Home Essays Only ‘nasty’ women experience ‘revenge porn’, right?

Only ‘nasty’ women experience ‘revenge porn’, right?

The truth is not ‘nasty women experience revenge porn’ but rather, ‘nasty men perpetrate revenge porn’.

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In early 2016, I gave evidence to a Parliamentary Committee on ‘revenge porn’. One politician said he understood that intimate photos were most often shared by sex workers to blackmail powerful – and immoral – men. Clearly in his mind, this politician believed that it was nasty women who perpetrated revenge porn on nasty men. This view is breathtakingly ignorant.

To be clear, ‘revenge porn’ is a term used to describe the distribution of sexually explicit or intimate images of another person without their consent. Such behaviour is not always motivated by revenge. A more accurate term is ‘image-based sexual exploitation’, but the term ‘revenge porn’ is more commonly used in the media.

According to the SA Attorney-General John Rau, in a recent media release of 27 October 2016: ‘Educating young people about the risks of sharing an explicit selfie is the first step in defusing the problem, but the law has a crucial role in setting the boundaries of acceptable behaviour.’

Nothing like a bit of victim-blaming as a key crime-prevention strategy.

No bother that most instances of revenge porn – or sharing of intimate images without consent – happen within a domestic violence context; or that often the images are not taken with consent but under duress or without the victim’s knowledge; or that the images are not shared by ‘jilted lovers’ but often by strangers. It’s easier for the media and government to accept a ‘just deserts’ approach that only ‘nasty’ women: the promiscuous, the sex workers, the minority of the ‘other’ are allowing intimate photos to be taken.

The reality is at least half Australian adults (Klettke, Hallford, Mellor 2014) and many teenagers have taken and shared intimate images. In fact, recent research undertaken at Flinders University found that 80 per cent of the adult South Australians who participated in the study had sent or received intimate images (Mckinlay 2016). So perhaps it’s time for the law-makers and politicians to recognise this.

One of the biggest challenges for a revenge-porn victim, aside from a victim-blaming culture, is the complexity of the law in offering any sort of compensation, restitution or resolution. Neither the criminal nor the civil law is particularly helpful when it comes to the sharing of intimate images without consent. In Australia, only Victoria (Div 4A of the Summary Offences Act 1966) and South Australia (Part 5A of the Summary Offences Act 1953) have laws that criminalise the distribution of intimate and sexually explicit images without consent.

Like many forms of violence against women, offences that involve sharing (or the threat of sharing) intimate images are often minimised, victims are often treated as complicit (responsible for ‘defusing the problem’) and even when individual criminal justice workers such as police officers are empathic, they may be hindered by limited legislation and a poor understanding of how search engines such as Google and Microsoft will assist in hiding images from internet searches.

If we accept the wise words of SA Attorney-General Rau, that ‘law has a crucial role in setting the boundaries of acceptable behaviour’, then the issue is not about nasty women learning to not take intimate images. Rather, the full weight of the law should come to bear on the nasty men (for most often perpetrators are male) who think it’s a laugh, it’s justified, it’s their right as men to share intimate images of women.

For we will not ‘end misogyny by limiting women’s rights to expression and privacy’ (Holten et al., 2015). We will end it by holding nasty men accountable for their actions. The truth is not ‘nasty women experience revenge porn’ but rather, ‘nasty men perpetrate revenge porn’.

 

Writers statement

It continually pisses me off that governments and the media tell children and women to not allow naked or intimate images taken or shared and then the issues of revenge porn and sexting child pornography will be resolved.

SOURCEWritten by Katherine McLachlan, Adelaide, Australia
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I am the victim representative on the Parole Board of SA and Quality and Research Manager at Victim Support Service (SA). I have 15 years’ experience working in policy and research relating to child protection, youth justice and violent offending particularly violence against women. I worked for South Australia Police and was the Sexual Assault Analyst for the Australian Institute of Criminology. I hold a Research Masters degree in Law (Victimology) and an Honours degree in Psychology. I have taught criminology subjects at Flinders University and UniSA. I am the SA representative on the ANZSOC Committee of Management.

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