in front of the entire world.

The term for this is “revenge porn.”

As a recent article in Slate pointed out, revenge porn is on the rise. There are even websites where jilted lovers can upload pictures of their former girlfriends and boyfriends.

While many (myself included) hear these tales and have an initial knee-jerk reaction of, “What the hell were these people thinking?!” the fact is, all of us have done things in the heat of the moment that we have regretted. The ubiquitous camera phone has made it very easy to take intimate shots—either selfies or pictures of someone else—that we never believe will be seen by anyone other than ourselves and the intended party.

Also, it isn’t just teenagers who are victims of revenge porn. Many are people my age and older. Many are highly-educated professionals. Indeed, in my own hometown, a county prosecutor recently filed a restraining order after an ex-boyfriend uploaded nude pictures of her to Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.

Being the victim of revenge porn isn’t just costly in terms of the emotional price—many may find themselves paying professionally.

In the case of the above-mentioned prosecutor, I’ve overheard many people say they would never dream of hiring someone who showed such poor personal judgement, and how she will always be remembered for this. Comments on various media websites have also been less-than-sympathetic to her.

While that is bad enough, there are other cases where the outcomes have been much worse. In 2009, a 13 year old Florida girl killed herself as the result of the bullying she received after a boy, whom she had a crush on, forwarded a topless picture she had sent to him to several classmates.

While part of me can sit on my high horse and say that this will never happen to me, I cannot be so certain.

Going back to when I was 16, I have no doubt that had we had the technology, my then-boyfriend and I would have taken those pictures on a cell phone and not the Polaroid. If we had used the former, then destroying them would have been much harder. In the hands of a vengeful ex, it is possible the images could have been used against me. (How could I have known for sure that he had deleted all copies or hadn’t sent at least one to a friend?)

As I shared, photos of me nude or near-nude do exist as a result of having posed as an artist’s model. While I have few worries they will ever be used against me and that these are hardly the sort of thing that sparks titillation, many people are still freaked out by nudity in any form.

Needless to say, the best way to avoid these is never to pose nude at all, but thanks to technology, it is possible for victims to be photographed or videotaped without even knowing it.

Clearly, there is a need to protect victims of revenge porn.

California has drafted a bill which would make it a misdemeanor to post revenge porn. However, in order for an offender to be convicted, it would have to be proven “that the poster intended to inflict emotional distress.” Many, including myself, do not believe that is enough.

Rather, what I believe needs to happen, is to treat revenge porn as a criminal offense. Furthermore, we as a society need to send a message that invasions of privacy are wrong. (An interesting aside is that I have noticed that many of the same people who freaked out over the NSA scandal seem to think that victims of revenge porn should have no expectations of privacy whenever they send out a naked picture.)

When one is in a romantic or sexual relationship, a certain level of trust and privacy is expected.

Even if the two eventually part ways and end up hating each other, we should not violate these things by posting sexually explicit and/or naked images of them. Indeed, it’s wrong to even share these with anyone without the expressed consent of the other party.

Also, victims of revenge porn need to be treated with sympathy instead of becoming dumping grounds for scorn or holier-than-thou finger pointing. The truth is, we all make mistakes. Nearly all of us has trusted someone who turned out to be very different than what we thought they were.

However, most of us are fortunate not to have it recorded for all of eternity in the form of a digital picture or video.

Therefore, instead of asking the victim how could she or he be so “immoral,” ask the perpetrator how they could be so immoral to violate someone like that. Also, ask the same question to the people who host and visit such forums.

Lastly, let’s show the victims compassion, support, and remember that these individuals are real people with real families, friends and lives and could even be our sisters, brothers or friends

 

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Ed: Cat Beekmans

About Kimberly Lo

Kimberly Lo is a yoga instructor and freelance editor & writer based in Charlottesville, VA. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework and photography. Connect with her on Facebook.

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