Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Victims Push Laws to End Online Revenge Posts

1. Victims Push Laws to End Online Revenge Posts. (2013 September 23) New York Times.

2. Category of problem: Right to privacy, cyber communications

3. Level of problem: National (or global) level

4. The article concerns: A potential policy that may incriminate the distribution of an individual's nude photos without permission.

5. Why this is important: The distribution of an individual's nude photos, such as with revenge porn, as the article addresses, can greatly damage an individuals well-being. Incriminating this practice will likely reduce its frequency and offer victims peace of mind, but could also set precedence in regards to restriction of freedom of speech in an online realm.

6. My views on this issue/policy: I feel that the damage caused by 'revenge porn' and other distribution of someone's nude photos is undeniably present and severe. The article lists just a few of the hardships of victims, including but not limited to job loss, plummeting self-esteem, potential risk of harm and depression. It seems obvious to me that putting an individual in a sexual situation they did not consent to is sexually abusive and should be considered a criminal offense.

The two primary arguments against incrimination of the practice were mentioned in the article; the first was that making it illegal to distribute someone's nude photos may infringe upon freedom of speech, and the second argument was that individuals assume the risk of mass distribution when they release any nude photo of themselves.

In regards to 'revenge porn' and it's relation to the First Amendment, the distribution of an individual's nude photos could fall under multiple First Amendment exclusions including defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Additionally, distribution of child pornography is considered a criminal offense and is not protected by the First Amendment; this was determined as such because child pornography is damaging to children, has no artistic value and creates a societal pattern which supports sexual abuse towards children. In the same vein, 'revenge porn' is damaging to its respective subjects, has no artistic value and creates a societal pattern in which it's okay to distribute sexually charged or nude images of someone without their consent. Sexual abuse can be defined as involving someone in a sexual situation (i.e., making them the subject of porn) without their consent.

Which brings me to my next counter-argument - it is not an individual's "fault" when someone mass distributes their naked photos, whether or not they took the photos themselves. A large part of sexuality today is channeled through electronic mediums, and there are plenty of normal, sexually healthy men and women taking nude photos of themselves and sending them to partners. To imply that it is their fault that their photo is now displayed on a porn website is erroneous and ultimately punishes an individual simply for taking part in a normal sexual practice. When someone uses another individual's skirt length, intoxication level or nude 'selfie' to justify putting that individual in a sexual situation they did not consent to, that is sexual abuse and it is not the fault of the victim.

Ultimately, I can't see how something that harms other people and sexually exploits them without their consent is not considered a crime, or why people would want to justify it with the First Amendment or near-sighted victim blaming. 


  1. This article posses a huge concern to me. I have always been aware of the consequences that come with exploiting one self, but not everyone thinks of sending nude photos this way. For some women and girls it is not a big deal to send naked pictures, but I bet they would think twice about it if they took the time to understand one thing. That one factor is that once that picture is taken it can be seen by anyone. Now a day you just cannot trust people. I do not want to put the blame all on the women, because it sounds so harsh. Sadly, in reality is it their fault for taking the pictures in the first place. Yes, of course there may be a few exceptions, but this is a very rare occurrence. In most instances these ladies see sending a picture to a friend or boyfriend as completely harmless, but t is dangerous and can certainly come back to haunt you. People these days keep nothing personal. With technology improving by the second, anyone could easily hack into a cell phone or computer and get a hold of these pictures in minutes. Revenge may also play a key role in this issue. You do not know a year maybe even a month or week from now who you will still have a close relationship with. You may have a falling out or just do something to tick off another person. You might not even be aware, but they are and they have just what they need to get back at you. For the underage girls in this situation, I feel sincerely sad for their violations. These girls have a long road ahead of them and it would be terrible to be in their shoes at this point. Many of these young girls do not even know what they are doing and most likely do not understand the major consequences. It is sad to say, but many parents do not take the time to relay the message. The message being, that they have to be extremely careful with what they put on the internet and send via technology.
    As far as “fault” goes, I feel a little different from your views. No, it is not the women’s fault that the picture was posted on a pornography website on the other hand they sent the picture in the first place. I believe the blame does come back on them. Morally, I personally think it is wrong and unnecessary to be sending nude pictures anyways. These women and young girls should restrain from the pressures of sending explicit pictures and this problem would never exist.

  2. First of all, thanks for offering your opinion! I want to first clarify that I do not feel that jail time is an appropriate punishment someone who has mass distributed another person's nude photos - but I do think a serious fine is appropriate. At the very least, victims should be able to recover damages in a civil court.
    It would seem that your premise for blaming the victims of mass distribution of their nude photos, as opposed to the individuals who distributed the photos, is that a) the individuals should have been aware of the risk they were assuming, and b) it is morally wrong to take/send nude photos of oneself in the first place. I definitely understand where you're coming from, but I think maybe you should consider it this way. When someone takes a nude photo of themselves and sends it to someone, the accepted consensus is that they are generally trying to take part in something sexual with a romantic partner. For the vast majority of people who take part in sending/receiving nude photos, I think it's considered a pretty run-of-the-mill sexual practice.
    Now consider a girl dressing in something really revealing or sexy to go out to the bars specifically because she likes the attention she gets from guys. Like sending nude photos, this is also a sexual practice. The girl in question has chosen to sexualize and reveal her own body, just as most individuals are doing when they take nude photos of themselves and send them to someone else. So if a guy at the bar uses her sexy and revealing outfit as a license to sexually harass her, sexually assault her, or put her in an otherwise sexual situation that she did not explicitly consent to, is it her fault for wearing a revealing/sexy outfit? Was she knowingly assuming the risk of being put into a uncomfortable or harmful sexual situation when she got dressed that night? Many people would probably say it is not her fault, and as a female, I think you might agree. What I'm trying to get across is that whether or not someone is sexualizing themselves or revealing their own body, that should not mean that that person should be blamed when someone uses their body (or the image of their body) in a way they did not consent to. Furthermore, if someone does use someone else's body (or image of their body) in a way that was not consented to, that person is doing something very harmful, and they should be held accountable.
    Notably, there are many people who still believe that any girl who wants to take nude photos of herself, or dress "slutty", or drinks with guys, is "assuming the risk" of their actions, and if they get hurt or sexually violated, they are to blame. As a society, I think we should shift our rhetoric - instead of saying, "It's necessary to teach our women how to not get sexually violated", we need to be saying, "It's necessary to teach our men how to not sexually violate women". I think making the mass distribution of a girl's nude photo, regardless of whether the photo was personally sent to the ultimate distributor, is a step in the right direction for teaching men (and women) that putting sexually violating someone is always wrong, no matter how much the victim was apparently "asking for it".
    Additionally, your belief that taking nudes is morally wrong, whether it is truly morally wrong or not, should not really be important when determining the lawfulness of someone's decision to distribute someone else's nude photos. The US is an extremely diverse place and thus moral values differ greatly among US citizens - the point is that the law should not enforce one particular moral viewpoint, but should instead protect the freedom of differing moral viewpoints. If it becomes illegal to distribute someone's nude photos, victims have the freedom to press charges and gain peace of mind, even though some people feel taking nude photos is morally wrong.