Skip to content

In defence of revenge porn

SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER

Revenge porn–posting explicit pictures of someone else online–is back in the limelight following the conviction in California earlier this month of Kevin Bollaert, the man responsible for a website specialising in hosting other people’s revenge porn.

The conviction of Mr Bollaert has been hailed by many as major step towards outlawing of revenge porn, but the details of his case aren’t as simple as they appear. Despite being a scumbag who made it easy for others to publish compromising photos, Bollaert was not tried under California’s notorious new revenge porn law. He was convicted of extortion and identity theft.

It was his audacity to charge revenge porn victims for the removal of their images that led to his downfall. (You can see why people were happy to see the back of him.)

Of more relevance to the revenge porn debate is Noe Iniguez, who in December was sentenced to a year in prison for posting topless pictures of his ex-girlfriend on Facebook. Iniguez was convicted under the Californian revenge porn law. If lawmakers and campaigners get their way he will be the first of many.

The conviction of Iniguez and the posturing in the media around the conviction of Blooaert lie herald an approaching cultural storm. Reckless disregard for personal responsibility, naivety, malice and phone cameras have brought us to a tipping point where people no longer feel able to deal with the consequences of their actions.

These two cases matter because a mass movement to criminalise revenge porn is sweeping in under the guise of “protecting women from evil men.” Thirteen US states have now an anti-revenge porn law of some description and this week the UK announced plans to enact a particularly stringent variant that would make it illegal to publish any sexually explicit photos without permission from those in the photo.

So, why have these laws been pushed through? The betrayal of trust in revenge porn cases engenders a visceral reaction of horror and anger in most people – opposing revenge porn legislation is a one stop ticket to becoming very unpopular.

Before even considering whether it’s right to prosecute someone for distributing legally created or obtained pictures, it’s essential to examine exactly what sort law would be necessary to pass to make that possible.

The road to revenge porn starts when an explicit picture is consensually taken of somebody. The photographer then owns the photo, allowing them to use the picture as they wish. To ban revenge porn means restricting someone’s ability to do as they wish with their intellectual property.

For instance, Noe Iniguez was convicted of posting a nude photo with intent to cause emotional distress. The problem is very obvious, a policy of sending people to prison for causing emotional distress will entail building a lot of prisons.

In effect these laws are regulating the consequences of stupid decisions made by adults, making it the job of the courts to scrub clean unwise choices.

Even if California-style revenge porn laws go mainstream, they will be useless in 80 per cent of revenge porn cases – according to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, that’s the proportion of revenge porn victims who took their own pictures and gave them away to someone else who later betrayed their trust.

At the heart of the movement to outlaw revenge porn lies a rather odd premise: that consent can be withdrawn retrospectively. If that sounds familiar, it should be. There’s an increasing number of young men who have had their lives destroyed by university discipline panels, because a woman felt different about her decision to have sex in retrospect.

By glossing over the dark realities of life, in favour of encouraging girls to do whatever they feel like doing, modern feminism has made young women less safe. Adult life involves making risk assessments and living with the consequences of your decisions. The idea that the state should step in because your feelings have been hurt is objectionable and counterproductive.

There’s a critical mass of raunchy photos stored everywhere. Laptop hard drives and iCloud are bursting with material that could embarrass, distress and humiliation at the touch of a button.

In the words of the Hunter Moore, who once ran the most notorious revenge porn site, these laws “help stupid people feel better”. Moore is right. A generation of people who grew up with the mantra of living in the moment are suddenly realising that their actions have consequences. But government intervention is not the solution to stupidity and recklessness.


Comment count on this article reflects comments made on Breitbart.com and Facebook. Visit Breitbart's Facebook Page.