dimanche 17 mai 2015

Pulling the Plug on Revenge Porn

Revenge porn is one of the darker sides of our high-tech age. It’s the act of humiliating and extorting women, often former lovers (hence the “revenge” part) by stealing and posting their nude and/or sexually explicit photos and videos online. And it’s all over the news lately.
In the last week alone:
A judge ruled that New York Jets linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, charged with invasion of privacy for distributing naked photos of a woman, cannot enter a program that would allow for a conviction to be wiped from his record.
An Oklahoma man pleaded no contest to charges of extortion, attempted extortion and conspiracy that could net him six years in prison. He operated a website that encouraged visitors to post nude photos of “your ex-girlfriend, your current girlfriend, or any other girl that you might know.” He then charged the women to have the photos removed.
A New Hampshire man was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison for posting sexually explicit photos of his ex-girlfriend.
Charlie Evens is facing criminal charges for hacking into women’s email accounts and stealing nude photos for Hunter Moore, the king of revenge porn and “the most hated man on the Internet.” Moore raked in upwards of $30,000 a month by posting the photos and information about the women in them on his website. Evens, who did it for the money, said “It was really sh*tty and really sick, and I felt horrible… It’s just scary how quickly I would drop my morals for so little.”
Lawmakers in Nevada, Vermont, Texas, Florida, and North Carolina are the latest of dozens of states that either have criminalized revenge porn, or are in the process of doing so.
The phrase “revenge porn” itself even earned a spot as one of the latest additions to Dictionary.com’s lexicon.
This disturbed and hateful act has ruined the lives of many of its victims, who have lost jobs and families, money and reputations. The social and psychological cost is devastating. One woman now named Holly Jacobs, after having her world turned upside down for 3 ½ years, decided to fight back by creating a support and activism site called endrevengeporn.org.
What to do about revenge porn? While the growing criminalization of it sounds like a good start, legal remedies are problematic for a number of reasons; Wired.com even calls them “a bad idea.” And legal recourse is useful only after the damage has been done.
For those who have already been victimized by it, Holly Jacobs encourages them to reclaim their dignity and power by speaking out about their experiences. But for those who haven’t yet been targeted, the best possible advice for women to avoid ending up in flagrante delicto all over the internet permanently is: don’t film yourself having sex.
But wait, you say – isn’t that essentially blaming the victim? Isn’t that like telling women to avoid rape by not dressing provocatively? Why should the burden be on the woman to protect herself? Shouldn’t we instead be teaching men not to abuse their former lovers’ privacy by posting intimate videos and pictures of them online, just as we should be teaching men not to rape? Why shouldn’t a woman have the right to film herself having sex free from any fear that it will someday be used against her?
Well, women do have that right, but in the real world, there is no guarantee that they can exercise that right consequence-free. There is no need to teach men that revenge porn is wrong (and increasingly illegal) – they already know it is, but some men will do it anyway, just as men know rape is wrong and illegal, but some men do it regardless. People should always do the right thing, but they don’t – particularly when consumed by anger, jealousy and the pain of rejection.
The cold, hard fact is that recording yourself naked and/or having sex leaves you vulnerable to being exposed to the public, no matter what lengths you go to to protect your images. Just as no form of birth control can absolutely guarantee that you won’t become pregnant, nothing can guarantee that you won’t be hacked or robbed or fall prey to a jilted lover who decides to get even by humiliating you and even ruining your life – nothing except not giving anyone the ammunition to use against you in the first place.
In the western world, sexuality and technology feed on each other and give rise to new extremes of narcissism and voyeurism that couldn’t have been imagined a generation ago, maybe even ten years ago. Porn has essentially gone mainstream thanks in large part to the internet. We share the intimate details of our lives on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and so on. We sext our lovers, record our sex on smartphones, store our intimate photos on laptops – all of which are vulnerable to being plucked from the virtual ether and distributed among strangers worldwide.
If you don’t want to be victimized in a very public way, protect your privacy by partially unplugging from this brave new world. Don’t surrender to the current of a culture that is becoming increasingly sexualized and decreasingly private. Technology and intimacy don’t mix. It’s time to reset the boundaries between our sex lives and the technology that has crept into bed with us.
(This article originally appeared here on Acculturated, 5/13/15)

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