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Revenge Porn: Same Old Sexism, New Medium

The Internet can be a hostile place—a survey by Rad Campaign, Lincoln Park Strategies and Craig Newman found that 47 percent of Americans under 35 have been abused online—but it’s more overwhelmingly so for women, who made up 57 percent of those Americans. One respondent said men she turned down on dating apps immediately resorted to threats of rape and violence. Another said that she felt any woman with an opinion was bound to get men who, through anonymity, felt the need to threaten and assault them.

The devastating extent to which women field threats and harassment online is disheartening. But that isn’t all they fear online. A little more than 10 million people in the U.S. say they have been victims of revenge porn—revealing or sexually explicit images or videos of a person shared without the consent of the subject and in order to cause them distress or embarrassment—and young women under 30 are 10 percent more likely to be victims of the crime. The Internet was already a place pretty hostile for women. The increasingly normalized trend of revenge porn makes it even more unwelcoming.

When Rob Kardashian broke up with his girlfriend, Blac Chyna, in August, he publicly shared details of her alleged infidelity on Instagram—along with explicit images of Chyna. In the aftermath, his account got suspended, Chyna pressed charges and the celebrity magazines went wild. From everyday Internet users to celebrities, everybody had something to say about their split and Kardashian airing the couple’s dirty laundry on social media. What happened with Kardashian and Chyna was bigger than your usual celebrity breakup gossip story. Rob Kardashian distributed revenge porn—and 38 states and Washington D.C. have laws against it.

Our culture’s insistence on slut-shaming and victim-blaming make revenge porn more salient and dangerous. Victims of the offense are usually blamed when photos they shared privately become public property, as if taking explicit pictures or having a sexual life somehow make them inadequate victims. When Kardashian shared Chyna’s pictures—alongside a rant on how he was in the right as Chyna cheated on him and how he didn’t mind if their daughter grew up to see the pictures—people seemed to be largely unfazed, and some celebrities like 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg even expressed their “support” through statements. Take any look at the comments section of the news related to the topic and you’ll find lots of people declaring that Chyna was not a victim because she used to be a stripper, she cheated on him and she was “a slut.” When Jennifer Lawrence was a victim of revenge porn, she apologized in a press release for her own privacy being invaded.

Would it be the same case if the victim was male? Evidence says otherwise. In August 2012, naked pictures of Prince Harry were leaked. Even though it wasn’t technically revenge porn, his situation was still similar to that of Chyna’s. But rather than face shame or pressure to apologize for his sex life, Prince Harry became a quick Internet sensation. Maria Fowler called the young royal a “legend” and “the people’s prince.” DJ Lauren Laverne declared that he was “easily the best royal.”

While, in one case having private images leaked made someone a “slut,” in another it made them a “legend.” Such is being a woman—online or off. Being a woman who has a sexual life, who has a right to her own body, who wants to simply exist in the cyber space has never been easy. Revenge porn may be a fairly new phenomena, but it fits in perfectly with age-old structures of misogyny.

Writer: Deniz Sahinturk
Source: Revenge Porn: Same Old Sexism, New Medium 

This post is also available in: Indonesian

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